John Updike, the bard of the suburbs, died this week. He was one of the first great American writers to revel in the opportunity, beauty and convenience that the suburbs have long reflected. His voice, first found in the sixties, acted as a reasonable anchor in the tempest of radicalism that swept through the country. He empathized with the American dream rising in the raw suburbs being carved from agricultural land. read more »
By Richard Reep
“I had two rules for Christmas this year:
1. Under 13 years old only;
2. Internet only.”
–overheard at Stardust Video and Coffee in Orlando, Florida.
One of the most distinctive benchmarks of contemporary American life, the classic indoor shopping mall, is now gasping for survival. The two rules expressed above were commonly heard during this shopping season, calling into question whether the 20th century indoor shopping mall will survive in its present form. read more »
For years, transit funding advocates have claimed that national policy favors highways over transit. Consistent with that view, Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants to change the funding mix. He is looking for 40 percent of the transportation funding from the proposed stimulus package to be spent on transit, which is a substantial increase from present levels.
This raises two important questions: The first question is that of “equity” – “what would be the appropriate level to spend on transit?” The second question relates to “productivity” – “what would be the effect of spending more on transit?” read more »
The current recession provides a new opportunity for Pittsburgh's elite to feel good about itself. With other boom economies from Phoenix to Miami on the skids – and other old Rust Belt cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo even more down on their luck – the slow-growth achievements of the Pittsburgh region may seem rather impressive.
Yet at the same time, the downturn also poses longer-term challenges for which the local leadership is likely to have no answers. read more »
By Richard Reep
Noted architect Daniel Liebeskind, teaching at Yale in the early 1990s, proclaimed “Public space is dead”. A provocative notion at the time, he was simply observing American cultural phenomena, and our evolution away from Main Street into the mall, away from the downtown church to the suburban megachurch, and away from common space into private space. While all this is true, it misses a countercyclical element in our cities, and in the Orlando area, public space is very much alive and assuming a new role in the neighborhoods. read more »
For centuries, the West sent missionaries around the world to spread various gospels. It is no different now, though the clerics tend to hold degrees from planning schools rather than those overtly specializing in theology.
This could also create tragic results as ideologies created in one context are imported into a totally foreign one. read more »
Part One of A Two-Part Series
Not long ago, Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles city councilman and current member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, took up a case pending approval by that body: a mixed housing-retail development near the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard and Riverside Drive. Like many of the remaining buildable sites in the city, the property is right next to a roaring motorway; the windows of some apartments would look right out onto the 134 Freeway. To Angelinos, who have grown up in a car culture, it was hardly a remarkable proposal. But Woo, perhaps one of the brainier members of the city’s political elite—after losing a mayoral race to Richard Riordan in the early 1990s he became a professor of public policy at University of Southern California—had a problem with it, and he couldn’t quite let it go. read more »
Last month I visited a small town in southern Mexico. It is a quiet and modestly prosperous place. Outside some of the homes are older Suburbans, Jeeps and Explorers; the license plates show that their owners have recently returned from the US, driven out by the collapsing economy and heightened nativist anxieties. Almost every family, it seems, has some member who has spent time up north; only a very few of them are still hanging on through the recession. read more »
The image of the European city as a tourist’s paradise of charming inner-city neighborhoods interconnected by high-speed rail networks is not entirely false, but it does not give the full picture of how most Europeans live. Contrary to the mythology embraced by romantics among planners and ‘green’ politicians, urban areas of Europe sprawl just as much as any American or Western city. read more »
Many of the nation’s youth (and a few of their elders) are expecting a magical turnaround of America’s economic fortunes as soon as their candidate for President, Barack Obama, is sworn in on January 20th 2009. But the Millennial Generation, born between 1982 and 2003, may be more the source of the country’s economic salvation as any initiative the new President might propose.
Millennials are the largest generation in American history, more than 91 million strong. They are coming of age just in time to join the workforce, enter the housing market, stabilize home prices, and buy the nation's expanding inventory of durable goods to furnish their new homes. read more »