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The Great Inversion and the Future of the…

The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City (2012)

by Alan Ehrenhalt

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The momentum of history changes once again. From the Great Migration to Urban Flight to Gentrification and something new again entirely. But Ehrenhalt says differently.

The old demographic shift was that more affluent Americans moved away from the city, in order to get away from crime, blight, and so forth. Now that the old projects have been demolished, new condos are rising, and people move back in droves. Primarily for convenience. Gas prices have a role in it.

Suburbs will yet remain as places to raise families, he says, but they will have more open-air, pedestrian-based commercial markets, to make them more appealing to those who moved out of the city in the first place.

This is happening to a surprising extent. Strollers and families are trickling into New York's Financial District. The lower classes are starting to be relegated to exterior neighborhoods of the city. Those who have money also have mobility. From the center, they can go to exterior areas as they please. For comparison, see Paris and Vienna in the late 19th century. See the Viennese Ringstrasse or the Paris arrondisements reborn, but in Chicago or Denver.

Not all cities are suited for this. Some, which never had centers to begin with, will yet struggle to create ones. See Phoenix. Others, with gutted urban centers, will struggle to attract and revitalize theirs. See Detroit. But these trends may continue, in a severely attenuated form.

Of course, it's very difficult to predict population and cities on such a large scale. Ehrenhalt, with his basis on both historical and modern economic/demographic backgrounds, may be closer than most. Of course, he gives a nod to technology and communication, and location might not even matter *as* much, as some may stay huddled in suburbia, linked to the world with our laptops. But it all remains to be seen. I'll bet with him for now. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Ehrenhalt argues that there is a tendency for upper middle class Americans to move back into city centres and similar "live/work/play" walkable communities. This is contrary to the latter half of the 20th century in which the city centres were abandoned and anyone with the financial means fled to the suburbs.
But the best part of the book is the analysis of specific communities in selected US cities. I don't know the cities in question but the author's description gives a good insight into the difficulties of resusitating downtowns or of transforming suburbia. The illustrations make it clear that there is no simple formula for urbanizing.
  Bluster | Jul 2, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307272745, Hardcover)

In The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City we travel the nation with Alan Ehrenhalt, one of our leading urbanists, as he explains how America’s cities are changing, what makes them succeed or fail, and what this means for our future.
Just a couple of decades ago, we took it for granted that inner cities were the preserve of immigrants and the poor, and that suburbs were the chosen destination of those who could afford them. Today, a demographic inversion is taking place: Central cities increasingly are where the affluent want to live, while suburbs are becoming home to poorer people and those who come to America from other parts of the world. Highly educated members of the emerging millennial generation are showing a decided preference for urban life and are being joined in many places by a new class of affluent retirees.
Ehrenhalt shows us how the commercial canyons of lower Manhattan are becoming residential neighborhoods, and how mass transit has revitalized inner-city communities in Chicago and Brooklyn. He explains why car-dominated cities like Phoenix and Charlotte have sought to build twenty-first-century downtowns from scratch, while sprawling postwar suburbs are seeking to attract young people with their own form of urbanized experience.
The Great Inversion is an eye-opening and thoroughly engaging look at our urban society and its future.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

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"Alan Ehrenhalt, one of our leading urbanologists, takes us to cities across the country to reveal how the roles of America's cities and suburbs are changing places--young adults and affluent retirees moving in, while immigrants and the less affluent are moving out--and the implications for the future of our society. How will our nation be changed by the populations shifting in and out of the cities? Why are these shifts taking place? Ehrenhalt answers these and other questions in this illuminating study. He shows us how mass transit has revitalized inner-city communities in Chicago and Brooklyn, New York, while inner suburbs like Cleveland Heights struggle to replace the earlier generation of affluent tax-paying residents who left for more distant suburbs; how the sprawl of Phoenix has frustrated attempts to create downtown retail spaces that can attract large crowds; and how numerous suburban communities have created downtown areas to appeal to the increasing demand for walkable commercial zones. Finally, he explains what cities need to do to keep the affluent and educated attracted to and satisfied with downtown life. An eye-opening and thoroughly engaging look at American urban/suburban society and its future"--… (more)

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