#5 Leigh Gallagher – The End of the Suburbs
Part of the Best Books for 2014 Top 11
Leigh Gallagher’s The End of the Suburbs (Where the American Dream is Moving) is a great book about the rise and fall of the American suburbs. Besides that you can read the book from an even ‘ greater’ perspective: What do contemporary and future inhabitants of our planet want from their living environments?
The book convincingly documents that the greater suburbs have represented the dominant pattern of housing and population growth in the United States for more than a half a century. But also that powerful social, economic, and demographic forces – along with the suburbs’s poor design to begin with – are converging to render the suburbs unnecessary, and even undesirable, for an ever-increasing number of Americans. These powerful forces are revealing solidly validated (worldwide) trends that have their impact far beyond the suburbs as we know them. That makes The End of the Suburbs extra interesting. That why the book deserves a place in the Best Reads for 2014.
“Consider some of the forces at work:
1. The nuclear family is no longer the norm: the main selling point of suburban life – good schools and family-friendly lifestyles – matter less.
2. We want out of our cars: This is especially true among teenagers, who are delaying getting their driver’s licenses, and young adults, who are opting to live in more walkable, action-packed communities. The eight million millennials leas the way here.
3. While suburbs are in decline, Cities are booming: Once abandoned by the wealthy, cities are experiencing a renaissance, especially among younger generations and even among families with young children.”
”The rate of suburban population growth has outpaced that of urban centers in every decade since the invention of the automobile. But in 2011, for the first time in a hundred years, that trend reversed. Construction permit data shows that in several cities, building activity that was once concentrated in the suburban fringe has now shifted primarily to cities, or what planners call the ”urban core.” At the same time, demand for the large, single family homes that characterize the suburbs is dwindling, and big suburban home builders like Toll Brothers are saying their best markets are now cities.”
”Retailers, experts when it comes to following moneyed consumers wherever they go, are all over this: hardly any suburban shopping malls have been built in the United States since 2006, and big-box chains are packing up, slimming down, and squeezing smaller versions of themselves into cities and denser communities. Walmart plans to open one hundred of its new small-scale Neighborhood Market stores in 2012, triple the pace of 2011. Target, which for years relied on the suburbs for its growth, is focusing its efforts on its smaller-concept urban store called City. Whole Foods, meanwhile, that emblem of yuppification, is opening a new location in Harlem.”
”We are eco-obesessed. Thank in part to Al Gore, everyone now knows suburban residents pump their houses full of hot and cool air, load gas into the SUV by the tankful, and pour gallons of chemicals onto the lawn. More recently, a powerful ”anti-stuff” mentality has emerged, largely as a reaction to the excessive consumption patterns that sparked our financial crisis.”
”Indeed, one of the biggest trends in home building right now is remaking our suburbs to look more, well, urban.”