My work examines the politics of the built environment in U.S. cities.
My first book, Building the Ivory Tower, examines how universities became the key drivers of urban development in American cities over the 20th century. From New Deal grants to urban renewal projects to new philanthropically funded research buildings, universities have continued to grow and make space for discovery, education, and economic growth. Campus expansion put higher education leaders in conflict with their surrounding communities, as universities pursued global missions while rooted in local places, advancing knowledge at the expense of neighbors.
My collaborative digital project, Mapping Inequality, excavates the City Survey of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC). This survey was part of the New Deal effort to rescue the housing market during the Great Depression and was the origin of the notorious "redlining" maps. HOLC officials drew on and institutionalized local real estate knowledge and discriminatory practices such as restrictive covenants to keep African Americans, Jews, and European immigrants from wealthy, white, often suburban enclaves. HOLC created a national real estate market with their rating system and with the power of the long term, fully amortized home loan, shaping home mortgage finance and real estate for decades to come.