Suburbs

Follow The Money On Development Deals

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“Follow the money” became a household phrase after the 1976 movie that told the story of Watergate, All the Presidents Men. Personal experiences over four decades in the consulting industry, working to create sustainable developments, often bring the phrase to mind.  read more »

Salt Lake City's Sacred Space

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Amid a devastating condo crash and high office vacancies across the U.S., one of the country's largest downtown development projects is taking shape in Salt Lake City. The city's center displays a landscape of cranes, cement-mixers and hard-hats--something all too rare in these tough times.  read more »

The Urbanist’s Guide to Kevin Rudd’s Downfall

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The political execution of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by his own Australian Labor Party colleagues was extraordinary, the first time a prime minister has been denied a second chance to face the voters.

According to the consensus in Australia’s mostly progressive media establishment, Rudd fell victim to his “poor communication skills”, a somewhat Orwellian take since until recently he was hailed as a brilliant communicator. What went wrong?  read more »

The Changing Demographics of America

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Estimates of the United states population at the middle of the 21st century vary, from the U.N.’s 404 million to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 422 to 458 million. To develop a snapshot of the nation at 2050, particularly its astonishing diversity and youthfulness, I use the nice round number of 400 million people, or roughly 100 million more than we have today.  read more »

Despite Transit's 2008 Peak, Longer Term Market Trend is Down: A 25 Year Report on Transit Ridership

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In 2008, US transit posted its highest ridership since 1950, a development widely noted and celebrated in the media. Ridership had been increasing for about a decade, however, 2008 coincided with the highest gasoline prices in history, which gave transit a boost.  read more »

Millennial Surprise

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The boomer's long domination of American politics, culture and economics will one day come to an end. A new generation--the so-called millennials--will be shaping the outlines of our society, but the shape of their coming reign could prove more complex than many have imagined.

Conventional wisdom, particularly among boomer "progressives," paints millennials--those born after 1983--as the instruments for fulfilling the promise of the 1960s cultural revolt. In 2008 the left-leaning Center for American Progress dubbed them "The Progressive Generation."  read more »

Planning’s Cultural Cringe?

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First it was Portland, Oregon, touted as a poster child for urban planning in Australia. Now, Vancouver, Canada, is the comparison, and are we seeing another incarnation of Australia’s infamous cultural cringe?

Advocates of higher density and the “brawl against sprawl” in Australia frequently cite overseas cities as model case studies. Portland, Oregon, was for a long time cited as a good example of pro-density housing strategies which sought to limit ‘sprawl’, to promote public transport by investing in things like light rail, and to promote cycling and a range of other planning ‘solutions’ that would sound remarkably familiar in Australia.  read more »

The Declining Human Footprint

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There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.  read more »

The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?

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For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

Subdivisions: The Lots-Per-Minute Race

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When you get that morning cup of Java, do you desire the minimal flavor? How about your career, do you desire the most minimal pay check or profits or the most mundane of positions? Let’s assume for some reason that you said 'No, you would always want to strive for something better than the minimum'.

You now have three hats in front of you, one says “planner” on it, one says “engineer,” and the last one says “developer”. When you put on the “planner” hat, your job is to develop and enforce a set of rules that will guide the development of a city. You suggest to the council a set of standards that recommend the minimum dimensions and areas for residential or commercial projects that are brought in for approvals.  read more »