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Imagining Urban Futures Programme working paper

This working paper is part of the Imagining Urban Futures Programme working paper series

Relational comparisons: The assembling of Cleveland’s waterfront plan

Ian Cook and Kevin Ward


This paper uses the ongoing attempts to redevelop the Cleveland waterfront to reveal the relational comparative geographies that underpin contemporary urban revalorization strategies. It draws on archival papers, semi-structured interviews, and the local grey literature to make three contributions to the existing urban-global studies literature. First, the paper argues that many contemporary waterfront and other similar redevelopment schemes are inherently comparative, with a significant amount of seemingly territorial politics and urban policy making characterized by actors’ engagements with places elsewhere. Second, it shows that the framing of urban policy through relational comparisons is an established practice in cities such as Cleveland, and that current redevelopment plans should be understood as informed by previous rounds of relational and territorial policy making. Third, it points to the importance of consultants – as examples of actors of transference -- in shaping not only redevelopment plans but also the framing of the city in relation to other cities.

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