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Thread: Natalism: the new population explosion

  1. #51
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    The controversy isn't with what he said... but the whole premise of the article is that this series of nuances is a new phenomenon, when it isn't. If the contrast between rural and urban environments is something that he just realized, then he really needs to get out more... and The Times really needs to look at upgrading their Op-Ed pieces.
    Ok, so he's hoarding credit by naming the phenomenon (did he actually invent the term?).

    Btw, it's actually the contrast between urban and suburban, not really "rural." The moment a place becomes an exurb it ceases to be rural. There are no cows on the cul-de-sacs.

  2. #52
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    Ok, so he's hoarding credit by naming the phenomenon (did he actually invent the term?).

    Btw, it's actually the contrast between urban and suburban, not really "rural." The moment a place becomes an exurb it ceases to be rural. There are no cows on the cul-de-sacs.
    But in the exurbs - there may very well be cows next to the cul-de-sacs...

    Still - just curious how you or others view exurbs - as an 'urban' or 'rural' zone. It's either an urban area that is predominately farmland / woodland or it's a rural area that has some subdivisions / shopping centers. In my free time - I make poor attempts at actually mapping the zone between exurbia & rural / urban. And there are simply not any distinguishable traits that can categorize what makes exurbia, not population density at least.

  3. #53
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh
    But in the exurbs - there may very well be cows next to the cul-de-sacs....
    Exactly! The last town I worked in was a rural city of 14,000 + a university. It had a good downtown, nice older neighborhoods, and was developing some decent new ones, as well as infill and redevelopment sites. It was both urban and rural. I lived in the city but on a farm. I had holstiens for neighbors.
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  4. #54
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    I guess what I struggle to understand is why are people moving to exurbs. I hear several reasons, but they seem to fall into one of two camps.

    1. Homes are more affordable, or

    2. Suburban/exurban development represents the type of lifestyle people really want to live and is reflective of a market demand for this type of housing.

    Both points are debatable, the first one less so than the second, IMO. The costs of commuting and subsequent lost time erode some, but not all of the lower housing costs in the 'burbs.

    I can understand a working-class family deciding to move to the 'burbs vs. living in the city when the 'burbs offer a patch of grass, a garage, a family room, a bedroom for each child, etc. Those amenities may not be available in their price range in the city.

    Addressing the second point: If people move to the 'burbs because they WANT to live there, why is that the case? Over time, it seems that the promise of the 'burbs - a better life - wears thin. Many, many suburban communities are devoid of any sense of place. They are not places where people predominate the streetscene, but rather, cars do. There are plenty of stories of the boredom and isolation of the 'burbs. Places have a certain "feel" to them, and I've been in few suburbs that have what I consider to be a feel that makes me want to spend time in them. They're mostly generic and soulless.

    I'm sure there are exceptions that will be pointed out, but I still maintain that for most of suburban development, the opportunities for human interaction as a matter of daily life are far less than in an urban neighborhood. Do people realize this when they move to the 'burbs? Do they care? Or, is it all they have ever known? Or, are they moving to the 'burbs in a conscious effort to limit human interaction? If this is the case, I'm concerned about what that means for the future.
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  5. #55
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    People move to the exurbs because they feel it's safe and wholesome. Why, in the city, there are gunfights at all hours, drug pushers on every corner, child molesters, kidnappers, and punks to lead children astray and abuse them - sure, you may not have seen them, but they must be there, that's all you ever see on movies and TV.. The exurbs are wholesome places where you can see animals walk out of the forest and bring you flowers, while a little cartoon rainbow shines, all the neighbors talk to each other, noone ever steals or sells drugs or does anything bad, just like on TV..

    People don't want to live in Mountain View because they're afraid to walk down the street even after informed that the real crime rate is down to the point where it's one of the safest neighbohoods in the city - and it's hard to get that word out, especially when the TV news ascribes crimes to "Mountain View" which happen miles outside of the community's boundaries. They would rather commute out to someplace idyllic like Sutton, which has a pretty full crime blotter in spite of a tiny population but no way of compiling it all together so people can actually see how bad it is without knowing the peace officers or police who occasionally are called to the area.

