August 14, 2012

PLACES TO WORK IN AND VISIT, NOT TO RAISE FAMILIES IN:

Trading Places : 'The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City' : a review of THE GREAT INVERSION AND THE FUTURE OF THE AMERICAN CITY By Alan Ehrenhalt  (FRED SIEGEL, August 10, 2012, NY Times Book Review)

The title of his book refers to both the growth of downtown living in once forbidding neighborhoods and, contrary to expectations, the movement of immigrants into the suburbs. Cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, he argues, are "gradually coming to resemble" European cities like Vienna or Paris in the 19th century, when the well-to-do lived in the center city and the working classes lived in the suburban rings around the downtown.

And according to Ehrenhalt, today it's not even necessary to move downtown to achieve a sense of urbanity. He's right, although he doesn't cite the specifics. New shopping areas like the Glen in suburban Chicago have been built to suggest the feel of an old city center. Similarly, older suburban downtowns in Highland Park, Ill.; Downingtown, Pa.; and Westfield, N.J., have built on their architecture to create thriving districts with chic restaurants, cafes and boutiques. "Much of suburbia," he argues, "will seek to reinvent itself in a newly urbanized mode." [...]

Ehrenhalt has a hard time explaining what the successes of the new urbanism add up to, though he refers to the writings of Joel Kotkin, whom he describes as "perhaps the most prominent of the downtown debunkers." Kotkin has claimed, on the basis of census data, that the downtown revival Ehrenhalt applauds is merely a niche phenomenon. It is confined, Kotkin says, largely to singles, childless couples, wealthy empty nesters and recently graduated students transitioning to a delayed adulthood.

This argument shadows Ehrenhalt throughout his book. 

If you want to see the future of the American city look at Disneyworld.  You take the monorail in for the day but take your family home at night.

Posted by at August 14, 2012 5:30 AM
  

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