Planning

Central Florida: Stepping Into Deep Density

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Florida is on track to break the 20 million population mark by 2016, or possibly even this year. The Sunshine State will displace New York as the third most populous state in the country, just behind California and Texas. Nationally, rural counties absorb a lot of newcomers of modest income or fixed income seeking affordable places to live. Here in Orlando, however, banks and developers are betting big on a newfound taste for the urban lifestyle, beckoning new arrivals with hip-looking apartments and parking garages, often coupled with shopping plazas full of pricey, name-brand retailers.  read more »

Don't Boost Cities by Bashing the 'Burbs

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There is nothing like a trip to Washington, D.C., to show how out of touch America’s ruling classes have become. I was in the nation’s capital to appear on a panel for a Politico event that – well after I agreed to come – was titled “Booming Cities, Busting Suburbs.”

The notion of cities rising from the rotting carcass of suburbia is widely accepted today by much of our corporate, academic and media leadership. This notion has been repeatedly embraced as well by the Obama administration, whose own former secretary of Housing and Urban Development declared several years back that the suburbs were dying, and people were “moving back to the central cities.”  read more »

Towns With a Past, Towns With a Future

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Over the last fifty or sixty years most towns have been dedicated to accommodated cars in order to cultivate business and permit people to live better more convenient lives. For new developments out in a former corn field this was effortless since everything was custom built with the automobile in mind. But older towns that had been built prior to mass motoring were at a distinct disadvantage.  read more »

Good Enough Urbanism: Faster, Cheaper, Smarter

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There’s plenty of blight out there. Inner city blight, failing suburban blight, long lost rural small town blight… empty storefronts, boarded up buildings, dead streets. There’s simply no government program that’s going to bring these places back to life. No Wall Street investment scheme is likely to revive these places. Developers have no economic incentive to do anything with these buildings. Banks are risk averse and will not fund investments here. However, many of these forlorn spots exist within otherwise populated and potentially healthy neighborhoods.  read more »

Cities: Better for the Great Suburbanization

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Where Cities Grow: The Suburbs

The massive exodus of people from rural areas to urban areas over the past 200 years has been called the "great urbanization." For more than two centuries, people have been leaving rural areas to live in cities (urban areas). The principal incentive has been economic. But most of this growth has not taken place close to city centers, but rather on or beyond the urban fringe in the suburbs (and exurbs). Appropriately, The Economist magazine refers to the urbanization trend as the "great suburbanization," in its December 6, 2014 issue (PLACES APART: The world is becoming ever more suburban, and the better for it).  read more »

Voting With Your Feet: Aaron Renn’s New Donut

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Growing up I remember the adults talking about the old neighborhood in Brooklyn where my grandparents lived during the Great Depression and World War II. In spite of the hardships of the era it was described as a great place full of life and colorful characters and extended family all on the same block. But by the time I was born no one we knew lived there anymore. My family was part of the great suburban migration away from cities. By 1967 (the year of my birth) New York, like most cities, had begun to fail.  read more »

Las Vegas: The Once and Future Downtown Project

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There’s been a lot in the news lately about the troubles plaguing Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project in Las Vegas. The latest is a longish report in the Guardian, which notes:

Yet by late September of this year, the press – especially the technology press – had begun asking some serious questions, as the Downtown Project suddenly laid off 30 people – 10% of the total it then directly employed. Alongside portentous headlines announcing this “bloodletting” appeared claims that Hsieh had “stepped down” from his position of leadership of the project. A damning open letter from the Downtown Project’s former “director of imagination”, David Gould, called the operation from which he had just resigned “a collage of decadence, greed and missing leadership … There were heroes among us,” he added, “and it is for them that my soul weeps.”

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The Curious Comeback Of U.S. Downtowns

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Perhaps nothing better illustrates the notion of urban revival in America than the comeback of many downtown districts. Yet if these areas have recovered some of their vigor, they are doing so in a manner that hardly suggests a return to their glory days in the first half of the 20th Century.

Instead what’s emerging is a very different conceptualization of downtown, as a residential alternative that appeals to the young and childless couples, and that is not so much a dominant economic hub, but one of numerous poles in the metropolitan archipelago, usually with an outsized presence of financial institutions, government offices and business service firms.  read more »

Urbanists Need to Face the Full Implications of Peak Car

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As traffic levels decline nationally in defiance of the usual state DOT forecasts projecting major increases, a number of commentators have claimed that we’ve reached “peak car” – the point at which the seemingly inexorable rise in vehicle miles traveled in America finally comes to an end.   But while this has been celebrated, with some justification in the urbanist world as vitiating plans for more roads, the implications for public policy haven’t been fully faced up to.  read more »

The Other Side of the Tracks

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I tend to fixate on certain places – sometimes because I love them, other times because I can’t help but stare at twisted wreckage. Lancaster, California has always been 30/70 leaning toward wreckage, although it does show signs of ongoing reinvention so I keep going back. Lancaster is highly representative of most places in suburban America. If Lancaster can successfully adapt to changing circumstances then there’s hope for the rest of the country.  read more »