Small Cities

Would the Twin Cities Survive New Urbanism?

Caribou Coffee; Edina Minn.jpg

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

Calgary, Caffe Rosso.jpg

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

new-bohemia.jpg

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

fargo_0.jpg

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

boomer-kids.jpg

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

Downtown Gainesville.jpg

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 »

Agrarianism Without Agriculture?

suburbs-broad_0.jpg

The ever-surprising Ralph Nader has recently been reading some paleo-conservative sources, and has written a book entitled Unstoppable; the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. In the Acknowledgements at the end, he specifically thanks Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative think tank, for keeping in print a tome from the 1930s called Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence. Nader devotes the seventh chapter of his book to a discussion of this volume. He quotes Edward Shapiro’s 1999 foreword at some length:  read more »

Dispersing Millennials

Millennial-Embrace.jpg

The very centers of urban cores in many major metropolitan areas are experiencing a resurgence of residential development, including new construction in volumes not seen for decades. There is a general impression, put forward by retro–urbanists (Note 1) and various press outlets that the urban core resurgence reflects a change in the living preferences of younger people – today's Millennials – who they claim are rejecting the suburban and exurban residential choices of their parents and grandparents.  read more »

The Best Small And Midsize Cities For Jobs 2014

Boulder_CO_at_twilight.jpg

In the classic television show “The Honeymooners,” many jokes were wrung out of bus driver Ralph Cramden’s membership in the International Brotherhood of Loyal Raccoons, headquartered in Bismarck, North Dakota. When Ralph mentioned in one episode to his wife, Alice, that among the privileges is that they could be buried at the “Raccoon National Cemetery” in Bismarck, Alice’s reply was that it made her not know “if I want to live or die.”  read more »

The Rise of the Executive Headquarters

boeing_chicago.jpg

Headquarters were once a defining characteristic of urban economic power, and indeed today cities that can still brag of the number of entries they boast on the Fortune 500 list of largest American firms. Yet as urban centers increasingly lost headquarters, boosters started to downplay them as a metric, particularly with the rise of the so-called “global city” concept. Today the HQ is back into the urban mix, but increasingly as what I would call the “executive headquarters” which brings bragging rights to a city but not much in terms of middle class jobs.

The corporate headquarters in a downtown skyscraper took a beating during the 70s, 80s, and 90s as America’s inner cities went into decline. Why locate in a decaying, lawless, dysfunctional urban setting that seemed destined for the scrap heap when the shiny suburbs beckoned?   read more »