Urban Issues

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


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 »

Green Office Towers Cast Shadow Over Sydney


Known for her spiky hair, studded-collar and heels, Sydney’s Lord Mayor is the epitome of progressive chic. For a green activist, though, Clover Moore attracts some surprising company. Landlords owning 58 per cent of the CBD’s office space have rushed to join her Better Buildings Partnership, an alliance “to improve the sustainability performance of existing commercial and public sector buildings”.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Athens


Around the fifth century BCE, Athens may have been the most important city in the West. Like China's Chang'an (modern Xi'an), the "on and off" capital of China, Athens has experienced many severe "ups and downs" throughout its remarkable history. At its ancient peak, Athens is estimated to have had more than 300,000 residents (historic population estimates vary greatly).  read more »

Why Inmigration Really Matters, Particularly to the Rust Belt


Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s recent comment about immigration has drawn some local ire. At his annual remarks on the state of the city, the Mayor—in response to a question of how Cleveland can end its population decline by attracting immigrants—stated: “I believe in taking care of your own”.

To be fair, the Mayor contextualized the statement by inferring that the best attraction strategy is to build a city that works for those who reside in it. In some respects I agree. In fact America attracts immigrants not because of “attraction strategies”, but because it offers the prospects of a better quality of life. So, if a city can nail that down, well, that is a hell of a pull.  read more »

Why British Prosperity is Hobbled by a Rigged Land Market


The British have the least living space per head, the most expensive office rents and the most congested infrastructure of any EU-15 country. Thanks to a rapidly growing population –  the result of a healthy birth-rate and immigration – these trends are worsening steadily. At the same time, the British economy is languishing in a prolonged slump brought on by a collapse of demand. The answer is obvious: Britain needs to build more. Unfortunately, the obstacles to development are formidable.  read more »

Annual Update on World Urbanization: 2013


Tokyo continues to be the world's largest urban area with more than 37 million people, according to the recently released 9th Annual edition of Demographia World Urban Areas. Tokyo has held the top position for nearly 60 years, since it displaced New York. There have been only modest changes in the ranking of the world's largest urban areas over the past year.  read more »

The Ecology of Obesity


Starting in the mid-nineties, ecologically-minded Americans increasingly came to see farmers markets as a way to bring healthy foods to poor neighborhoods, support local organic agriculture, and even address global warming. During the Bush years, major health philanthropies joined these efforts, making new grocery stores their highest priority in combating obesity, which was disproportionately affecting the poor.  read more »

Commuting in Australia


Data from the 2011 censuses indicates that mass transit is gaining market share in all of but one of Australia's major metropolitan areas. The greatest increase as in Perth, at 21% , aided by the new Mandurah rail line to the southern urban fringe. On average, mass transit's market share increased by 10.8% in the five metropolitan areas with more than 1 million population. This increase seems likely to be in response to both mass transit service improvements (such as in Perth) and higher petrol (gasoline) prices.  read more »

What Killed Downtown?


What Killed Downtown?: Norristown, Pennsylvania, from Main Street to the Malls
by Michael E. Tolle

For those of us who have grown dyspeptic on the over-indulged topic of the collapse of the American city center, Michael Tolle’s What Killed Downtown? Norristown, Pennsylvania, from Main Street to the Malls earns much of its anodyne appeal by straying from a commonly accepted convention in urban studies—that an analysis of the socioeconomic decline of a community should draw heavily upon socioeconomic variables. Isn’t there another way to get the point across? And more importantly, aren’t there other contributing factors?  read more »

Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class


Among the most pervasive, and arguably pernicious, notions of the past decade has been that the “creative class” of the skilled, educated and hip would remake and revive American cities. The idea, packaged and peddled by consultant Richard Florida, had been that unlike spending public money to court Wall Street fat cats, corporate executives or other traditional elites, paying to appeal to the creative would truly trickle down, generating a widespread urban revival.  read more »