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Thread: Can development in urban areas survive...

  1. #1

    Can development in urban areas survive...

    I have been kind of wondering, can development (commercial and residential) in urban areas survive and continue through suburban market crashes/declines like what is going on now with the housing market?

  2. #2
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    You may wish to refine the question and include a few more specifics. It's difficult to answer this otherwise. How large a community? How diversified is the area's economy? Is it in proximity to industries where economic growth is occuring counter to the general economic trend? Are we talking about a crash on the scale of 1929 or are we talking about a minor recession?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  3. #3
    I'm talking about a city like Kansas City with 450,000-470,000 people in a metro area of 2 million... All the way up to a city the size of Chicago.

    Also I'm talking about a housing market "Crash" or decline like what is going on now.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    No! We are headed for an urban decline the likes of which has not been seen since the fall of the Roman empire. I'm outfitting my AMC in full road warrior fashion and will be abandoning the urban areas for some secluded area in the middle of no where, oh wait, I already live there....

    As long as there are poeple, there will be development of some kind, just the levels of activity vary.
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  5. #5
    What I'm meaning is that with the housing market going the way it is, development and sales in the suburbs has shot down. However while the suburbs suffer from the housing market and other factors, would urban areas suffer in the same way, or are they not effected because of the environment they are in and amount of people they have around?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    It is an economic and financing crisis, so both urban and suburbs will have issues. Although not all areas are effected equally. During the last recession, there were some areas that barely felt the impact while urban CA crashed and burned. Likewise some areas recover faster than others.
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  7. #7
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    Of course!

    Of course urban areas can survive - and will even continue to thrive given the decades of neglect most urban cores have received prior to more recent times.

    In today's society, not everybody wants a house in the suburbs with a big yard surrounded a white picket fence. People don't live and work in urban areas just to hold themselves over until they can afford their own slice of Americana with big-box retail stores and wide boulevards without sidewalks.

    In Portland, downtown condos (of which the market is in a slow-down compared to the activity over the last decade) are still snatched up more quickly than they can be built. This is a lifestyle that a healthy segment of the populous longs for - and it will continue to thrive in the years to come, especially as the cost of gasoline rises and traffic congestion worsens.

    There's nothing quite like walking two blocks to the grocery store, completing your shopping, and returning home - and seeing the same cars circling around looking for parking as you did when you first left your apartment. I, for one, am thrilled by the number of hours I've reclaimed while living in Portland by trading my car for a comfortable pair of shoes for most trips. That and filling up my gas tank once a month when I still had the car in that neighborhood... yeah, life was good.

  8. #8
    If that is the case, and urban areas can survive or be almost immune to market problems in the suburbs, then what would it take to get them to that point?

    Right now in Kansas City, our project proposals have slowed down, primarily because of our new mayor and uncertainty with his positions on issues, but some also assume it's because of the housing marking declining.

    What does it take? Density? Success? Amount of Jobs? A combination of those?

  9. #9
    From my experience in Boston and California:

    Upper income centrally located neighborhoods will survive pretty much untouched. There may be a temporary slow down, but there will be no widespread abandonment.

    Can we say the same thing about peripherally located lower middle class suburbs?

    Now if I could just find an affordable condo...

  10. #10
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I will say that here in Albuquerque (city pop ~ 500,000, greater metro area ~ 1,000,000), downtown is booming for the most part (there are some vacant luxury lofts that have been sitting for a few years). There is quite a lot of new commercial and residential infill development and housing alone is expected to grow by 9 percent by the end of the year. Things are booming, frankly.

    Albuquerque's suburban growth continues at a notable pace, though Smart Growth measures (not as strong as I would like), commute times and the loss of over 1000 jobs at a local Intel plant have slowed sales in these areas recently. Still, the development of Mesa del Sol (http://www.mesadelsolnm.com/) will add another 100,000 residents on the outskirts of Albuquerque beginning in 2009 and extending over the next 35-40 years. Its an interesting project - well conceived in terms of environmental impacts, compactness, economic base, schools, presence of retail and open space, etc. But its still new growth in a discontinuous area on previously undeveloped land that is costing the City and County major bucks to extend infrastructure to. We shall see...

    I read somewhere - though I don't recall where, making this a very un-scholarly statement - that one trend we are seeing is that higher income residents have begun to re-occupy the urban cores of many US cities, pushing lower income folks into the declining (in terms of housing prices, and perhaps general upkeep) suburbs. One factor playing into this is that wealthier residents often do not have children these days (as compared to the Baby Boom when the suburbs swelled) and so issues of school and safety are viewed as either non-factors or at least in a different way (does one view crime from the point of view of personal safety, or as a negative environment for children? for example). I suspect that the current cache of dense, urban living is also playing into this.

    I would say this trend is not necessarily the case for Albuquerque specifically, though. Our downtown schools are pretty good and we do have a lot of families here (but New Mexico in general has a higher percentage of families than the nation as a whole - more Catholics and families that have been physically rooted in the same areas for generations, perhaps). I am one of them (a family, that is, not a Catholic) and we have a wealth of families with kids around the same age within a 1/2 mile from our house.

    I also read somewhere (maybe the same article, maybe a dream, who knows) that we are also seeing some very large geographical demographic shifts, emptying some areas of the country and swelling others. So, this may be in part what we are seeing as well. The next census (as flawed as some of this data gathering can be) will likely tell us a great deal about what is really going on at a national scale.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  11. #11
    Something I find interesting is that suburbs or sprawl development seem to always overbuild. One suburb in our area overbuilt so much, that they have neighborhood after neighborhood of empty new houses. I have also heard that many of the houses being built aren't being occupied...

    Hopefully our urban core hasn't suffered, because the amount of lofts, studios and condos going in our Downtown has declined. (we were at 900 units under construction in Jan of this year) I'm not sure if it's because developers are unsure about our new mayor, or if it's just that the local market for urban living is drying up slightly.

    I read somewhere - though I don't recall where, making this a very un-scholarly statement - that one trend we are seeing is that higher income residents have begun to re-occupy the urban cores of many US cities, pushing lower income folks into the declining (in terms of housing prices, and perhaps general upkeep) suburbs.
    I'd say this is accurate, only in most cities, because of their expanding area with sprawl, their inner-ring suburbs are becoming cheaper places to live, and families in the urban core are moving out to them, leaving many places in the urban core vacant. Which contributes to not only a rise in the negative factors but also allows the city more room to redevelop the areas.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    You might also want to read Joel Kotkin's recent article on Opportunity Cites. Take it with a grain of salt, though, as the article focuses primarily on Houston, which hired him to do the study, raising issues of whether he is city booster on the dole (he does not actually live in Houston, mind you). But a lot of information in the article is useful and makes good sense.

    What struck me was the basic premise that the successful cities of the coming decades will be ones that possess the right mix of elements (affordable housing, skilled labor and information technology economies, etc.) to build more middle class citizens. This is held in contrast to philosophies such as Richard Florida's Creative Class approach (another guy whose motives are questionable to me) that, Kotkin says, contribute to the development of Affluent Cities that serve the already wealthy and do little to build up the lower classes.

    The middle class is certainly shrinking these days and I think a lot of what may motivate people relocating will be the larger economic picture of opportunity.

    You can link to the pdf from this Planetizen page:
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 31 Mar 2008 at 1:12 PM. Reason: plannetizen links removed
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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