Small Cities

College Towns: High Marks For Lifestyle

bicycle on picket fence - iStock_000010242185XSmall.jpg

At a time when many cities are struggling to spur civic vitality, places that are home to major colleges or universities are percolating along robustly, often with healthy job growth, low costs of living and rising property values. Fueling this rise is the massive influence academic institutions have on their regions in terms of economic impact, civic connections, and innovative mindsets. Diverse spots — Columbia, Missouri; College Park, Pennsylvania; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Chico, California, just to name a few — attract families, retirees, and the academically-minded.  read more »

Subjects:

Online Neighborhood: The Front Porch Forum

front porch with laptop-iStock_000000853589XSmall.jpg

Last summer, Sharon Owens had a problem. The Burlington, VT mother of three was trying to satisfy the wishes of her soon-to-be 14-year old daughter who wanted to celebrate her birthday with a canoe outing with friends. The problem was that renting the necessary canoes would have cost hundreds of dollars. Interestingly, it seemed that nearly ever other house in Sharon’s neighborhood had a canoe in the backyard, or parked under a tarp next to a garage. But Sharon, like many of us, did not know her neighbors, and felt uncomfortable asking them.  read more »

The New Industrial City

iStock_000005179532XSmall.jpg

Most American urban economic development and revitalization initiatives seek to position communities to attract high wage jobs in the knowledge economy. This usually involves programs to attract and retain the college educated, and efforts to lure corporate headquarters or target industries such as life sciences, high tech, or cutting edge green industries. Almost everything, whether it be recreational trails, public art programs, stadiums and convention centers, or corporate incentives, is justified by reference to this goal, often with phrases like “stopping brain drain” and “luring the creative class”.

The future vision underpinning this is a decidedly post-industrial one. This city of tomorrow is made up of people living upscale in town condos, riding a light rail line to work at a smartly designed modern office, and spending enormous sums – with the requisite sales tax benefits – entertaining themselves in cafes, restaurants, swanky shops, or artistic events.  read more »

Downtown Central-Cities as Hubs of Civic Connection

Downtown Folsom.jpg

There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world.  read more »

Salinas Dispatch: A Silver Lining in the Golden State

iStock_000007689701XSmall.jpg

From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.

Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose.  read more »

Globalization Leads to Civic Leadership Culture Dominated by Real Estate Interests

iStock_000002886363XSmall.jpg

"Cleveland’s leadership has no apparent theory of change. Overwhelmingly, the strategy is now driven by individual projects. These projects, pushed by the real estate interests that dominate the board of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, confuse real estate development with economic development. This leads to the 'Big Thing Theory' of economic development: Prosperity results from building one more big thing."  read more »

The Rich Home on the Range

CPlake.jpg

Have your home on the range, access to a few thousand acres …without paying for it all!

By Candace Evans

Mark Lowham was raised on a ranch in Casper, Wyoming. He got away from roping steers and repairing fences to study at Stanford Business School. Lowham thought he might return to ranching one day, but he never dreamed that instead of roping steers, he’d be marketing ways to rope adults into a herd of conservation-minded land-owners.  read more »

The Next Culture War

iStock_000007137658XSmall.jpg

The culture war over religion and values that dominated much of the last quarter of the 20th century has ended, mostly in a rout of the right-wing zealots who waged it.

Yet even as this old conflict has receded , a new culture war may be beginning. This one is being launched largely by the religious right's long-time secularist enemies who are now enjoying unprecedented influence over our national politics.  read more »

Housing the Next Generation with Old Shipping Containers

sgblockhouse.png

If the predictions are accurate, America will have to house some 100 million more people by 2040 to mid-century than is now the case. Despite the current round of foreclosures and rising apartment vacancy, over the long term the demand for humane, affordable, sustainable housing is going to escalate dramatically in the coming years.

In this recessionary time, it may be tempting to ignore the coming boost in housing demand. Yet eventually growth will pick up and the housing market will become re-invigorated. Nonetheless, the problem of meeting the demand for affordable housing will remain.  read more »

Lessons from the Left: When Radicals Rule – For Thirty Years

iStock_000006555301XSmall.jpg

Contrary to popular notions held even here in southern California, Santa Monica was never really a beach town or bedroom community. It was a blue-collar industrial town, home to the famed Douglas Aircraft from before World War II until the 1970s.

When I first lived there in the early ’70s, the city was pretty dilapidated, decaying and declining (except for the attractive neighborhoods of large expensive homes in the city’s northern sections). I remember a lot of retirees, students, and like me and my wife, renters of small apartments in old buildings. The tiredness of the place was incongruous with its great location and weather. But then the first of several spectacular rises in real estate values took off.  read more »