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So, why would someone stay ...

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,693
Points
57
... in a city such as Fargo, Topeka, and so on? Why do people seem to stay in boring cities that have almost no appeal -- bad weather, terrible topography, an unappealing built environment, and little do do? Aside from "it's home," there must be something behind these places in order to attract professionals such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, and even planners. Do residents come from even smaller, more boring towns, and think of such 'burgs as booming metropolises? So, what is it?
 

seannelson

Member
Messages
39
Points
2
I believe everybody has different needs and desires. I grew up in a town of 3,500 people. I went off to school, had jobs in Sprinfield, MO and Kansas City. When I was an auditor, I travelled all over the country. I spent weeks at a time in one city or another, then would spend a week in a Colo. town of 500 people. I experienced communities of all sizes and prosperity levels.

Now, about 10 years later, I'm back home and hope to stay. The population is up to 3,800 and the town appears to be doing well. Yes, I have some family and several friends in town, which was an important factor in my decision. I drive 20 miles to work everyday, and it takes about 25 minutes. When I lived in KC it would take me 35-40 minutes to go 7 miles to and from work, I hated that.

My brother, grew up in the same household, and he hates small towns. He lives in St. Louis and loves it. He likes the urban feel of cities, I prefer the rural feel of central Kansas.

I believe people tend to live where they are most comfortable or where they feel they can do the best for their families.

Who really knows? Maybe people are more like sheep and just do what they think they are supposed to do.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
I agree that people do have different needs and wants, and many prefer small towns. If given a choice, I would take a small town over a centerless collection of subdivisions (my current residence is a wierd combination of both: Valley ag town and subdivisions, but it does have some sense of community and a center).

Many people's lives revolve around their families, friends, and churches, so why leave a small town for the "bIG cITY."?

Now, to me some cities (Topeka is definitely one of them. What a grim place) are so awful that I would never stay. But to many people, "urbanism" or "place" is not that important.

And, that is not always bad. One of many reasons that American cities as a whole lack a stronger sense of place is because Americans themselves are so mobile. Without a rooted population, you cannot develop a local culture. (I loved Dan's description of localism in Buffalo).
 

petrushka

Cyburbian
Messages
30
Points
2
It has been my experience that most people remain in cities of they are familiar with simply because they are, like sheep, afraid to venture outside of the "herd" to experience new things. I may be strange in quite a few respects, but I have always been drawn to three cities (Denton, Tx.-- my home town; New York City; and Berlin, Germany). Stranger still is the fact, yes fact, that the majority of Dentonites (that is, people who graduated from Denton High School, or spent enough time in my hometown to fall into its current) tend to run the circuit of Austin, Tx., New York, NY, Europe, and back to Denton. Keep in mind that my home town-- also the location of the University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University-- has a long history of "globetrotters", yet we always, those of us from Denton, seem to return to our town for extended stays. In this, I must say that the answer to your question of 'why' is for the individual to answer. I am currently in New York, and planning to move to either Munich or Berlin within the next year or two. When I have done what I believe I needed to do in Germany, I suppose I would return to my hometown. Do not mistake me. This is not a matter of 'monkey see, monkey do,' for I have felt the pull of both New York and Germany since I was a child. I am simply, as all Dentonites that 'globetrot' only to return home again, following my desires. As for the rest, I believe it is safe to classify them all as sheep if familiarity be their only reason for remaining in cities and settlements offering no intellectual or visually stimulating benefit.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
I went the small town route...can't really say why. They are parochial and small minded at times; but very few have hidden agendas, and if they do, they can be ascertained. In terms of planning, I find more acceptance of new ideas and programs have greater impact.

Before too many of you scoff at this, planning and everything else becomes institutionalized over time. In larger areas, that includes staff who are unwilling to change their comfort levels. To sell new ideas to the public, I can often generate the needed support by going to a coffee house, a club, and a beer joint and start talking. I know all the homebuilders by first name.