  6. #56

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    Never assume that a high level of interaction is a goal. For many people, limiting interaction is the goal. I have to say that after dealing with all the friction that occurs here everyday, I have little desire to be sociable. I want to live in a walkable environment so I can go have a beer and pizza - without human interaction - but a lot of folks like to be at home.

  7. #57
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    If we are truly talking about exurbs, then let's be clear that they are not the same thing as suburbs. An exurb is a distinct community in a rural setting, near but not attached to a large metropolitan area (my definition, the the official census definition). As I noted in one of my earlier replies, there is often a much greater sense of community in a place like this than you will find in an urban neighborhood. People who live in these places may very well work there as well. We don't all need to commute to the big city (or its suburbs) to find a job. The jobs often do not pay as well, but in my former city a very large, brick, federal style house built in 1860, on five acres with 300-year old oaks, was listed at $260,000.
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  8. #58
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    If we are truly talking about exurbs, then let's be clear that they are not the same thing as suburbs. An exurb is a distinct community in a rural setting, near but not attached to a large metropolitan area (my definition, the the official census definition). As I noted in one of my earlier replies, there is often a much greater sense of community in a place like this than you will find in an urban neighborhood. People who live in these places may very well work there as well. We don't all need to commute to the big city (or its suburbs) to find a job. The jobs often do not pay as well, but in my former city a very large, brick, federal style house built in 1860, on five acres with 300-year old oaks, was listed at $260,000.
    That's a good distinction. I guess I'm exploring what motivates people to live outside a city, be it in a suburb, exurb, 40 acre farm, but still close enough to enjoy what a city has to offer.

    So, is it REALLY to avoid the negatives of contact with other people as much as possible?
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  9. #59
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    Ok, so he's hoarding credit by naming the phenomenon (did he actually invent the term?).
    Not sure... but it's definitely not a new phenomenon. People have been moving away from urban "for the sake of their children" for decades. I don't know why this is being called "new."
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
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  10. #60
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    I see the type of people moving to the exurbs moving there to be very different than the typical suburban family. At this point in our evolving metropolitan progression - we can only hope people move to the suburbs. Because the exurbs are far more difficult to keep track of or manage.

    As one can imagine - exurbs are very popular in the south. The typical resident of an exurb, either in a small town or more likely in a acre lot in a minimal subdivision, the reasons are usually 'to be away from the city'. For many, the suburbs represent every urban illness that the inner city does - many consider Gwinnett or Cobb County to be every bit as urban as Atlanta proper is. Traffic, pollution, noise, higher density, etc. are viewed as the typical urban disaster. So people move further out as possible, dealing with the 1 + hour commutes so they can enjoy their temporary solice.

    The heart of the problem for the south is that most southerners are socially inept at urbanity. Many, including myself grew up in rural areas - with little knowledge of urban culture. But now - the economic norm for us are centered around urban areas - yet most reject that notion. The ideal for most is to continue the traditions of their ancestors by living in a rural environment.

    The big difference of course is that no one's ancestors spent 2 hours a day in a gas powered SUV working as an accountant in a office park. Just as the South has been heralded as undergoing a rennaissance - the 'sunbelt'. Many southerners today are stuck in a identity crisis, and the exurb represents that confusion. It represents an ideal - but it doesn't serve any rural purpose.

  11. #61
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nuovorecord
    That's a good distinction. I guess I'm exploring what motivates people to live outside a city, be it in a suburb, exurb, 40 acre farm, but still close enough to enjoy what a city has to offer.

    So, is it REALLY to avoid the negatives of contact with other people as much as possible?
    I was actually reluctant to move to an exurb. It did curtail my social life (as a single) and I never did find more than a couple of people with similar backgrounds and interests living there. Shopping for most things other than food or the things I could get at Wal-Mart meant a trip to Madison. There was no real coffee shop or any good restaurants (although the brew pub had an outstanding oatmeal stout). On the other hand, the cost of living was cheap. My commute from the edge to my office in a historic building at the center of town too five to seven minutes. It was quiet. I had room to garden, and wildlife didn't just come into my yard, they lived there. The best mountain biking in 200 miles was a fifteen minute ride from my house. I almost never locked my house or car doors. The schools were outstanding, not that I had any kids to worry about. Through a partnership with the company, high schoolers could take classes to graduate as fully-certified Cisco network administrators. There were many good things to be said for that kind of lifestyle.
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  12. #62
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    nuovorecord - please change your e-mail address. I got a bounce from your subscription to this thread. Bouncing e-mail makes me a very, very unhappy camper.


