Goodbye, Chicago


Odd as it may seem for someone known as The Urbanophile, I actually grew up in the countryside. I spent most of my childhood on a country road about four miles outside the town of Laconia, Indiana, population 50.  I always used to get confused when John Cougar sang about living in a small town, because I knew he was from Seymour, and with over 15,000 people that seemed a big town in my book.  read more »

California Declares War on Suburbia II: The Cost of Radical Densification


My April 9 Cross Country column commentary in The Wall Street Journal (California Declares War on Suburbia) outlined California's determination to virtually outlaw new detached housing. The goal is clear:    force most new residents into multi-family buildings at 20 and 30 or more to the acre.  read more »

Alternative Growth Paths for Sydney: A New Report and its Implications


Population growth in Australia is double the world average and the New South Wales Department of Planning has projected that the population of the Sydney region will increase by 57,000 people annually. How will these extra people be housed?  The NSW Government follows the usual doctrines based on higher population densities. Its planning policy, known as The Metropolitan Strategy, works on locating some 70% of new dwellings within existing urban communities (in-fill) and 30% in new greenfield sites.   read more »

Peyton Manning for President?

Peyton Manning at the Podium.jpg

Is the free agency of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, or the trade of the evangelic Tim Tebow to the New York Jets a far more compelling story than anything yet to emerge from the presidential election news?

Compared with Peyton Manning’s dignified handling of his neck injuries and his complicated departure from Indianapolis, Mitt Romney seems about as stately as those hair-rinsed, middle-aged men who show up on halftime advertisements with that Viagra look in their eye. (In Romney’s case he is trying to get a few primary delegations to head upstairs.)  read more »


Smart Growth: The Maryland Example


This is Part Two of a two-part series.

Evidence that people just don’t like Smart Growth is revealed in findings from organizations set up to promote Smart Growth. In 2009, the Washington Post reported, “Scholars at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education found that over a decade, smart growth has not made a dent in Maryland's war on sprawl.”  read more »

Buffalo, You Are Not Alone


It hurts. When a bigtime Harvard economist writes off your city as a loss, and says America should turn its back on you, it hurts. But Ed Glaeser’s dart tossing is but the smallest taste of what it’s like to live in place like Buffalo. To choose to live in the Rust Belt is to commit to enduring a continuous stream of bad press and mockery.

I write mostly about the Midwest, but whether we think Midwest or Rust Belt or something else altogether, the story is the same. From Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo to Birmingham, there are cities across this country that are struggling for a host of historic and contemporary reasons. We’ve moved from the industrial to the global age, and many cities truly have lost their original economic raison d’etre.  read more »

Gary Hustwit's "Urbanized" Re-lighting Debate on Cities


Gary Hustwit’s new film, “Urbanized,” is the third in his series of documentaries concerning design.  In his first two films, he looks at consumer product design and the global visual culture.  The existential problem of the city, an urgent one about which much of this website is concerned, is scarcely treated in our contemporary mainstream, and Hustwit’s effort is laudable. In this film, he tackles urban design, introducing ideas about how cities should – and should not – accommodate growth.  “Urbanized” tends to favor the big idea over the small, and airs the conventional wisdom of the urban design community.  In doing so, he brings to the public an important debate, but he misses some opportunities to explore change in the urban realm.  read more »


Addressing Workforce Shortages in the Dakotas


While not immune to the recession, the upper Great Plains is in a different economic situation from the rest of the nation. Growth coupled with low unemployment means more strain on the region’s workforce, making it tougher for employers to find the workers they need. It's not so much about jobs anymore, but about finding the right workers.  read more »

The Sorry State of American Transport


We constantly read about the infrastructure crisis in America. I’ll have more to say on this at a future date, but it is pretty clear that we need to spend more money in a whole lot of areas: airports, roads and bridges, public transportation, and more.

Yet it’s very easy to see that so much of what ails transport has nothing to do with a lack of funds and everything to do with a lack of will. I took a train ride on the Northeast corridor last week that really drove it home to me.  read more »

The Ultimate Houston Strategy


Last week was the 7th anniversary of my blog, Houston Strategies. After 947 posts (cream of the crop here), almost half a million visitors, and thousands of comments in an epic dialogue about Houston, I thought this would be a good time stand back, look at the big picture, and ask "What should be next for Houston?" while linking back to some of the gems from that archive.  read more »