Good news for urbanists:
Columbus Blazes a Trail for '21st Century Cities'
Census: Keys to success include services, lifestyle and immigration.
What, exactly, is happening in urban America? Are the famous cities of the
first two American centuries poised to come back stronger than ever? Or
will some forever languish in the shadow of their newer suburbs, the empty
"hole in the doughnut" of the American landscape?
Some of the answers can be gleaned from the minutiae of the 2000 census.
Those numbers point to a formula critical for success: immigrants, services
and an elusive quality called "lifestyle."
"They can turn themselves into new-economy hubs or they can bail themselves
out with immigration," said William Frey, a demographer at the Milken
Institute in Santa Monica, a global economics think tank. "Those two
factors make the difference between gaining and losing."
All the large cities of the West and South gained in population, some
dramatically so. Phoenix became the nation's sixth-largest city after a
decade in which it grew by 34%. Los Angeles grew a more modest 6%, and even
San Francisco managed to add more than 52,000 residents to its crowded
47-square-mile city limits.
In the 1990s, a generation of young people riding a record economic boom
rediscovered the pleasures of an urban lifestyle their parents had turned
their backs on. They filled growing state capitals such as Indianapolis and
Austin, Texas--both of which registered especially strong population
increases--and also places such as Brooklyn Heights in New York and Lincoln
Park in Chicago.
"We're talking about 25-year-olds with starting salaries of $50,000 and
up," said Veronique Pluviose-Fenton, principal legislative counsel for the
National League of Cities. "They want culture, they want night life. They
want cities, not suburbs."
The fact that crime dipped dramatically throughout the decade--a result of
the strong economy and aging population, among other things--helped
accelerate the repopulation of many city neighborhoods.
"Parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx that had been abandoned in the 1970s and
early '80s have been repopulated because people believe they are safe,"
said Joseph B. Rose, chairman of the New York City Planning Commission.
"After the 1990 census, everyone was writing New York's obituary. Were
people just going to conduct business on laptops from Aspen? This census
has proved that it is possible to have a successful older urban model."
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