Saturday, June 25, 2005

Urban Legends

“The renaissance of American cities has been greatly overstated. Cities are content to promote the appearance of thriving while failing to serve the very people who most need cities to be decent, livable places.” So wrote Joel Kotkin (, renowned urbanist author of The City, in the May 23rd issue of The New Republic. His article cites numerous examples of the media dramatically overstating the demographic realities of slow, if not negative population changes in most major USA cities.

“What’s more, these population setbacks for cities are taking place at a time when the growth of suburbs, exurbs, and more rural communities has continued. Even during the late ‘90s, a relative boom time for cities, five people moved out of central cities for every three who came in. Highly urbanized Massachusetts, one of the locales lionized by the new urbanists, was the only state last year to lose people”

Kotkin cites the movement from cities of large company headquarters from almost 90% in 1969 to less than half today. Of particular shock to me is that New York, once a bastion of retailing dominance, has not had ONE of the USA’s top twenty retailers headquartered there since 2002.

Kotkin debunks many of the arguments that Richard Florida has made that only hip and gay cities are the role models for economic growth in the 21st Century with his article. It is interesting that an urbanist like him sees more potential in places that I call the agurbs®.

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