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    Hello nuovorecord,

    Cardinal has just replied to a thread you have subscribed to entitled - Natalism: the new population explosion - in the Economic and Community Development forum of Cyburbia Forums.

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  13. #63

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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    If we are truly talking about exurbs, then let's be clear that they are not the same thing as suburbs. An exurb is a distinct community in a rural setting, near but not attached to a large metropolitan area (my definition, the the official census definition). As I noted in one of my earlier replies, there is often a much greater sense of community in a place like this than you will find in an urban neighborhood. People who live in these places may very well work there as well. We don't all need to commute to the big city (or its suburbs) to find a job. The jobs often do not pay as well, but in my former city a very large, brick, federal style house built in 1860, on five acres with 300-year old oaks, was listed at $260,000.
    There's actually a new definition for what's loosely been called exurbs -- micropolitan areas.

    Last year, the U.S. Census wanted to differentiate small urban clusters from larger ones and came up with this definition, as seen on their website.

    In addition, the Brookings Institution did a pretty good report on what the impact of the new definition will have on metro areas, and the newfound identity of the micros.

    It would be interesting to see if the data from micropolitan areas supports the whole "natalist" idea.

  14. #64
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    i don't know if MiSAs are comparable to exurbs. Exurbs refer to one local governmental agencies that is beyond or detached from the urban/suburban area physically and/or economically.

    MiSAs are regions of a small scale trade area that is not defined or related to any MSA. Exurbs may be a component of a MiSA, but could also be an Edge component of an MSA.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  15. #65

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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Never assume that a high level of interaction is a goal. For many people, limiting interaction is the goal. I have to say that after dealing with all the friction that occurs here everyday, I have little desire to be sociable. I want to live in a walkable environment so I can go have a beer and pizza - without human interaction - but a lot of folks like to be at home.
    I think this is an underlying cultural attribute-reflecting the once dominant Northern European (English/German) ethos.

    I'm still not sure it is very "healthy" over the long run, though. A society structured to make human interaction difficult or, in our case, UNNECESSARY may indeed develop problems. I am not a social scientist, by any means-so this is just speculation. (I am also hardly the most sociable person in the wrold, so....)

  16. #66

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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I was actually reluctant to move to an exurb. It did curtail my social life (as a single) and I never did find more than a couple of people with similar backgrounds and interests living there. Shopping for most things other than food or the things I could get at Wal-Mart meant a trip to Madison. There was no real coffee shop or any good restaurants (although the brew pub had an outstanding oatmeal stout). On the other hand, the cost of living was cheap. My commute from the edge to my office in a historic building at the center of town too five to seven minutes. It was quiet. I had room to garden, and wildlife didn't just come into my yard, they lived there. The best mountain biking in 200 miles was a fifteen minute ride from my house. I almost never locked my house or car doors. The schools were outstanding, not that I had any kids to worry about. Through a partnership with the company, high schoolers could take classes to graduate as fully-certified Cisco network administrators. There were many good things to be said for that kind of lifestyle.

    Well, again, we are talking about definitions here. Given that there was a town center and a sense of place, I wonder if this place, which sounds semi-idyllic, is an "exurb." When I think of "exurb," I think of a place like El Dorado Hills, California, which has no town center and advertises itself as "living in the country" (even as such countryside disappears.

    Exurb is an even more slippery term than suburb, I guess.

  17. #67

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    I do not want to overstate the case, but the vast majority of people in our culture used to work more or less alone, at a home cooking, washing, etc. or out in the fields, herding sheep, in a mine, or in the woods where interaction was either not available or mostly purely functional. Those people were happy to gather in a sewing circle or in a saloon on a regular basis, and if you are fortunate enough to work with people who are still genuinely rural (a vanishing breed) you will find that most of them are still the same way - the person who moves 50 miles up in the mountains to an abandoned mining claim that is barely accessible is almost always an urban or suburban refugee.

