look like the future to you? (Photo: mattmarque
Today on the Streetsblog Network, Mary Newsom at The
Naked City points us to an article in the new Harvard Business
Review about how some major corporations are looking to move
operations from the suburbs to the city.
The HBR article suggests that the move, by companies such as United
Air Lines and Quicken Loans, is part of a larger demographic shift based
on a new awareness of the appeal of cities — and the disadvantages of
The change is imminent, and businesses that don’t understand and plan
for it may suffer in the long run.
To put it simply, the suburbs have lost their sheen: Both young
workers and retiring Boomers are actively seeking to live in densely
packed, mixed-use communities that don’t require cars — that is, cities
or revitalized outskirts in which residences, shops, schools, parks, and
other amenities exist close together. “In the 1950s, suburbs were the
future,” says University of Michigan architecture and urban-planning
professor Robert Fishman, commenting on the striking cultural shift.
“The city was then seen as a dingy environment. But today it’s these
urban neighborhoods that are exciting and diverse and exploding with
The change is about more than evolving tastes; it’s at least partly a
reaction to real problems created by suburbs. Their damage to quality
of life is well chronicled. For instance, studies in 2003 by the American
Journal of Public Health and the American
Journal of Health Promotion linked sprawl to rising
obesity rates. (By contrast, new research in Preventive Medicine demonstrates,
people living in more urban communities reap health benefits because
they tend to walk more.) Car culture hurts mental health as well.
Research by behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and his team shows that
out of a number of daily activities, commuting has the most negative
effect on people’s moods. And economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer
have found that commuters who live an hour away from work would need to
earn 40% more money than they currently do to be as satisfied with
their lives as noncommuters.
The Congress for the New Urbanism,
which holds its annual conference in Atlanta next month, gets a nice
hat tip in the piece, too.
More from around the network: American
Dirt has a piece on the anatomy of a fading mall in Baton Rouge,
for America covers a rally against transit cuts by transportation
workers. And Hard
Drive calls out Bike Snob NYC for dissing a bike chapel in