The year I attended the University of Copenhagen as an undergraduate, I lived in a suburb north of the city and commuted to the central city via bus and rail (the famous S-trains). What a great system, I remember thinking as an impressionable ingénue (you could go anywhere, and trains were on time to the second!). When I returned as a graduate student I lived right in the city center and discovered that great public transit did not obviate the need for extensive walking (I must have worn out five pairs of shoes that year). read more »
As I was walking my dog the other morning I was struck by the fact that the City of Falls Church, Virginia, the quaintly bucolic suburban “village” to which our family moved in mid-2001, was no longer suburban. It isn’t a city in the proper sense, like Washington, DC or even Alexandria, Virginia, but it is reflective of the trend towards quasi-urban places in the close-in rings – the original turn-of-the-century and pre-Levittown suburbs – enveloping our city cores. read more »
The globalization of housing markets stood at the center of the vast, now unraveling, economic change of the past decade. The creation of new investment vehicles in the 90s diverted vast amounts of capital into housing markets around the world. The results were many and varied. Design features began to converge, with gated communities following shopping malls into cites in Latin America, China, Turkey and most other countries. Home prices began to rise, with The Economist even publishing a table of global house prices, indicating those with the most inflated costs read more »
I entered the field of futures research in 1981. No, not futures – contracts to deliver a certain commodity at a certain price at a date certain (God, I wish I had) – futures research, as in scenarios, trends, strategic planning and market planning. Unfortunately the place was soon lousy with what I call “futurism”: extrapolations of the unsustainable to make the improbable look inevitable.
A current example: suburbs are doomed because of high energy prices (peak oil!), the housing bubble, the obsolescence of the internal combustion engine, and yes, global warming (and what hasn’t been blamed on global warming?). Besides, the urban renaissance is underway; people want to live in the city for the culture, food, music and hipness, don’tchaknow. read more »
Let’s look at general urban settlement and suburbia from a geographic and demographic, not a planning or ideological viewpoint. There’s really no point to the fruitless and unscientific harangues about how people ought to live or about allegedly better or poorer forms of settlement. read more »
Suburbs may not have cooked up the mortgage crisis, but they absorbed much of initial damage. Now that Wall Street and the big cities are also taking the fall, suburbanites might feel a bit better — but there’s still lots of room for anger out in the land of picket fences, decent schools and shopping malls. read more »
There is much speculation among economists and others about how close we are to the bottom of the collapse of housing prices. This is, of course, an important question, and goes to the heart of the wisdom or folly of the proposed $700 billion government bailout of financial markets, which is a consequence of their own profligate lending practices. read more »
The current discussion in Washington can either lead to a rapid processing and recovery at the local level or a long drawn out destruction of local economies. This is particularly true of regions – Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Bernardino-Riverside, much of Florida – that have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. read more »
In the spring of 2003, I chaired an Urban Land Institute Advisory Services Panel focused on strategies for continuing the revitalization of downtown Birmingham, Ala. As in many cities this was driven by the stock of historic downtown buildings slowly being converted to either new office buildings or loft condominiums, supported by a handful of downtown cultural assets and public spaces. Our tour host proudly invited to the panel’s attention that three of the four buildings anchoring downtown’s “100 percent corner” were the high-rise headquarters of three regional banks. read more »
My eldest child tells me that when she arrived at an East Coast college her classmates—many of whom had never visited LA—would ask, “Does your family live in the city, or outside of it?” Her answer, she says, was always long — really long — and of eye-glazing complexity.
Anyone who has raised kids in the middle-class neighborhoods of multipolar LA might chuckle at the thought of trying to define urban or suburban. read more »