    Now that so many of us spend so much time interacting, and often interacting with people we don't know, don't like, etc., we need some space in our own heads. It may well be that BKM is right, that this isn't healthy, but it is hard to avoid.

  18. #68
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh
    But in the exurbs - there may very well be cows next to the cul-de-sacs...

    Still - just curious how you or others view exurbs - as an 'urban' or 'rural' zone. It's either an urban area that is predominately farmland / woodland or it's a rural area that has some subdivisions / shopping centers. In my free time - I make poor attempts at actually mapping the zone between exurbia & rural / urban. And there are simply not any distinguishable traits that can categorize what makes exurbia, not population density at least.

    Teshadoh, classification of land is less mysterious than it’s been made out to be. Common usage will get you there; it doesn’t require greybeard planners, demographers or the census bureau to recognize that land can be usefully sorted into five categories: wilderness, parkland, farmland, suburb and urban places, while the latter can be subcategorized by size as city, town and village. For the purposes of this discussion you could regard exurb as a subcategory of suburb.

    An amazing amount of harm has been done by muddying the simple distinctions between these land types. For example, the census bureau used to draw no distinction between suburb and city, with the outcome that as the country’s genuinely urban places shriveled, the public and our leaders were treated to the gross misinformation that the country was urbanizing. In fact it was suburbanizing.

    That gave rise to the pernicious oxymoron “urban sprawl”—a comical term that has gone to its final rest, but that gave the city a bum rap for two decades and certainly helped fuel the nation’s anti-urban sentiments. That in turn must have contributed at least somewhat (if not measurably) to the decline of urban centers. It also led to such ignorant misconceptions as this beauty that sprang toad-like from the lips of a city councillor: “We’ve just got to do something about all this urban sprawl; let’s lower the density!” Wonder if she acted on her brilliant malapropism? She certainly had the power to.

    Rehabilitation of the city’s reputation took place as this pernicious term’s use faded out.

    So Teshadoh, don’t you go confusing exurbia with “rural,” an adjective that properly and clearly refers to farmland and pasture. As soon as you build a subdivision you have created a patch of suburbia. It doesn’t matter that there are cows all around it any more than it matters that the bread around a patch of green mold is uninfected. Suburbia can be (and usually is) discontinuous; look at aerial photos. Also, Suburbia can invade urban places; every American city has had scraps of formerly urban fabric converted by means of the usual setbacks, landscaping and parking ordinances.

    All five categories of land use can be inhabited, even quite densely. There are people living in a feral condition in the wilderness of South America, New Guinea, the Philippines, central Africa, until recently in the Arctic; and on a micro-scale you can find them in forested areas in many American municipalities. Within five hundred yards of my office, a dozen or two homeless people inhabit a patch of forest inside the city limits. There used to be an encampment of such nomads in the woodsy loop of a cloverleaf near here that accommodated at times a dozen, but it was cleared by the police and a crew of lumberjacks.

    Much of what we might wish to think is wilderness, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, is really parkland, which is a kind of false wilderness kept in place by elaborate regulations and strenuous management. These places sometimes reach very high (transient) population densities, and come equipped with parking lots, traffic jams and air pollution.

    We all know about living on farmland; rural Pennsylvania achieves modest densities in this way, especially in Amish country. Much lower densities can be found in the ranchlands of Texas.

    For North America, the distinction between suburbia and urban places is that in the latter people can walk, while in the former they must drive. Urban places are cities, towns and villages, depending on their size (awkward that there’s no one-word noun for this: urbs? [ugh]). Certain characteristics emerge at different sizes, yielding slightly finer-tuned boundaries where there may seem to be overlap due to size alone.

    My dictionary defines “town” as “a more or less concentrated group of houses and private and public buildings, larger than a village but smaller than a city.” Most but by no means all towns in North America have been converted to suburban use patterns, or have dissolved altogether into barely-differentiated Suburbia. The exceptions are the college towns that we all know about, and a few preserves of the rich, the traditional or the idiosyncratic.

