Alexander Garvin is a noted American urban planner, educator, and author. He is in private practice at Alexander Garvin & Associates in New York City and is also an adjunct professor at the Yale School of Architecture (Yale School of Architecture 2011). He is widely heralded for studying and rationalizing Atlanta's proposed greenbelt park system, the Atlanta BeltLine. Additionally, he was behind New York City’s 2012 Olympic Games bid, as well as overseeing efforts to redevelop lower Manhattan, especially around the World Trade Center site – after the September 11 attacks. Garvin’s importance to town planning stems from his work having had the potential to change the face of several of America’s largest cities, as well as the numerous works of literature he has published. Previously, Mr. Garvin was a commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission, and from 1970 to 1980, served as New York City's Deputy Commissioner of Housing and Director of Comprehensive Planning.
The Atlanta Beltline
In 2004, Garvin engaged in and completed an investigation on the Atlanta BeltLine. This study was run in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land and envisioned a “network of linear greenspaces and parks totalling about 1,400 acres along the corridor” that surrounds Atlanta (EDAW et al. 2005, p9). Additionally, several spaces iconic to the city are to be linked by this BeltLine to give it a sense of place and identity. His view on the matter is that investing in “an attractive public realm framework … will provide open space for old citizens and new, and that will lure better development”, ultimately providing “growth with a high quality of life — growth that will make a better city” (Garvin 2006 cited in Immergluck 2007, p1) Further to this study, other bodies concluded that such a proposal would be financially feasible without having to raise taxes. On top of this, a light-rail system was approved to be the preferred mode of transport for the entire 22-mile loop of the BeltLine (Atlanta BeltLine 2011)
Masterplanning for the Atlanta BeltLine is underway (Atlanta BeltLine 2011). The realisation of this masterplan would be a culmination of events set in motion by Alexander Garvin’s study. Thus, the re-imagining and redevelopment of one of the United States’ major cities could bear Garvin’s imprint when completed.
From 1996 to 2005 Alexander Garvin was managing director for NYC2012, New York City’s committee for the 2012 Olympic bid (Yale School of Architecture 2011).
During this time, he proposed what became dubbed as the “Olympic X”. This proposal tied into the grid pattern that encompasses New York City, and paid homage to Roman town planning: an east-west decumanus axis opposed by a north-south cardo axis (Angotti 2008, p213). At their intersection would lay the Olympic Village facilities and the grounds for the games. Angotti said that the siting of the Olympic Village would have provided a solution to “faltering public-private partnerships” that stalled development in Queens West. Additionally, the plans included revamping of New York’s transport infrastructure (Swett 2005, p292). On a wider scale, it would also “project the urban ideal for global capital” (Angotti 2008, p213) that would aid in advertising New York as a global hub. While the New York bid for the 2012 Olympic Games was ultimately unsuccessful in favour of London, there was the potential for Garvin to be in charge of redeveloping one of the world’s greatest cities.
Garvin’s involvement with the New York Olympic bid “would land him at the centre of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) efforts to assemble a world-class design team to rebuild the World Trade Centre site” (Swett 2005, p290). From 2003–2004, Garvin was the director of planning, design, and development of the LMDC, during which time he led post-9/11 redevelopment efforts for lower Manhattan. As is evident, this role in charge of the LMDC was short lived. As Sagalyn (2006, p29-52) points out, there were many political machinations behind the scenes. Firstly, control of the site was hotly disputed. The LMDC was in charge of redevelopment, but did not actually “have the power to implement the selected masterplan” (Sagalyn 2006, p39). The myriad bodies of authority meant that there was “continuing confusion among civic groups, design professionals, and the public concerning how these critical decisions would be made” (Sagalyn 2006, p239), and that the project became more politicized as time progressed.
Ultimately, Garvin stepped down from this role, Swett suggesting that the above-mentioned politics played a large part (2006, p291), and that it was possible the planning process for the LMDC would have been a smoother ride had Garvin stayed in this role. While his attempt at reshaping one of the world’s greatest cities was unsuccessful in the end, the numerous works that he has published and his teaching at Yale will still have an influence over the wider planning community.
He is engaged in planning and design management for De Kalb County, Georgia; Shelby County, Tennessee; and Omaha, Nebraska as well as development projects for private developers in Florida, Maryland, and New York.
- Yale School of Architecture profile accessed February 9, 2009
alex garvin, 2011, retrieved from http://www.alexgarvin.net/main.php?ptype=7 on 10/4/2011
Angotti, Thomas, 2008, New York For Sale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Atlanta BeltLine, 2011, History of the BeltLine, retrieved from http://www.beltline.org/BeltLineBasics/BeltLineHistory/tabid/1703/Default.aspx on 10/4/2011
Atlanta BeltLine, 2011, Planning, retrieved from http://www.beltline.org/Implementation/Planning/tabid/1794/Default.aspx on 10/4/2011
EDAW, Urban College, Grice & Associates, Huntley Partners, Troutman Sanders LLP, Gravel, Inc., 2005, Atlanta Beltline Redevelopment Plan, retrieved from http://www.beltline.org/Portals/26/Media/PDF/FinalBeltLineRedevelopmentPlan.pdf on 10/4/2011
Immergluck, Dan, 2007, Large-Scale Redevelopment Initiatives and Home Values: The Case of the Atlanta Beltline Project, retrieved from Munich Personal RePEc Archive on 10/4/2011
Sagalyn, Lynne, 2006, The Political Fabric of Design Competitions, Politics of Design: Competitions for Public Projects edited by Catherine Malmberg, Policy Institute for the Region
Swett, Richard, 2005, Leadership by Design, Greenway Communications, Atlanta
Yale School of Architecture, 2011, retrieved from http://www.architecture.yale.edu/drupal/people/faculty/garvin_alexander on April 11, 2011 on 11/4/2011
- Garvin, Alexander. Public Parks: The Key to Livable Communities (W.W. Norton 2010)
- Garvin, Alexander The American City: What Works, What Doesn’t ISBN 0-07-137367-5
- Garvin, Alexander Parks, Recreation, and Open Space: A 21st Century Agenda ISBN 1-884829-54-6
- Garvin, Alexander The Beltline Emerald Necklace: Atlanta’s New Public Realm, commissioned by the Georgia office of The Trust for Public Land.