While I was intrigued with the title of the article, as I read further, it started to sound familiar being a mixture of warmed over ‘back to cities’ propaganda and Dr. Richard Florida’s ‘mantras’ about the cultural economy of cities. However, I did personally enjoy the dig against real estate brokers, which has the ‘ring of truth’, but has little sound basis in empirical evidence.
Plus, when did Washington, D.C. become the model for trends for the rest of the nation? The article tries to ‘spin’ it to make the readers believe that ‘as goes Washington then so goes the rest of the nation,’ but somehow it an argument you would like to believe, but just can’t.
Overall, the article was insipid, because the manner that the juxtaposition of anecdotal evidence, cursory references to a studies by the Brookings Institute and others, lack of understanding suburban and central city development and most of all due the introduction or the 'snake oil' ideas of Dr. Florida. This was not just only because of the author's lack of knowledge of urban geography, but also due to Dr. Leinberger's murky views of these issues. .His expertise is real estate, not urban geography or urban studies.
Not too long ago in Washington, D.C. – and still today in plenty of other cities – "walkable urbanism" was a niche real estate market. Developers weren’t all that interested in mixed-use, compact projects, of the kind where carless urbanites might live, work and grocery shop in strolling distance. And people didn’t seem to want to live in them anyway. But things have been changing in the capital. Now, argues real estate developer and George Washington University professor Christopher Leinberger, walkable urbanism is becoming the real estate market.
"Quite honestly, one of the major reasons that we’re not seeing the real estate industry read these market signals is that it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks," he says. "They know the answer to everything. They’re very strong-headed, and opinionated, and particularly those who have been successful for many decades in building regional malls or subdivisions, they know what the market wants. And dammit, you can’t tell me anything different." (quote from Professor Leinberger)
Of course, the savior of cities according to Dr. Leinberger via Dr. Florida will be
wait for the drum roll…envelope please…the winner is:
the young middle class affluent creative class.
The issue of the movement of people into the urban core and the subsequent fate of subusbs is much deeper and complex than Dr. Leinberger discusses in this article, according to ‘gospel of Richard Florida’ or framed by this article’s author.
Urban areas are transforming/transitioning due a complex mix of demographics, cost of energy, the stagnant U.S. and global economy, the effects of increasing globalization and structural changes much beyond such simplistic and antedoal explanations based on the Washington, D.C area. Likewise The same forces are changing other urban land use as mentioned in my blog entries on the emerging decline of ‘big box’ stores in urban areas, The coming collapse of 'Big Box' and department stores and their urban impact (draft).