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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. and David Barron. 2008. City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ Press. (Chapter 8)

Chapter 8 continues the discussion of city typologies and concentrates on the tourist city, drawing inspiration from a book of the same title by Judd and Fainstein. As noted in Chapter 1, tourist cities are places that seek to advertise themselves as a form of a unique consumer product. They primarily cater to visitors, focusing on a temporary set of people who spend proportionally more money than residents and do not demand social services. By pursuing a tourist city agenda, city leadership actively seeks to hide certain less desirable aspects of their area.

While Frug and Barron admit that there are forms of overlap between a global city and a tourist city, the latter has a few key differences. While both forms actively prioritize real estate development and pursue like-minded development policies like tax increment financing, infrastructure development, and special purpose districts - the pursuit of tourist agenda may actually threaten office and residential districts because of limited land and developer capacity. Instead of the business parks and telecom systems present in a global city, a tourist city is more apt to pursue parks and hotels. As such, our authors argue that global cities focus on producer services while tourist cities are consumption-based, resulting in a different urban experience.

Frug and Barron then attempt to divide the tourist city into three separate subspecies:

1) Tourist-friendly City : The broadest form of the tourist city, it includes parks, cultural and historic districts, shopping, and is easily accessible by an interconnected (and visitor-friendly) system of public transit. Like the global city, fragmented governance or ownership/operation by authorities and various levels of government - can disrupt this cohesive experience and dedicated tourist-based revenue streams.

2) Fantasy City/Tourist Bubble: The fantasy city is effectively a city within a city, and is usually developed around a specific destination unlike anything else in the greater city (stadium, convention center, etc.). The basic legal ownership/operation device is privatization, which often hinders the ability of the city or state to correct issues of congestion and affordable housing. Financing for such a district is usually supported by city- or authority-issued debt, which is paid off from tourist-based taxes and fees.

3) One-time Events : These events, such as the Olympics, are both designed to put the city on the map and are used as an excuse for dramatic urban transformation. These events juxtapose long-term planning against a sense of temporary urgency, which can quickly produce a conflict of uses. A city cannot achieve such transformation on its own, and requires fiscal and operational help from outside actors, such as the national government.

Like the global city, the tourist city can be a victim of its own success. A vibrant tourist zone can succeed in driving out residents, thus undermining urban density and a stable tax base. Similarly, tastes and fashions are fickle; an attempt to rebrand a city in a specific, tourist-friendly style is an immense gamble. Efforts such as historic preservation can be a form of tourist attraction that is less dramatic, but may be more stable and palatable for existing residents and businesses.