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Poll results: Suburb vs Suburb #2

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  • Southfield, Michigan (Detroit)

    3 21.43%
  • Amherst, New York (Buffalo)

    11 78.57%
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Thread: Suburb vs Suburb #2: Amherst NY vs Southfield MI

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Suburb vs Suburb #2: Amherst NY vs Southfield MI

    Seeing the Suburb vs Suburb #1 thread revive from the dead, I thought I'd post another fun one. Amherst, New York (suburban Buffalo) versus Southfield, Michigan (suburban Detroit). Borth suburbs are credited -- or blamed -- for much of the decline in their host city downtown districts in the 1970s.

    Amherst, New York

    Population:116,510
    Median household income:$55,427
    Median family income: $68,951
    Mean household earnings: $70,557
    % white: 90.2%
    % black: 4.3%
    % Asian: 5.6%
    % bachelor degree: 24.8%
    % graduate degree: 22.6%
    Median home value (2000): $120,000 (Census usually undervalues by about 50%)

    Skyline/edge city: none, except for the midrise buildings buildings of the UB North Campus, and some hotels in the Golden Triangle area at I-290 and Millersport Highway. Most office space -- and there is a lot of it -- is located in one and two-story buildings located in scattered office parks.

    Residential areas: hamlets settled in the mid- to late-1800s, Williamsville being the largest. Widescale development began in the 1920s (Eggertsville, Snyder, Williamsville), but stalled during the Depression. Development resumed in the 1950s, small Cape Cod "doll houses" inside the I-290 beltway; larger ranch houses outside. Development accelerating rapidly in the 1970s as the UB North Campus was and various office parks were built, and continues today. Most new housing are move-up to very high end single family houses, upscale patio homes, and assisted living centers . About 60% built out.

    Retail districts: Niagara Falls Boulevard corridor (shared with Tonawanda) and Transit Road corridor (shared with Clarence). Most retail chains saturate Amherst before expanding elsewhere in the Buffalo area, if they even do so. Boulevard Mall is a 1960s-era mid-end mall that is healthy. No architectural regulations.

    People: Original growth came from those upgrading from houses in northern city neighborhoods (Kensington, University Heights, North Buffalo) and suburban Tonawanda and Kenmore. The majority of those involved in corporate relocation to the Buffalo area settle in Amherst. Originally settled by Yankee and German-American farmers, it's now the dominant of Buffalo's two Jewish population centers; with a growing Italian-American, Asian, Asian Indian and African-American poplation.

    Southfield, Michigan

    Population: 78,296
    Median household income: $51,802
    Median family income: $64,543
    Mean household earnings: $64,449
    % white: 41.0%
    % black: 55.8%
    % Asian: 3.8%
    % bachelor degree: 21.6%
    % graduate degree: 15.1%
    Median home value (2000): $156,400 (Census usually undervalues by about 50%)

    Skyline/edge city: significant. Most office space is concentrated in a group of high-rise buildings that creates the impression of a medium-sized downtown district.

    Residential areas: developed through the 1960s and 1970s with comfortable, larger homes marketed to middle and upper-middle income families. Now mostly built out.

    Retail districts: Northland Mall, one of the first major suburban shopping centers in the United States, is now dying. Plentiful strip development with the usual assortment of middle to middle-high end natonal retailers in strip plazas and power centers. Fairly strict architectural regulations.

    People: Growth fueled by white flight from Detroit. Now experiencing racial transition, as middle class blacks relocate from the host city, and whites move to communities further removed in Oakland County; Bloomfield Hills, Oak Park, Farmington Hills and so on. Once one of the most heavily Jewish communities in the United States; some Orthodox remain. City officials are actively working to promote racial integration and prevent resegregation.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ICT/316's avatar
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    Amherst,Ny. Southfield's abandoned and deteriorating suburban office builds on 8 mile road show it's sad state.

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  3. #3
    I Wonder if Southfield's large balck population is an indication that even African Americans are giving up on Detroit.

    Buffalo's middle class Black population has tended to stay in the city. (which may be an indication that Buffalo still has a very strong segregation mentality)

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    I Wonder if Southfield's large balck population is an indication that even African Americans are giving up on Detroit.
    I have absolutely no frame of reference for Amherst, NY. But I spent LOTS of my formative years in Southfield and go back frequently.

    I have several relatives who moved from Detroit to Southfield beginning in the early '70s (and for those who don't know, I'm African-American). My parents contemplated it in the mid '70s and nearly bought a house there, but decided to stay in the city. I believe that Southfield has been majority black since the 1980s.

    As ICT/316 points out, 8 Mile Road on both sides (Southfield to the north, Detroit to the south) is a disaster. However, the decay tends to extend further into Detroit (no surprise there) but stops at the 8 Mile frontage in Southfield.

    I was shopping at Northland Mall in April, and it is a dying mall. In addition, all of the 8-10 story office buildings and hotels that developed near the mall are starting to show lots of wear and tear. I wonder if Southfield planners have any redevelopment plans for the area bounded by 8 Mile, 9 Mile, the Lodge Freeway and Greenfield Rd.; that area needs it.

