Small Cities

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 »

America's Fastest-Growing Small Cities

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Coverage of America’s changing urban scene tends to focus heavily on large metropolitan areas and the “megaregions” now often said to dominate the economic future. Often missed has been a slow, but inexorable, shift of migration and economic growth to smaller cities, a geography usually ignored or dismissed, with the exception of college towns, as doomed to lag behind by urban boosters.  read more »

Boomers: Moving Further Out and Away

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There have been frequent press reports that baby boomers, those born between 1945 and 1964, are abandoning the suburbs and moving "back" to the urban cores (actually most suburban residents did not move from urban cores). Virtually without exception such stories are based on anecdotes, often gathered by reporters stationed in Manhattan, downtown San Francisco or Washington or elsewhere in urban cores around the nation. Clearly, the anecdotes about boomers who move to suburbs, exurbs, or to outside major metropolitan areas are not readily accessible (and perhaps not as interesting) to the downtown media.  read more »

What College Gowns Bring to Towns

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The college town, one of America’s most appealing and unique features, grew out of the Age of Reason, and the concept of a regional, liberal-arts college nurtured by a small town has been intertwined with American history. Today, with enrollment dropping, the small, private college seems to be going the same way as the typewriter, the newspaper and the independent bookstore. While some colleges struggle to survive, the institution of the college town lives in suspended animation, ready to support whatever form its major employer may take.  read more »