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Harland Bartholomew and Corpus Christi: the faltering pursuit of comprehensive planning in South Texas

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In the mid-twentieth century, the prolific St Louis consulting firm Harland Bartholomew and Associates (HBA), played a strategic role in the standardization of planning practices and in the diffusion of professional planning to small and mid-sized cities around the United States. The firm's twenty-year relationship with Corpus Christi, Texas, illustrates the attraction of HBA's approach, as well as reasons for the decline of Bartholomew's style of expert master planning. In two comprehensive city plans, a regional plan, and over a dozen other studies, HBA put forth a vision of a cosmopolitan, thriving Corpus Christi that suited the mindset of the tight group of prominent commercial-civic reformers who sponsored these projects. Bartholomew's first Corpus Christi plan, which appeared as the civic reform movement reached the height of its confidence and authority in the 1950s, met with impressive success. By the late 1960s, the civic reform regime fell apart in the face of a stagnating regional economy and an increasingly pluralistic political climate. HBA's later projects met a tepid reception. As in much of the United States, by the 1970s Corpus Christi abandoned expert master planning in favour of citizen task forces and incremental 'area' plans.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of History, Illinois State University, IL 61790-4420, USA (e-mail:

Publication date: April 1, 2003

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