There have been others. The suburban landscape we once aspired to and now take for granted is changing before our eyes. The absolute number of vehicles on America's roads fell last year for the first time in fifty years. So did the number of miles driven and the gallons of gasoline consumed. ExxonMobil believes the latter is in permanent decline due to high prices and biofuels. Our centrifugal patterns of urban development are no longer a given. A study released last summer by CEOs for Cities found that homes in denser, more walkable communities commanded premiums as high as $30,000 in cities like Charlotte, Chicago, and Sacramento. Another study the year before concluded that distant suburbs had suffered much steeper declines in value than those in "close in" neighborhoods.
The data lends some credence to Christopher Leinberger's gloomy prediction in The Atlantictwo years ago that the exurbs would become "the next slums," littered with as many as 22 million superfluous McMansions. Last year, creative class demographer Richard Floridapostulated (also in The Atlantic) that a new "spatial fix" was underway, punishing low-density suburbs and rewarding high-density neighborhoods. Echoing economists like Harvard's Ed Glaeser, he declared "the economy is different now. It no longer revolves around simply making and moving things. Instead, it depends on generating and transporting ideas. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, the highest rate of metabolism. Velocity and density are not words that many people use when describing the suburbs. The economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required."
Greg Lindsay and I share a library card if you were wondering.
And lastly, everybody is getting their shots in at Joel Kotkin, as did I. Perhaps he makes too easy of a target these days, garnering infamy by standing in the way of a tsunami of positive coalescing movements towards humanism and high quality urbanity. This time it is T R U T H O U T, Froma Harrop mega-blasting issues that I have merely skirted around:
Boom-city boosters like Kotkin play a numbers game, where the place with the biggest population explosion wins. This is also a kind of Blue America-versus-Red America urbanology, which includes an element of liberal-bashing: Any place that refuses to be steamrolled by developers is called "elite."
In the aftermath of the real-estate bust, areas overly dependent on building houses, selling houses and financing houses are in the worst shape. Economies need non-bubble jobs. Unemployment rates in the recent hyper-growth centers, Riverside and Las Vegas, are now well above those in the aforementioned "elite cities."
Dallas also gets some love as well as backhanded compliments.
Kotkin is the guy who thinks California is both great and terrible for its freeways and housing bust; blames new urbanism for Miami condo collapse whilst failng to see what the inland empire collapse and Miami Beach condos have in common (answer = both were about nothing more than product delivery). In Kotkin is the kind of hypocrisy so pure as to only be pasteurized in the essence of "sprawl money," or the powers that be who have elected him as their human shield. Good luck Joel.