Houston

Focusing on People, Not Sprawl

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For seven decades urban planners have been seeking to force higher urban population densities through urban containment policies. The object is to combat "urban sprawl," which is the theological (or ideological) term applied to the organic phenomenon of urban expansion. This has come at considerable cost, as house prices have materially increased relative to incomes, which is to be expected from urban containment strategies that ration land (and thus raise its price, all things being equal).  read more »

Forget What the Pundits Tell You, Coastal Cities are Old News - it’s the Sunbelt that’s Booming

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Ever since the Great Recession ripped through the economies of the Sunbelt, America’s coastal pundit class has been giddily predicting its demise. Strangled by high-energy prices, cooked by global warming, rejected by a new generation of urban-centric millennials, this vast southern region was doomed to become, in the words of the Atlantic, where the “American dream” has gone to die. If the doomsayers are right, Americans must be the ultimate masochists. After a brief hiatus, people seem to, once again, be streaming towards the expanse of warm-weather states extending from the southeastern seaboard to Phoenix.  read more »

How Houston’s Missing Media Gene Hobbles Its Global City Ambitions

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In an upcoming study I am working on with Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy, we show that San Francisco and Houston are North America’s “emerging” global cities. They are also rival representative champions and exemplars of two models of civic development. San Francisco is the world’s technology capital; focused on the highest levels of the economic food chain; paragon of the new, intangible economy; and promoter environmental values and compact development.  Houston is the closest thing to American laissez-faire; unabashed embracer of the old economy of tangible stuff, including unfashionable, but highly profitable, industries like oil, chemicals, and shipping.  read more »

American Cities May Have Hit 'Peak Office'

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Despite some hype and a few regional exceptions, the construction of office towers and suburban office parks has not made a significant resurgence in the current recovery. After a century in which office space expanded nationally with every uptick in the economy, we may have reached something close to “peak office” in most markets.  read more »

Exporting Metros

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If there’s one thing that people of pretty much every political persuasion agree on, it’s the need to boost exports. This is true not just at the national level, but also the local one. The balance of world population and economic growth is outside the United States. McKinsey estimates that there will be an additional one billion people added to the global “consuming class” by 2025.  An economy focused solely on a domestic American or North American market is missing a huge part of the addressable market, dooming it to slower growth.  read more »

As the North Rests on Its Laurels, the South Is Rising Fast

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One hundred and fifty years after twin defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg destroyed the South’s quest for independence, the region is again on the rise. People and jobs are flowing there, and Northerners are perplexed by the resurgence of America’s home of the ignorant, the obese, the prejudiced and exploited, the religious and the undereducated.  read more »

Houston Rising—Why the Next Great American Cities Aren’t What You Think

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America’s urban landscape is changing, but in ways not always predicted or much admired by our media, planners, and pundits. The real trend-setters of the future—judged by both population and job growth—are not in the oft-praised great “legacy” cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, but a crop of newer, more sprawling urban regions primarily located in the Sun Belt and, surprisingly, the resurgent Great Plains.  read more »

Where Americans Are Moving

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The red states may have lost the presidential election, but they are winning new residents, largely at the expense of their politically successful blue counterparts. For all the talk of how the Great Recession has driven people — particularly the “footloose young” — toward dense urban centers, Census data reveal that Americans are still drawn to the same sprawling Sun Belt regions as before.  read more »

The Rise of the Third Coast

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In the wilds of Louisiana’s St. James Parish, amid the alligators and sugar plantations, Lester Hart is building the $750 million steel plant of his dreams. Over the past decade, Hart has constructed plants for steel producer Nucor everywhere from Trinidad to North Carolina. Today, he says, Nucor sees its big opportunities here, along the banks of the Mississippi River, roughly an hour west of New Orleans by car.  read more »

Why it's All About Ohio: The Five Nations of American Politics

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Looking at Tuesday’s election results, it’s clear the United States has morphed into five distinct political nations. This marks a sharp consolidation of the nine cultural and economic regions that sociologist Joel Garreau laid out 30 years ago in his landmark book “The Nine Nations of North America.”

In political terms there are two solid blue nations, perched on opposite coasts, that have formed a large and powerful bloc. Opposing them are two almost equally red countries, which include the historic Confederacy as well as the vast open reaches between the Texas panhandle and the Canadian border.  read more »