Small Cities

What’s This Place For?

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I was recently asked by Gracen Johnson (check out her site here) to elaborate on the possible future of suburbia. How are the suburbs likely to fare over time? This coincided with a city planner friend of mine who asked a more poignant question about the suburban community he helps manage. “What’s this place for?” If we can answer that question we might be able to get a handle on the possible trajectories of various suburbs.  read more »

The Emerging New Aspirational Suburb

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Urban form in American cities is in a constant state of evolution. Until recent years, American suburbia was often built without an appreciation for future evolution. This has left many older suburbs in a deteriorated state, and has accelerated claims of a more generalized suburban decline.  read more »

Go East, Young Southern California Workers

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Do the middle class and working class have a future in the Southland? If they do, that future will be largely determined in the Inland Empire, the one corner of Southern California that seems able to accommodate large-scale growth in population and jobs. If Southern California’s economy is going to grow, it will need a strong Inland Empire.

The calculation starts with the basics of the labor market. Simply put, Los Angeles and Orange counties mostly have become too expensive for many middle-skilled workers. The Riverside-San Bernardino area has emerged as a key labor supplier to the coastal counties, with upward of 15 percent to 25 percent of workers commuting to the coastal counties.

In a new report recently released by National Core, a Rancho Cucamonga nonprofit that develops low-income housing, I and my colleagues, demographer Wendell Cox and analyst Mark Schill, explored the challenges facing the region.  read more »

Roadmap to Surprises of the Rustbelt

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Back in New York, no one quite believed my accounts of urban renewal across the Midwest, through a piece of the Rustbelt, and then back — that St. Louis is the Brooklyn of the heartland, or that even downtown Buffalo has charms. I tended to be on safer ground when I described Targeted small towns in Ohio, or drive-by shootings in Chicago.  read more »

Measuring Economic Growth, by Degrees

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In this information age, brains are supposed to be the most valued economic currency. For California, where the regulatory environment is more difficult for companies and people who make things, this is even more the case. Generally speaking, those areas that have the heaviest concentration of educated people generally do better than those who don’t.  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 »

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 »

Would the Twin Cities Survive New Urbanism?

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In December, the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis and St. Paul is scheduled to vote on a vision for the region's housing and transportation future. "Thrive MSP 2040” is the council’s comprehensive development plan for the seven-county Twin Cities metro area for the next 30 years. It's a regional growth plan that will result not in a cure for the area's ills, though, but in a virus that will kill its vitality.  read more »

Canada’s Prairie Cities Step Up

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Traditionally, the discussion of Canadian urban issues focussed almost exclusively on the Big Three cities: Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, with the occasional nod to Ottawa. Calgary, Winnipeg, and Regina were generally only mentioned as punchlines, and, until recently, no one in urban Canada really knew what was going on in Edmonton other than that they had a winning hockey team in the '80s and a really big mall.  read more »

Subjects:

The New Bohemia: Not Where You Expect

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There’s an established image in the collective imagination of the kinds of places artsy types tend to live: the painter in a Paris garret, the actor in a Brooklyn brownstone, the musician in a San Francisco Victorian, or the playwright in a fisherman’s shack on Cape Cod. It’s all very romantic. We currently associate these places with vacation destinations and cutting edge high culture so of course that’s where the avant garde would naturally congregate. But people forget that in their day these were the cheapest least desirable locations available.  read more »