Measuring historical urban neighborhood sustainability: America’s grand avenues

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1 Scopus citations


From 1850 through approximately 1920, wealthy entrepreneurs and elected officials created “grand avenues” lined by mansions in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and other developing US cities. This paper examines the birthplaces of grand avenues to determine whether they have remained sustainable as magnets for healthy and wealthy people. Using data from the US EPA’s EJSCREEN system and the CDC’s 500 cities study across 11 cities, the research finds that almost every place where a grand avenue began has healthier and wealthier people than their host cities. Ward Parkway in Kansas City and New York’s Fifth Avenue have continued to be grand. Massachusetts Avenue inWashington, D.C., Richmond’s Monument Avenue, St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, and Los Angeles’sWilshire Boulevard are national and regional symbols of political power, culture and entertainment, leading to sustainable urban grand avenues, albeit several are challenged by their identification with white supremacy. Among Midwest industrial cities, Chicago’s Prairie Avenue birthplace has been the most successful, whereas the grand avenues of St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo have struggled, trying to use higher education, medical care, and entertainment to try to rebirth their once pre-eminent roles in their cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1358
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Environment
  • Grand avenues and boulevards
  • Health
  • Neighborhood attractiveness
  • Sustainability
  • Wealth


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