    Examples include Bristol and Newport RI, Carmel and Nantucket, in all of which people still walk. (A couple of decades back in Bristol, a convenience store installed a parking lot in front and set itself back from Main Street. The town was so horrified at the outcome that it passed regulations to prevent this condition’s recurrence.)

    A village is much smaller than a town. Villages are all but extinct in the United States. Look for a tight cluster of houses surrounded by farmland or (very rarely) wilderness and usually so small that commerce is nonexistent or rudimentary; if it exists it’s often in the form of a post office, sometimes with an attached store. Villagers visit each other on foot.

    I know of some villages in Maine; Monhegan is fairly well known. In Massachusetts, the village of Deerfield survives, pretty much unchanged since colonial times. It contains the expected post office/general store and a tiny inn for visitors to the toney private school that puts it on some people’s radar. Its two or three cross-streets end abruptly in cornfields.

    A city is a large and complex agglomeration full of the diversity of human functions, without too much effort to sort them into neat piles. Cities are places where things are mixed in close enough proximity that they interact like a critical mass of fissionable material, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This produces serendipities that can’t be anticipated by a contemplation of the parts alone—such as for example a flourishing of culture. Discontinuities such as parking lots and too much zoning rapidly kill cities or turn them suburban.

    Small cities can be walked from end to end and therefore require no wheeled transport (Jim Thorpe, PA). These are nearly extinct in the U.S.

    Larger cities that did require transport were also headed for extinction by the third quarter of the last century, but are making a slow comeback. The very largest ones that had effective (rail) public transport--New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago-- were never in mortal danger (though the last still shows signs of automobile damage), while Washington seemed to be dissolving until the Metro was built. Baltimore, Los Angeles and New Orleans were damaged to the point where they have not yet fully recovered in spite of recent enhancements in rail transport.

    Other American municipalities are almost all improving-- striving hard to urbanize their cores-- but few work the way healthy cities do; most are still basically office parks with suburbs.

    You could say that in most North American municipalities the metropolitan core is not really a city but an office park. This is usually surrounded by a wasteland of parking lots, empty after six; and beyond lie the leafy suburbs.

    A suburb is all about separation: separation of functions, separation of people from each other, separation of buildings and streets. The mechanisms of separation are setbacks, buffers, fences, land use categories, cars, parking lots and distance itself—all enforced by zoning.

    No one should be surprised at the lack of community in such places; that is exactly what is sought. We talk about community, and so do the subdivision marketeers, but in fact we don’t want community at all, because this means people nosing into our business (it happens anyway even in the suburbs). Especially in the South, we are basically a nation of frontier hermits. In Carolina, there’s a saying that if you can see the smoke rising from your neighbor’s chimney it’s time to move on.

    Freed from geography by the internet or driven by social theories, some categories of people are doing just that. These people are finding new homes in patches of suburbia not attached directly to any city. These are not suburban (subsidiary to a city); they are exurban (away from a city). It’s still a form of suburbia.


    Exurb: a suburb without a city.

    .
    Last edited by ablarc; 16 Jan 2005 at 7:36 PM.

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    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    Interesting read ablarc - thanks, I'll consider your arguements. But in the case of exurbia, though I still do regard it as suburban in nature, is it an 'urban area'. Our definitions of urban are getting more & more inprecise - it used to be a simple line between farmland & neighborhood. Now, in the past 50+ years it is a matter of population density - if enough people live there it's urban, despite the forest or abandoned farm.

    Also, if suburban is a simple term to consider - despite exurbia - how about the other extreme - suburban high density. Though Atlanta lacks the great urban density found in many other cities - there are suburban areas that rival some areas in the city that are considered 'urban'. Midrises, condo towers are becoming more popular - suburbia is transitioning into something more urban. But not the traditional view or urban - mixed uses & pedestrian friendliness, but primarily a higher density of development.

    Anyways, just curious...

  20. #70
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh
    ...in the case of exurbia, though I still do regard it as suburban in nature, is it an 'urban area'.
    No, because it’s not for walking.

