Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Date of Defense

5-3-2006

Graduate Advisor

Lana Stein

Committee

Carl Bassi

Dr. E. Terrance Jones

Dr. Donald Phares

Abstract

This study uses the example of St. Louis to identify how local leaders make decisions about development and what factors influence the type of projects chosen. Through an analysis of projects conducted in the downtown and two distressed neighborhoods, the study concludes that St. Louis has a system of development decision-making that is substantially privatized and decentralized. At the center of development activity are place-based entrepreneurs who understand the local market and work to change the incentive structure for reinvestment. The leadership of the private sector in planning and implementing development policy is the flipside of local institutions that are fragmented and reactive. Over time, local political leaders have worked both to clarify the supportive role of the public sector. Following the political economic approach, St. Louis¿ system of development is a function of the reduced economic role of center cities and the withdrawal of federal urban aid. At the same time, however, decision-making is shaped by the city¿s decentralized political structure, which acts as both a constraint and an opportunity. On the one hand, the city¿s political institutions and political culture make centralized citywide coordination difficult and the emergence of a local regime unlikely. On the other hand, political decentralization provides incentives for local leaders to create relationships with developers that work in specific parts of the city. The analysis looks at urban development as a form of policy-making, using the policy process literature as a vehicle for employing neo-institutional theory. The study uses the concept of institutional settings to convey the fact that development decision-making is contained within specific contexts that define participants, the roles they play and the frameworks that they utilize; in this manner, institutional settings provide incentive that guide the behavior of local actors. These institutional settings are specific to both particular markets in the city, as well as particular type of development projects, and develop historically. Past initiatives shape the types of projects participants are likely to pursue in the future, and, additionally, these settings can shift as new models of development emerge.

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