Urban Issues

Bubble Opportunity: A New Life for Public Housing?

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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 »

The future of suburbs? Suburbs ARE the future

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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 »

With Debate in Town, St. Louis is the Nation's Capital for a Day

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In 1869 L. U. Reavis spoke for many when he made the case for moving the nation’s capital from, as he put it, “the banks of the Potomac to the banks of the Mississippi.” Citing St. Louis’s location in the exact center of the nation, the growing population of the Mississippi Valley, the presumably temporary expediency that had led leaders to place the capital in Washington in the first place, and the commercial advantages of a capital city on the Mississippi River,  read more »

The future of urban settlement? Look in the suburbs

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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 »

How Low Can House Prices Go?

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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 College Town Is Obsolete

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The college town occupies a special place in the American consciousness. Small, leafy, brimming with intellectual activity, preparing tomorrow’s leaders – if we haven’t spent years, dropped off kids, or attended a football game in a college town, we have at least passed through one.  read more »

Subjects:

Rx for ‘Residential Renaissance:’ Take Two Years and Ease Up on the Hype

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A big going-out-of-business sign on the Rite-Aid store at 7th and Los Angeles streets tells a bigger tale—a story I’ll call “Hype Happens.”

The Rite-Aid opened a few years ago with fanfare, arriving at just about the high-point of the hype over the “Residential Renaissance” of Downtown. Rite-Aid set up shop in the Santee Village project, an ambitious effort that saw a developer get plenty of help from various government agencies in order to convert a collection of mid-rise buildings from garment shops to residential lofts.  read more »

Boomers Go Back to College? - A Letter from Pennsylvania

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The “boomers” is a generation born between 1946 and 1964. They gave us the youth culture, hippies, Woodstock, peace movement, women’s liberation, computers, flexible work environments, consumer electronics and consumption on the grand scale to mention only a few.

Boomers have enjoyed a wonderful economy in the main that has enabled them to build wealth and live middle class lifestyles. They stay fit. They eat healthy foods. They look young compared to people of previous generations at their age.  read more »

Back to Basics: The Financial Crisis Requires a Paradigm Shift

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It’s tempting to look at the current financial meltdown – and the proposed bailout – with a Bolshevik mentality. Let’s line up the investment bankers, hedge fund managers up against a wall and spray them with an odorous substance.
If it were only so easy. Rescuing Wall Street may not solve many problems but letting the investor class implode won’t help many people either.  read more »

Creating an Authentic Place: Tales from Two Southern California Cities

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What makes a place “authentic”? In places we cherish, we look for something unique and tangible. But personal experience of a place is not merely a product of the landscape and “built environment.” It is also shaped by myths and perceptions.

As City Manager of two California towns, I’ve grappled with the treacherous crosscurrents of reality and myth, of change and preservation.  read more »