    [QUOTE]Our definitions of urban are getting more & more imprecise - it used to be a simple line between farmland & neighborhood.[QUOTE]

    That was before the suburb.

    Now, in the past 50+ years it is a matter of population density - if enough people live there it's urban, despite the forest or abandoned farm.
    That’s just a fallacy. It doesn’t have much to do with density. I bet there are days the population density of Yosemite exceeds that of Anchorage.

    It’s whether people walk, not density. Density can be both cause and effect of people walking, but if you engineer a place for the car, it’s absolutely guaranteed to be suburban.

    Also, if suburban is a simple term to consider - despite exurbia - how about the other extreme - suburban high density. Though Atlanta lacks the great urban density found in many other cities - there are suburban areas that rival some areas in the city that are considered 'urban'. Midrises, condo towers are becoming more popular - suburbia is transitioning into something more urban.
    No, it’s not; it’s just getting denser. You’re still thinking urbanity has to do with things like high-rises. People used to think it had to do with highways and pavement. They were confused by sloppy terminology.

    But not the traditional view or urban - mixed uses & pedestrian friendliness, but primarily a higher density of development.
    That’s right: suburban.

    .

  21. #71

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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc

    Other American municipalities are almost all improving-- striving hard to urbanize their cores-- but few work the way healthy cities do; most are still basically office parks with suburbs.
    .
    ablarc, I read your comments -- a short essay, really -- a while back, but I can't let this sentence pass. "Almost all" American municipalities are improving? As you passionately observe elsewhere, this is not the case. There are precious few "towns" left in the country, most having been transformed into a sort of suburbanized entity without a functioning urban core. I can list most North Carolina (the state where I used to live) towns and small cities -- Henderson, Goldsboro, Kinston, and on and on. Or to turn to an even more extreme example, my home state of Ohio, where I can list Youngstown, Warren, Canton, Lorain (my hometown), and, again, on and on and on, not to mention the state's larger cities. The central cities of northern Ohio are almost completely hollowed out, and the remaining economic activity has moved to indescribably ugly suburban/exurban areas, where Walmart picks over the remains. The absolute pity is that Lorain, and I am sure Henderson, Goldsboro, etc., were once very functional cities, with attractive residential neighborhoods (at least the white neighborhoods; many black neighborhoods in the south were, and remain, shantytowns). Many residents could walk to downtown, and those who couldn't could walk to the corner store. I saw the latter stages of this "urban culture" growing up in the 70s and 80s; it has since almost entirely disappeared, in Ohio, North Carolina, and virtually everywhere. I see no sign that anything even approaching this former vitality is ever going to return to these places. It's difficult even to find anyone who cares or much notices. Even places with economies that haven't been shattered (in other words, unlike much of northern Ohio or eastern North Carolina) can normally only support a low level urban culture, mostly for show and catering to the well-off.

    Healthy cities? In America, that's an oxymoron.

  22. #72

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    Quote Originally posted by Kovanovich
    ablarc, I read your comments -- a short essay, really -- a while back, but I can't let this sentence pass. "Almost all" American municipalities are improving? As you passionately observe elsewhere, this is not the case. There are precious few "towns" left in the country, most having been transformed into a sort of suburbanized entity without a functioning urban core. I can list most North Carolina (the state where I used to live) towns and small cities -- Henderson, Goldsboro, Kinston, and on and on. Or to turn to an even more extreme example, my home state of Ohio, where I can list Youngstown, Warren, Canton, Lorain (my hometown), and, again, on and on and on, not to mention the state's larger cities. The central cities of northern Ohio are almost completely hollowed out, and the remaining economic activity has moved to indescribably ugly suburban/exurban areas, where Walmart picks over the remains. The absolute pity is that Lorain, and I am sure Henderson, Goldsboro, etc., were once very functional cities, with attractive residential neighborhoods (at least the white neighborhoods; many black neighborhoods in the south were, and remain, shantytowns). Many residents could walk to downtown, and those who couldn't could walk to the corner store. I saw the latter stages of this "urban culture" growing up in the 70s and 80s; it has since almost entirely disappeared, in Ohio, North Carolina, and virtually everywhere. I see no sign that anything even approaching this former vitality is ever going to return to these places. It's difficult even to find anyone who cares or much notices. Even places with economies that haven't been shattered (in other words, unlike much of northern Ohio or eastern North Carolina) can normally only support a low level urban culture, mostly for show and catering to the well-off.

