Following a half-century of economic, social, and moral decay, the American city is back. The food is better, the streets are cleaner, and the bars are packed like it’s August 1929. New York City is wrapping up it’s safest year since 1960, while San Francisco’s skyline is cluttered with cranes and i-beams as a wave of building highlights a new era of confidence. Even in poor Detroit, perhaps the most abused urban landscape in America, an artisan class is taking advantage of near-free real estate and forging new communities from the abyss.
Why this is happening and where it’s going, this new era of urban renewal, is something Pacificvs intends to focus on in 2013. What I can say now is that I consider the urban migration a positive trend which should be encouraged through public policy.
From where I stand, the force, or forces, driving the urban renewal appear to be almost entirely generational. Following victory over fascism and depression, the Greatest Generation disrupted what had been a massive multi-century migration into cities by settling in sprawling newly constructed suburbs. Their children, the Baby Boomers, already born into a world where the American City was in decline, embraced car-centric lifestyles that largely kept them in the suburbs they were born. Today, their children, the millennial generation, evinces a gargantuan need for a level of social interaction that the suburbs not only cannot provide, but is completely anathema to suburban principles of space.
To be sure, this urban renewal is occurring unevenly and amidst overall economic hardship. Whereas the effect in places like New York and San Francisco have been dramatic, the old rust belt continues to struggle. Unemployment remains high. Chicago just had a record year for homicides. Perhaps nothing threatens the urban spring than the continuing poor performance of the nation’s system of public schools; the creative class flooding into cities will ultimately settle down in places that can educate their children, not places where they can get fancy cocktails and use public transit.
Looking forward to a great 2013!