Telling stories through the eyes of people who use the city, episodes are arranged by theme not city so we can compare and contrast experiences in different places to learn from their successes and failures.
We take viewers back in time to show how our city centers got into the state they are in today. We travel to the turn of the 20th Century to visit past visions of the city of the future, followed by a look at urban utopias up until World War II. Next, we examine the effects of post-War downtown redevelopment efforts.
Revolt, Retreat and Return
Following often destructive urban renewal programs of the 1950s and 1960s, citizens pushed back. By the 1970s and 1980s, cities faced what was then called the “urban crisis.” After the 1980s real estate boom reshaped skylines and the 1990s saw more positive media portrayals, parts of many cities became desirable again taking us to the present state of the city.
Focusing on the most important element in creating vibrant urban centers — people living in the heart of town — and the most challenging issue facing today’s cities — affordable housing — we meet downtown dwellers who weigh in on the pros and cons of their decisions to live in the city.
Parks and Recreation
We explore the latest generation of downtown parks, pathways and public squares which are increasingly important in the quest to get people to live, work and play in the heart of the city.
Communities work best when a full range of ages are represented. We look at how city centers are doing in their quest to become full-fledged neighborhoods and not just repositories of the young and hip or a refuge for empty-nesters.
With many city centers having lost their business base to the suburbs, downtowns are evolving into regional hubs for higher education, medical research and entrepreneurial efforts.
As job creation, economic activity and a solid tax base are necessary for a successful city, we look at three drivers of the urban economic engine – headquarters location, competitive advantage and being a retail hub.
With industry long having left city centers, once gritty factory and warehouse districts have been transformed into dynamic urban neighborhoods, a new generation of small-scale specialty manufacturers is rising and former food facilities are being cooked up as hipster havens.
Thinking big has been a hallmark of remaking cities since the turn of the 20th century. Cities are adjusting their economic bases through placing bets on new industries, developing former industrial sites and, in some cases, relying on visionary leaders to re-invent themselves.
Moving people from here to there is critical to the function of cities. We look at major new transportation hubs, expanding rail systems and initiatives to get people out of their cars.
Over and Under
Streets and freeways form the rivers of life running to and through our city centers. How do we make them better? We look at improvements to three main streets, celebrate the removal of elevated freeways and learn what can be done over and under roadways in the inner city.
On the Waterfront
We explore how cities are re-routing rivers to improve both the natural and urban environment, see how neglected waterfronts have been opened to public access and for recreational uses and visit onetime maritime harbors now popular destination zones.
Let Us Entertain You
With entertainment venues, sports palaces and gambling casinos touted as tonics for drowsy downtowns, we explore attempts to inject excitement and energy into city centers from coast to coast.
Cities represent the public realm where people come together – the places we share in common such as arts venues, libraries and convention centers.
Looking at how we celebrate cities, some offer fabulous fairgrounds, others host world famous festivals and a few boast historic national parks all right in the heart of town.
Image of the City
As media portrayals shape our feelings about cities, we cover coverage of the urban scene followed by a look at how cities sell themselves and then how some places fight to preserve their unique identities.
As social factors figure prominently in the success of cities, we examine three areas influencing the urban core – the challenge of homelessness, approaches to improving public safety and welcoming immigrants to attract new workers and residents.
Smaller towns often offer the same amenities and face the same problems as larger cities do. We sample small and medium-sized cities to see how some are evolving into desirable urban destinations while others are left behind.
We highlight three cities that represent the coming together of many pieces. Then we look to the future by focusing on three cities in the midst of remaking their downtowns – all with the ambitious goal of creating thriving, vibrant urban centers where previously there were none.