Small Cities

The Evolving Urban Form: Greater New York Expands

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The term “Greater New York” was applied, unofficially, to the 1898 consolidation that produced the present city of New York, which brought together the present five boroughs (counties). The term “Greater” did not stick, at least for the city. When consolidated, much of the city of New York was agricultural. As time went on, the term "Greater" came to apply to virtually any large city and its environs, not just New York and implied a metropolitan area or an urban area extending beyond city limits.  read more »

Suburban End Games

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Are America’s suburbs facing end times? That’s what a host of recent authors would have you believe.  The declaration comes in variety of guises, from Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion (2012), to “the peaking of sprawl” pronounced by urban planner  Christopher Leinberger to, most recently, to Leigh Gallagher’s The End of Suburbs(2013).  Suburbs and sprawl have joined the ranks of “history” and “nature” as fixtures of our lives that teeter on the verge of demise—if we’re to lend credence to this latest clamor from journalists, planners, and academics.   read more »

Fighting the Vacant Property Plague

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The term 'walking away from the property' usually refers to owners who leave a home when they can't make the mortgage payments. In Youngstown, Ohio, it may gain a new meaning: to describe banks that abandon a vacant property in foreclosure, and leave neighbors to cope with the blight. Now banks that walk away from their properties are being reigned in by a local community organization.  read more »

Are Millennials Turning Their Backs on the American Dream?

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In his classic 1893 essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” historian Frederick Jackson Turner spoke of “the expansive character of American life.” Even though the frontier was closing, Turner argued, the fundamental nature of Americans was still defined by their incessant probing for “a new field of opportunity.” Turner’s claim held true for at least a century—during that time, the American spirit generated relentless technological improvement, the gradual creation of a mass middle class, and the integration of ever more diverse immigrants into the national narrative.  read more »

The Tough Realities Facing Smaller Post-Industrial Cities

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A couple weeks ago the Economist ran a leader and an article on the plight of smaller post-industrial cities, noting that these days the worst urban decay is found not in big cities but in small ones. They observe:  read more »

Density, Unpacked: Is Creative Class Theory a Front for Real Estate Greed?

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“The heresy of heresies was common sense”—George Orwell

The stories we tell affect the lives we lead. I do not mean to be abstract here. I mean, literally, the stories that are told make up a kind of meta-reality that soaks in us to form a “truth”. This “truth” affects policy, which affects investment, which affects bricks and mortar, pocketbooks, and power. Eventually, the “truth” trickles down into a more real reality that defines the lives of the powerless.  read more »

There’s Real Economic Development Gold in El Dorado—Arkansas

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For centuries, explorers searched for the legendary golden city of El Dorado, seeking instant wealth in the jungles of South America. But today’s treasure trove may be found much closer to home; cities like El Dorado, Arkansas, for example, that have successfully linked their economic development strategy to improving the educational attainment of their residents.  read more »

Where Are The Boomers Headed? Not Back To The City

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Perhaps no urban legend has played as long and loudly as the notion that “empty nesters” are abandoning their dull lives in the suburbs for the excitement of inner city living. This meme has been most recently celebrated in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Both stories, citing research by the real estate brokerage Redfin, maintained that over the last decade a net 1 million boomers (born born between 1945 and 1964) have moved into the city core from the surrounding area. “Aging boomers,” the Post gushed, now “opt for the city life.” It’s enough to warm the cockles of a downtown real-estate speculator’s heart, and perhaps nudge some subsidies from city officials anxious to secure their downtown dreams.  read more »

You Say You Want A (Metropolitan) Revolution?

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[Book Review] The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy, by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley. 2013, Brookings Focus Book

It's now decades after deindustrialization, and several years since the Great Recession supposedly ended. Yet too many American cities are still struggling to recover from the losses of jobs, population, taxes, and identities. Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy in July drew new attention to the problem, and it helped fuel the extensive marketing campaign  read more »

America's Fastest-Growing Counties: The 'Burbs Are Back

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For nearly a half century, the death of suburbs and exurbs has been prophesied by pundits, urban real-estate interests and their media allies, and they ratcheted up the volume after the housing crash of 2007. The urban periphery was destined to become “the next slums,” Christopher Leinberger wrote in The Atlantic in 2008, while a recent book by Fortune’s Leigh Gallagher, The End of Suburbsclaimed that suburbs and exurbs were on the verge of extinction as people flocked back to dense cities such as New York.  read more »