    Conversely, areas near the Southfield Civic Center around 12 Mile Rd. look pretty good. There are a jumble of 20-30 story office buildings concentrated there, mostly built in the late '70s and early '80s. I think Southfield was an original edge city -- I know Southfield has more leased office and commercial space than downtown Detroit.

    Ultimately, I think Southfield's fate is the same as Detroit's albeit at a much slower rate. The decline is already happening. The residential areas will experience decline as middle and upper-middle income people move out and people of lesser income move in; the retail corridors will deteriorate and the office buildings will become largely vacant.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    I Wonder if Southfield's large balck population is an indication that even African Americans are giving up on Detroit.
    It isn't a matter of giving up on a place. It's a matter of people's perceived moving up in living conditions withing their means. To those moving in, they're moving from urban neighborhoods of questionable quality to pizzazz the suburbs pizzazz. The same thing about those moving out to new exurban or bedroom communities. They are increasing their perceived quality of life within their economic means. I think a better question would be to ask: what are the economic and racial statistics of those moving in vs. moving out. Are these statistics conducive to maintaining a diverse community? Then what, if anything, needs to change?

    My guess is that Amhearst will do better because it is facing a healthy diversification, not resegregation. It has a multitude of housing choices due to its development over so many years. It also is only 60% built out which will allow for much flexibility in the direction the community can go versus a built-out burg on the leading edge of decay...

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock
    I have absolutely no frame of reference for Amherst, NY. But I spent LOTS of my formative years in Southfield and go back frequently..
    I try to describe it to Clevelanders as "it's like an agglomeration of Shaker Heights, Beachwood, Solon, and Lyndhurst, with a touch of Euclid, and a giant univeristy in the middle of it all. Because the Buffalo area is less populated than Detroit, and the city's suburbs are geographically very large compared to suburbancommunities elsewhere, Amherst is both an inner ring suburb and an outer suburban tract mansion magnet.

    It's hard to compare to anything in Detroit I'm familiar with, really, because Detroit's suburbs seem either very affluent (Oakland County) or quite blue-collar (Wayne, Dearborn, etc.); there's not much in the middle. I could describe it like this:

    Take Southfield, and add some Bloomfield Hills and Novi to it, along with a lot of flat vacant land near Toledo. Remove a lot of the black residents from Southfield, and shake the agglomeration around a bit to scatter the rest. Crunch the office towers down into one and two story buildings. Clear out the middle, add a lot of trees, and drop the ugliest half of all Michigan State buildings into the middle of your new forest. Add hundreds of cops, repair the roads but throw in thousands of deer to make things interesting for the drivers, and double the property taxes. Replace any Meijer stores with Wegmans, and any Coney Island restaurants with Greek family diners. Welcome to Amherst.

    Quote Originally posted by iamme
    To those moving in, they're moving from urban neighborhoods of questionable quality to pizzazz the suburbs pizzazz.
    That's what I see; the same "giddiness" that those early pioneers to the suburbs experienced after World War II, when they now had the textbook American Dream they've sen in so many movies. I think of the the play "A Raisin in the Sun," where the ultimate goal is a bungalow in Chicago's Southwest Side. I agree; it's not so much "we've got to get out of Detroit" but rather "We're in the suburbs now - we finally made it."
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Amherst is still Crapherst to me. People continue to build on land that sinks, and the people that live in the sinking homes demand retribution even though the USCE released a soil survey back in the '60s that said the land was unstable. They just recently released the same report.

    Amherst is simply just another typical suburb that you would find anywhere else in the county. It also has a pretty strong anti-bias towards the city as well, as many of the people I've met from there, whether school or work, are afraid of the city and its vices apparently. Just like many other metro's suburbs.

    It also has been found guilty of "pirating" businesses from the city.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  8. #8
    Cyburbian UpstateNYRox's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator
    Amherst is still Crapherst to me. People continue to build on land that sinks, and the people that live in the sinking homes demand retribution even though the USCE released a soil survey back in the '60s that said the land was unstable. They just recently released the same report.

    Amherst is simply just another typical suburb that you would find anywhere else in the county. It also has a pretty strong anti-bias towards the city as well, as many of the people I've met from there, whether school or work, are afraid of the city and its vices apparently. Just like many other metro's suburbs.

    It also has been found guilty of "pirating" businesses from the city.
    No city in the US is hated and feared more by people in its suburbs than Detroit. At least Buffalo still has a fair share of really nice city neighborhoods.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UpstateNYRox
    No city in the US is hated and feared more by people in its suburbs than Detroit. At least Buffalo still has a fair share of really nice city neighborhoods.
    I will agree with your first statement. Your second statement seems too indicate that Detroit does not have any nice neighborhoods which is really false. There are still plenty of nice neighborhoods. Now if you define 'nice neighborhoods' as where the rich, white, english speaking people dominate (aka leave it to beavers) then you will be hard pressed to find that. Lots of nice lower, middle, and upper income neighborhoods in Detroit. Though they really don't stand out as much as the emptied out squalor filled areas.

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