Here Joel Kotkin says it’s time for planners and environmentalists to stop complaining about the suburbs because
both the notions of suburban decline or a big-time downtown revival are delusional. Since 1950, 93 percent of all metropolitan growth has taken place in the suburbs. More importantly, this pattern continued during the energy crisis and, despite the downtown hype, is showing no real sign of slacking off.
How’s this for a sobering factoid?
Over the last 15 years, some places witnessed a small yet welcome surge in inner-city residents, but, viewed as part of all the new housing units in the country, it remains tiny. In fact, all the growth predicted recently for the 30 top U.S. downtowns through 2010 turns out to be less than half the suburban growth of greater Seattle during the 1990s.
And after a recent up tick, cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Minneapolis have lost population since the millennium. So what’s an urbanist to do? Help improve the ‘burbs:
Creating a better suburban future is a nobleÃ¢â?¬â??and potentially very profitableÃ¢â?¬â??calling. Suburbia is maturing and evolving all around America, as seen in reviving suburban downtowns such as Naperville, Illinois, or in brash new “suburban villages” being built in places like Houston’s Fort Bend County or in California’s Santa Clarita Valley … This critical work will do much to define the 21st-century modern city and to attempt to meet the challenges laid out by the early visionaries of suburbiaÃ¢â?¬â??men like Ebenezer Howard or H.G. WellsÃ¢â?¬â??who saw the move to the periphery as a chance to build “a new civilization.”