Suburban Cities as New Trend?

Of course they are, though you wouldn’t know it if you listen to the projections from the cultural heights.

Suburban type cities, spread out, car friendly, where single family homes predominate, are clearly where most people are migrating to, as this article from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

“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.

“While Gotham and the Windy City have experienced modest growth and significant net domestic out-migration, burgeoning if often disdained urban regions such as Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City have expanded rapidly. These low-density, car-dominated, heavily suburbanized areas with small central cores likely represent the next wave of great American cities.

“There’s a whole industry led by the likes of Harvard’s Ed Glaeser, my occasional sparring partner Richard Florida and developer-funded groups like CEOs for Cities, who advocate for old-style, high-density cities, and insist that they represent the inevitable future.

“But the numbers tell a different story: the most rapid urban growth is occurring outside of the great, dense, highly developed and vastly expensive old American metropolises.

“An aspirational city, by definition, is one that people and industries migrate to improve their economic prospects and achieve a better relative quality of life. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, this aspirational spirit was epitomized by cities such as New York and Chicago and then in the decades after World War Two by Los Angeles, which for many years was the fastest-growing big city in the high-income world.

“Until the 1970s, the country’s established big cities were synonymous with aspiration—where the jobs and opportunities for broad portions of the population abounded. But as the financial markets took on an oversized role in the American economy and manufacturing receded, the cost of living in the nation’s oldest metropolises shot up far faster than the median income there—and Americans have turned elsewhere now that, as Virginia Postrel wrote in an important essay on the nation’s growing economic wall, “the promise of a better life that once drew people of all backgrounds to rich places like New York and [coastal] California now applies only to an educated elite—because rich places have made housing prohibitively expensive.”

“Like the great legacy cities during their now long-past adolescent and at times ungainly growth spurts, today’s aspirational cities often meet with little approval from travelers from other, older cities. A 19th-century Swedish visitor to Chicago described it as “one of the most miserable and ugly cities” in North America. New York, complained the French Consul in 1810, was a city where the inhabitants had “in general no mind for anything but business”; later Bostonian Ralph Waldo Emerson, granted Gotham’s entrepreneurial supremacy only to explain that his more cultured “little city” was “appointed” by destiny to “lead the civilization of North America.”

“Los Angeles, most of whose early-20th-century migrants came from the Midwest, became a favorite object of scorn from sophisticates. William Faulkner in the 1930s described the city of angels as “the plastic asshole of the world.” As the first great city built largely around the automobile, mainstream urbanists detested it; their icon Jane Jacobs called it “a vast blind-eyed reservation.”

“A half century later, today’s aspirational urban centers suffer similarly poor reputations among urbanists, planners and journalists. One New York Post reporter recently described Houston as “brutally ugly” while new urbanists like Andres Duany relegate the region to a netherworld inhabited by car-centric cities such as Phoenix and Atlanta.

“Yet over the past decade the 25 fastest-growing cities have been mostly such urbanist “assholes”—Raleigh, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte, and Phoenix. Despite hopeful claims from density advocates that the Great Recession and the housing bust ended this trend, the latest census data shows that Americans have continued choosing places that are affordable enough to offer opportunity, and space.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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