Suburban Corporate Wasteland

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I was a guest on the show “Where We Live” on WNPR radio in Connecticut this week. The theme was “Suburban Corporate Wasteland” – the increasing numbers of white elephant office campuses in suburbs. Apparently Connecticut has several of these and some buildings are actually being demolished because there’s no demand for them.

The entire program is worth a listen, particularly if you are someone trying to figure out how to redevelop one of these things. Several local officials join to talk about efforts to do that in their towns. If you want to just hear Yours Truly, I’m on for about 10 minutes starting at 38:30. Follow this link to listen to the show.  read more »

Downsizing the American Dream

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At this time of year, with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, there's a tendency to look back at our lives and those of our families. We should be thankful for the blessings of living in an America where small dreams could be fulfilled.

For many, this promise has been epitomized by owning a house, with a touch of green in the back and a taste of private paradise. Those most grateful for this opportunity were my mother's generation, which grew up in the Great Depression. In her life, she was able to make the move from the tenements of Brownsville, Brooklyn, first to the garden apartments of Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay, and, eventually, to a mass-produced suburban house on Long Island.  read more »

Derailing Europe's Bike Trains

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In a fit of what now appears to have been madness, over the last ten days I attempted to live the life of a small plastic figure in an architect’s model community. I wheeled my bike through railroad stations, and took eco-friendly cycle lanes. The goal was to use only a combination of trains and my bicycle to attend a series of meetings in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  read more »

Suburban End Games

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Are America’s suburbs facing end times? That’s what a host of recent authors would have you believe.  The declaration comes in variety of guises, from Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion (2012), to “the peaking of sprawl” pronounced by urban planner  Christopher Leinberger to, most recently, to Leigh Gallagher’s The End of Suburbs(2013).  Suburbs and sprawl have joined the ranks of “history” and “nature” as fixtures of our lives that teeter on the verge of demise—if we’re to lend credence to this latest clamor from journalists, planners, and academics.   read more »

Rural Character in America’s Metropolitan Areas

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Looking at a map of the metropolitan areas of the United States, it would be easy to get the impression that “urban sprawl” had consumed most of the nation. Indeed, as Figure 1 indicates, one could drive from Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco to the Arizona-New Mexico border without ever leaving a metropolitan area. This more than 1,000 mile trip (1,600 kilometers) would take nearly 15 hours, according to Google Maps. New Jersey is shown as all-metropolitan, as well as Delaware. But looks can be deceiving.  read more »

The Private Business of Public Art

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Like many cities coming out of the downturn, Orlando is jonesing for a recovery. To promote a sense of new prosperity, City Hall leaders recently added eight works of art to its downtown core, amidst much fanfare. Before we start whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again,” however, we would do well to examine the circumstances of this renewed interest in public art. Its surprising return was trumpeted as a new way to enrich the city and benefit its residents; many, including this author, applauded the effort. This has certainly happened. But has the result been a barrier, as much as a connection, to its citizenry?  read more »

The Geography Of Aging: Why Millennials Are Headed To The Suburbs

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One supposed trend, much celebrated in the media, is that younger people are moving back to the city, and plan to stay there for the rest of their lives. Retirees are reportedly following suit.

Urban theorists such as Peter Katz have maintained that millennials (the generation born after 1983) show little interest in “returning to the cul-de-sacs of their teenage years.” Manhattanite Leigh Gallagher, author of the dismally predictable book The Death of Suburbs, asserts with certitude that “millennials hate the suburbs” and prefer more eco-friendly, singleton-dominated urban environments.  read more »

China Failing its Families

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China's recent decision to reverse – at least in part – its policy limiting most couples to one child marks a watershed in thinking about demographics. Yet, this reversal of the 30-year policy may prove unavailing due to reasons – notably dense urbanization and high property prices – that work against people having more children.

China already faces a demographic crisis unprecedented for a still-poor country. By 2050, China will have 60 million fewer people under 15 years of age, while the over-65 population grows by 190 million, approximately the population of Pakistan, the world's sixth-most populous country. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that China's population will peak in 2026, and then will age faster than any country besides Japan; most of the world's decline in children and workers ages 15-19 over the next two decades will take place in China.  read more »

Manufacturing, Exports, and the R&D X-Factor

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A recent visit by President Obama to an Ohio steel mill underscored his promise to create 1 million manufacturing jobs. On the same day, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced her department’s commitment to exports, saying “Trade must become a bigger part of the DNA of our economy.”  read more »

Affordable Housing in Suburbia

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Like many older suburbs in high priced regions, Long Island faces two great crises: a loss of younger residents and a lack of affordable housing for the local workforce, including those employed as nurses, teachers and other professionals.  read more »