Fun City

Inside the urban comeback of the 1980s and ’90s.

photo: Renny the Amazing Renaissance Center Robot

The Dream of the ’80s Is Alive in These Unhinged Chamber of Commerce Videos

How did urban boosters promote cities like Buffalo, Detroit and Kansas City during the 1980s? It took jingles, slogans, and a whole lot of montages.

Changing Tides Engulf the South Street Seaport

Mayor Ed Koch wanted a family-friendly attraction for Lower Manhattan. But this 1983 icon of yuppie-era NYC was swept off course by changing tastes.

photo: the Great American Pyramid in Memphis

When Memphis Fell for a Pyramid Scheme

The Great American Pyramid was supposed to give the Tennessee city an architectural landmark for the ages. Instead, it got a very large sporting goods store.

photo: San Diego's Trolley

Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

photo: The Maryland Science Center in Baltimore

In the 1980s, Every City Needed a Science Center

Civic boosters were once convinced that planetariums and Tesla coils could revive American downtowns.

Photo: Jack Kemp meets California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967

How Jack Kemp Rewrote the Urban Poverty Playbook

In the 1980s, a pro football quarterback-turned-politician championed big ideas to revitalize America’s cities. It didn’t work.