28 August 2013 – Here’s an interview in Atlantic Cities with Leigh Gallagher of Fortune magazine who has written extensively on the move from suburbia to the cities, and in her new new book, The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving.
You call the book The End of the Suburbs, but you add pretty quickly that it’s really just the end of the suburbs “as we know them.”
It’s not that every single suburb in America is going to vaporize. My thesis is that there are a lot of reasons why the suburbs were poorly planned and poorly designed and are making millions of people really unhappy. That’s happening. Those people are looking for and moving into different kinds of options. Based on what’s happening with demographics and preferences of the younger generation, as you guys have well covered, those trends are just going to accelerate.
But to say that everyone wants to live in a 50-story skyscraper in New York City is not at all practical or realistic or in touch with how people want to live in this country. So a big part of the future will be “urban burbs.” Suburbs that are adapting or already exist in this fashion. Where they have a walkable downtown, a pleasant place to take a stroll and bump into people, and where it’s possible to live in closer proximity to the things you need to do everyday.
You’re using “urban burb.” It has always struck me that we don’t really have a good name for these new urban-style suburban developments.
I thought I was going to come up with a brilliant coinage that would get in the book and get me on the talk shows. I never came up with that. “Urban burbs” — they look like so many different things.
That gets to what you say at the very end: the American dream won’t be singular anymore. There will be different dreams.
And they will be dreams. They won’t be houses. They won’t be buildings. Somewhere along the way the American Dream morphed from being a dream, an opportunity, to being a house. That’s no longer the case for a lot of people.
The developer Toll Brothers kind of exemplifies this larger shift in your book.
Toll Brothers was the home-builder who perhaps better than any other really captured what the suburban home-buyer wanted before the housing boom.
Very early on, in 2003, they started a division called Toll Brothers City Living. They started with a few communities in Philadelphia and Hoboken, and over the years they’ve really doubled down, and doubled down again, and again. They have something like 30 buildings here in the New York City market alone.
Read the whole story