Suburbs a Mile Too Far for Some
A tipster sent in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal story on the New Urbanism phenomenon. The article cites demographic changes and rising energy costs as the culprit for the shift in housing preference away from drive-in suburbs — a model that’s been in place since World War II — to cities and walkable communities.
Despite the high concentration of fiber optic cable running through Newark serving its telecommunications industry and universities, the city missed the opportunity to capitalize on the internet-oriented economic boom of the 90s. This new national trend might just catalyze important changes in the city and provide a second chance to benefit from another national trend.
While high gas prices are a boon to New Urbanism and other “smart-growth” planning concepts, in practice such mixed-use projects often are harder to execute — from acquiring local approval to securing Wall Street financing — than the traditional suburban tract-housing model. The challenges for cities are considerable, from investing in public-transportation systems to creating incentives for developers to accommodate the new urban housing demand.
Cities such as Denver, Charlotte, N.C., and Portland, Ore., are making investments in public transportation and spurring the construction of symbols of the new housing era: multifamily residential and retail complexes at or next to transit stations. Reconnecting America, a nonprofit group committed to transit-oriented development, estimates that the number of households near transit stations will soar to 15 million by 2030, from six million now.