You can see the results of programs in your own lifetime. Because of the smallness, the impact is greater. Yeah, we are backwards in many ways. I have seen many backwards large cities as well. One benefit of small communitiesis that "new" ideas come out of APA's Planning Advisory Service Reports from 15 years ago (backwards is not always bad). But many of the issues and problems can be solved.

BTW, Topeka is recruiting for a director now.
 

petrushka

Cyburbian
Messages
30
Points
2
Overflow

Being in New York for two years, I have seen the alarming rise in rents. This is despite the events of Sept. 11th. I have also seen that the outer boroughs struggle halfheartedly to handle the overflow of people from Manhattan and abroad. When on the west side of the city, I look across the broad Hudson and see construction cranes lining the shoreline of Jersey City. I wonder whether or not the planners there have poised their city to become the next logical extension of the city in whose shadow they have long lived, or are they developing the usual sites (those close to the water) to merely give the appearance of potential prosperity? Is this a politically-laced ploy to hide the ghettoes and the poor streets, or are they actually trying to do something to make the lives of their citizens and those arriving in droves daily somewhat bearable? Does anyone know what Jersey City is up to?
 
Messages
3,690
Points
27
I was born and raised in a rural ag town (cue john mellancamp), went to college in my beloved Geneseo, one of the best small towns ever (IMO), lived in a city neighborhood in Anderson, S.C. and now live and work in a sprawling conglomerate of subdivisions that make up my township.

Do I love the town where we settled and bought a house? Well, it has good schools, and boasts that it is the 8th safest community in the country (of like sized communities), taxes are relatively low and I only have a 5 minute commute to work. I don't hate where I live, but because of family circumstances, this is where we are. If I had to make the decision completely by myself and not worry about my husband, his family or his job, I can say that I really doubt I'd be where I am, and I think this same process happens to many many people who don't have the "freedom of geography", to end up in the best and most desirable geographic location.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
I was born and raised in a big city (Toronto) and love it. For me, being a planner for this city is the realization of a major personal goal (are you reading this, boss man?).

When I started out, I worked for two and half years in a small/medium sized industrial city that is in decline (actually lost 10 000 residents over the past five years). I left for a variety of reasons, but now that I am back in the city I grew up in, I can see the appeal of a smaller centre - less traffic, slower pace of life, more open space, etc. Overall, I still feel more at home in Toronto - but I find I miss Sudbury a lot more than I ever thought I would.

From a planner's perspective, one important element a smaller town can give you is control. In the larger cities, there are more staff, slotted into more specialized positions, and it is a lot harder to get stuff done, at least quickly.

On the other hand, there tend to be bigger and more interesting projects in the big city...

I'm torn I guess.
 

adaptor

Member
Messages
123
Points
6
the weight of circumstances

" I don't hate where I live, but because of family circumstances, this is where we are. If I had to make the decision completely by myself and not worry about my husband, his family or his job, I can say that I really doubt I'd be where I am..."

I think this hits the nail on the head. I look at Dan's and some other's comments and wonder how they managed to be so footloose to find work in such a variety of locations. Even before we became homeowners (though without kids) I can't imagine how to get out of Ohio and make a living where my resume and references are meaningless.

Meanwhile, back to Dan's original question, I don't think he was dissing small towns but grim one-dimensional places.

My gut feeling is that most people's needs are simple and they aren't too concerned if their town has no Starbucks or art galleries or venues for touring bands or grand parks and public spaces. As long at there are places to buy groceries and maybe have a beer they can be happy pretty much anywhere they can rig up a satellite dish. If they need some stimulation they take the RV to Branson for a week's vacation.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
29
I think planners too often forget that the bulk of the population (I think its well over 80%) live in a "social" space of family, friends, and co-workers that has only an amazingly nebulous connection to the physical setting. Otherwise, how could they do so much damage to their environment? I went to a talk recently at which I learned that roughly 2/3 of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from where they live. I am pretty sure (and I am equally sure that this will draw some comment) that an animal that doesn't NEED a connection to the stars is no longer Homo sapiens.
I still manage to think that what planners do to create, improve, and manage physical space is important, including in very subtle ways that people don't realize at a conscious level. But most people apparently will adapt to, and function, in almost any physical setting.
 

