In the first installment of a four-part series on America’s rebuilding efforts, The Atlantic Cities’ David Lepeska discusses the “need to rebuild” mantra, which dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks. It’s an age-old political talking point, Lepeska says, pointing to President Obama’s recent speech at a construction workers conference as the most recent example. Often it’s just hot air, but the idea seems to be gaining considerable traction recently among politicians and businessfolk alike, he says. During a time when our country is struggling to pull itself out of the Great Recession, focus on rebuilding cities is both a dream and a necessity.

“Today, both the U.S. and the world are more urban than rural. And just as we’ve come to accept that cities are the engines of the global economy, the economic downturn has pulled back the curtain on our long-festering national secret,” he says. Chicago, Lepeska’s own city, is in the midst of an aggressive urban revitalization. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recently proposed financing plan to rebuild the city’s infrastructure will bring the Windy City up to speed or leave it lagging behind its West Coast counterparts. Lepeska, while wary, he is also optimistic about Chicago and the rest of the country’s ability to rebuild.

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