    Healthy cities? In America, that's an oxymoron.
    I see photographs of my hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana, from its glory days-and they are truly depressing. Grand locally-owned department stores with bustling streetscapes. Beautiful residential boulevards with houses that address the street properly. Locally owned bankd, not regional branches of San Francisco multinationals.

    Now, the City Center of Fort Wayne is basically a ghost town of corporate office buildings and emptiness. Even at noon, there are no crowds. Shopping and the feeble remnants of industry are decamped for one of the most horrific "architectural asteroid belts" in the midwest-Coliseum Blvd.

    I agree with Kovanivich-Fort Wayne, Indiana is not getting better, overall. New subidivisions are 35 miles north or southwest of the metropolitan center-and this is a MSA that ranks near the absolute bottom of job and population growth in the US.

    Note: I don't want to sound pollyanish about the past. But, in terms of urbanity, the past was better in Fort Wayne and most smaller and mid-sized midwestern cities.

    There are indeed very nice projects, islands of urbanity, in my hometown. A coffee shop in a lovingly restored Victorian cottage just west of downtown, bohemians along Broadway, a still lovely park system and old neighborhoods. Fort Wayne has a legacy that could be restored. Most sunbelt suburbs, to put it bluntly, are so utterly lacking in anything worth cherishing or saving that I wonder why anyone will stay there once the cheap oil fiesta is over!

  23. #73
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Kovanovich
    ablarc, I read your comments -- a short essay, really -- a while back, but I can't let this sentence pass. "Almost all" American municipalities are improving? As you passionately observe elsewhere, this is not the case.
    Kovanovich, point taken; I was taking a very short perspective: the last two years or so, which have seen an improvement almost everywhere. If you take a ten-year perspective, most sunbelt “cities” stay on the list, though most are still nowhere near being functioning cities as I understand the term.

    Quote Originally posted by Kovanovich
    There are precious few "towns" left in the country, most having been transformed into a sort of suburbanized entity without a functioning urban core.
    Ain’t that the truth!

    Quote Originally posted by Kovanovich
    Many residents could walk to downtown, and those who couldn't could walk to the corner store. I saw the latter stages of this "urban culture" growing up in the 70s and 80s; it has since almost entirely disappeared, in Ohio, North Carolina, and virtually everywhere. I see no sign that anything even approaching this former vitality is ever going to return to these places…

    Healthy cities? In America, that's an oxymoron.
    Kovanovich, give it time. New Urbanism is a beginning; half a century from now we will still own our cars but for many more of us they’ll be luxuries, not our only means of getting about.

    Truth is, the number of people living in urban (i.e. walkable) environments is increasing slightly due to migration into inner cities and gentrification. This is happening in New York, Boston, Washington and even Philadelphia, which is losing population overall. A rough estimate of the number of Americans living in places where they can live without a car might come up with a figure of about ten or twelve million…and currently growing.

    .

  24. #74
    Whew! My head is spinning in cul-de-sac visions just trying to keep up. I haven't noticed anyone mentioning school construction as a driver of sub/ex/urban development. In Texas, school boards have a bad habit of accepting "free" land for construction. You can imagine that their placement of elementary schools might not match a new-urbanist vision. Young families (the natalists) flock to these places, at all costs. Access to freeways, CLEAN, NEW, elementary schools, and similar-looking neibors are the top priorities of the classic suburbanite. I don't disagree with the article's thesis, but I don't see it as much of a new trend. The baby boom wasn't even the first time that people got excited about having lots of babies and building new houses, it was just the first time that folks had the financial wherewithall to accomplish the American dream, as conveyed by Southern Living. This "natalist" trend certainly exists, but may not be distinct (socially or architecturally) from the mini-growth booms that have kept urban planners in demand.

  25. #75
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Posted on Cafe l'Urbanite by paytonc

    .

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