LouisvilleSlugger

Cyburbian
Messages
216
Points
9
great opinions and views on this. I can understand all of the reasons. the only one I don't get is how people are sheepish and not willing to venture out into the world to try something different. I see it quite often. I see among policy leaders as well.
 

LouisvilleSlugger

Cyburbian
Messages
216
Points
9
Lee: Your right. You see that structural dynamic here in Kentucky. its very profound. I mean - people just don't leave!!!!! they will stay in their home towns no matter what because it's where their friends and family are from and its what they KNOW!!! I've seen this a lot in Indiana as well as I am sure many other places. coming into these communities as I have done when I moved out here a few years ago can be an experience because acceptance of outsiders is a very dicey propisition.
 

petrushka

Cyburbian
Messages
30
Points
2
I believe you have all "hit the nail on the head". It seems the simple answer, as always, is the correct one. It all boils down to familiarity. The comfort of friends, family, and co-workers; sticking with what you know (and dispensing with dangerous curiosity).
Don't misunderstand, I miss my small hometown in Texas like a good cheeseburger and fries, and absolutely abhor New York, but after being around the world and across the states, I would feel stunted should I ever return to live.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,312
Points
43
I grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, on the North Shore of Lake Michigan, and then went to school on the south shore of Lake Superior. Both towns had about 20,000 people, and not allot of opportunity. I can say that I have seen -52 F. and over 300 inches of snow in a single winter. But, I have also seen people come together to help each other. I have seen a real since on community rise out of some one saying hi. I have seen outsiders come in, and be welcomed with open arms. I have also seen the entire town in upraise because someone with money tried to do something that would damage there town, and way of life. The weather is only hard half the year... I have spent allot of time on a sail boat in Little Bay De Noc, and jet skiing not to far from Iron Ore Freighters in Lake Superior. Every community has something for some one. We by nature tend to like different things. I know I want to have that small town feel again, but to better understand communities, I need to work in a larger city.
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,551
Points
24
I lived for seven years in Muncie, IN -- not a small town, but a small industrial city that has seen better days. The university (Ball State) has improved the economic fortunes for many since I moved away in the late '80s, but much of the town remains the same.

When I was in Indiana, I noticed that there was a strong culture that celebrated small towns. Having moved there from Detroit, it was the first I'd ever seen of that. Hoosiers are very into the stories of the virtues of small towns and rural life -- the movie "Hoosiers" is real to many of them. Stories about Hoosiers that rise from the cornfields to achieve prominence somewhere -- and the Hoosier lifestyle that provided the moral guidance to do it.

In Indiana, and I suspect elsewhere, people buy into this rural superiority idea. They remain in jobless small towns because they believe their character was formed, molded and shaped there.

And they fear big cities.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
I agree with the posters that said that familiarity was the main reason people stay in "boring" places. I am sure that someone who stays there does so because it fits their idea of fun. They likely have a circle of friends and family and a routine of places they go for fun. I think a lot of people have a different concept of what makes a place livable. To some, the absence of things that attract people (like natural features, tourist attractions, etc) is what makes a place great. They don't have to worry about traffic, crime, etc.

I love living in Milwaukee. There is tons of stuff to do, miles of bike trails, several summer festivals, great bars and restaurants, and most of my friends still live here. However, people in Chicago probably wonder why people would choose to live here. They think of it as a small time boring City. I have a friend that moved to Chicago and he almost never comes back here because he claims that there are so many better things to do in Chicago.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,853
Points
39
I grew up in Orlando before it exploded, then went to college in a small town and worked for many years in a small town. I guess I developed a liking for the familiarity, and a hatred of the ever-increasing gridlock I saw when I came "home". Now I'm in a somewhat small city which I think combines the best of both worlds.
 
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