Megaprojects in Cities, Citizens and Megaprojects (2004)

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Note from the Editors:

Critical Planning is the product of a collective effort, sustained by the diversity of its members and the plurality of their voices. It is in the tradition of our student-run journal to count on a broad range of contributors, planners as well as specialists writing in a number of related disciplines from urban sociology and geography to critical cultural studies and theory. Every year, authors and editors; individuals and institutional supporters; students, practitioners and faculty come together to debate, sometimes fervently, ideas about planning and what we see as pressing issues concerning our cities and regions. In the following paragraphs, I take on the rewarding editorial task of introducing the materials that we have compiled in the past several months of labor and intense negotiation.

The eleventh issue opens with Kevin Romig’s interpretive essay of Anthem, Arizona, a large-scale master-planned private community in the exurban fringe of metropolitan Phoenix. Romig looks at the intersection of urban design and privatized lifestyles, processes of community formation under the developer’s corporate influence and the metropolitan context of an urban neoliberalism in which private entities are increasingly in charge of managing public goods in fragmented cities.

Jung Won Sonn’s critique of the epistemological foundations of communicative planning theory delineates major discrepancies between the theory’s construction of a communicative rationality within the planning process and Jurgen Habermas’ original longing for an ideal speech situation.

Jason Hackworth traces the restructuring of public housing in the United States over the past 30 years and relates it to the rise of neoliberal public policy. His paper contributes to theories on the shift from Keynesian forms of public intervention to market-based forms of (non-)intervention.

After these three initial articles, we continue on into the issue’s special theme: Megaprojects in Cities, Citizens and Megaprojects. Through a series of articles, essays and interviews, we explore topics associated with the increasing ubiquity of megaprojects, both in the United States and internationally: costs and benefits, risks, differential impacts, legal and institutional frameworks, the differences that community participation and mobilization can make in the planning and implementation of megaprojects, the role of megaprojects in furthering the globalization of urban space and issues concerning the provision of public infrastructure through mega and minor projects.

Renia Ehrenfeucht’s interview with Bent Flyvbjerg focuses on the political economy of megaprojects, particularly the issue of risk that, in its multiple forms, is inevitably associated to the undertaking of megaprojects.

Charles Santo’s article reviews approaches to the measurement of public and private consumption benefits associated with stadium construction: the estimation of consumer surplus, compensating differential effects and willingness-to-pay with contingent valuation methodology. Santo highlights the potential utility of each approach to guide policy decisions as well as their methodological problems and need for further research.

Julie Cidell looks at the spatial distribution of economic impacts associated to megaprojects. In her study of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, she shows that the intra-metropolitan distribution of economic benefits is highly uneven. She further remarks the spatial mismatch between associated costs, concentrated in areas surrounding the airport, and localized economic benefits.

Erich Dallhammer’s article examines legal, institutional and political issues surrounding Wonderworld X, a rejected proposal for a large-scale amusement park in the suburbs of Vienna, Austria. It exposes how even sophisticated, cost-effective and well-intentioned planning instruments, such as spatial impact assessments, do not secure the completion of megaprojects when they fail to forsee intense local and regional opposition.

Martha Matsuoka’s conversation with Manuel Pastor, Jr. reflects on how communities can organize to share in the benefits of regional development, ever more tightly linked to local competitiveness in the global economy. The conversation draws several examples from Southern California, a metropolitan region where a heavy emphasis has been placed on infrastructure upgrading and megaprojects in order to strengthen its position as a transnational center for trade and the transshipment of goods.

David Halle and Steven Lang’s essay on megaprojects in New York City contributes to our renewed policy briefs section and its goal of bridging the divide between the public policy world and the academic realm. Several megaprojects currently underway in New York City, Halle and Lang write, invite us to rethink the politics of large-scale public intervention and the balance between community participation and infrastructure needs.

Vicki Elmer’s comments admonish us against missing out on the big picture of public infrastructure, composed mainly of “minor” local projects. Elmer describes the problems associated with local infrastructure planning and proposes five guidelines through which practitioners can engage in smart planning for infrastructure.

Joseph Boski’s review essay presents three recent books, Splintering Urbanism, Globalization and Urban Change and The Globalized City, that link megaprojects to the dynamics of urban globalization. Finally, Allison Yoh reviews Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment, an academic- and practitioner-oriented history of megaprojects over the past five decades.

-Miguel Kanai