Praying in the Streets: Ritual as an Urban Design Problem


“[T]he city as World icon is being destroyed, not by being secularized (it was always secular at base with some sacral potencies shooting through it from every angle) but by being radically profaned. The city has become the playground not of Wisdom but the battleground of savages, as in Belfast and Beirut. The city’s sacral potentialities have been removed and invested in the sovereign individual. Its central workshop, where radical transactions with reality used to summon a citizenry to meet in peace, was given notice that its lease was up.  read more »

Bicycles and Race in Portland


The flashpoint for the gentrification conversation along Portland’s North Williams revolves around the bicycle. The cultural appetite for what the creative class likes and enjoys is in stark contrast to that of the African-American community. “North Williams Avenue wasn’t hip back in the late 1970s. There was no Tasty n Sons. No Ristretto Roasters. No 5th Quadrant. Back then, it was the heart of the African American community.  read more »

Looking Back: The Ideal Communist City


Over time, suburbs have had many enemies, but perhaps none were more able to impose their version than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In its bid to remake a Russia of backward villages and provincial towns, the Soviets favored big cities – the bigger the better – and policies that were at least vaguely reminiscent of the “pack and stack” policies so popular with developers and planners today.  read more »

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Sprawl (Sort of)


I’m a longtime advocate of walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-served neighborhoods. But lately I’ve been having impure thoughts about suburbia. Let me explain.  read more »

Central Florida: Stepping Into Deep Density

Retail Space Avil-Florida.png

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


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


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


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


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


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 »