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SgtCampsalot

Urban Rise => Suburban Decline

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The suburbs need to invest in more road connectivity. As the poor as slowly pushed further and further out of the city, public transportation will become more constrained, especially on poorly connected roads.

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On 9/22/2017 at 1:00 PM, SgtCampsalot said:

Strong Towns in general highlights the "tragic, inevitable necessity" that some communities "will fail," and we can't get around it. But, if we focus on small, incremental improvements to these areas (like allowing by-right construction of "one level of intensity up" of density) we can mitigate the decline in many areas that have a fighting chance.

Anyway there's your jumping off point. What solutions could we move toward to mitigate detrimental effects for communities that are investing themselves in suburban communities that don't have a guaranteed financially viable future?

 

I really enjoy Pete Saunders' work, and his conversation with Chuck Marohn on the Strong Towns podcast was excellent. It is sadly ironic that so many Americans, many of them minorities, were sold this image and dream of suburban life, and right when they leave the urban centers for the American Suburban Dream, the Professional Class (or Creative Class, to borrow Richard Florida's term from "The New Urban Crisis") flocks back to the city, taking with them the living standards that for many years only existed in the suburbs. We are left with disappearing Middle-class neighborhoods, as both suburbs and urban cores are filled with small areas of wealth and privilege surrounded by the poverty and disadvantage of the Service Class and Working Class neighborhoods (again, Richard Florida's terminology).

There is no way to save all suburbs, or cities for that matter, but we can face the problem head on.  Jobs and employment opportunities are leaving the suburbs, so the suburbs have to be better connected to the cities; this means better transit, transportation, and infrastructure to get people to jobs faster, safer, and with less carbon consumption. There has to be more affordable housing, both in the cities and suburbs. The zoning issues and NIMBYism that keeps affordable housing out of "desriable" neighborhoods has to go away. The people that work in a neighborhood need to be able to live in the neighborhood. Perhaps the biggest issue of all is wages and living standards. The jobs and industries that created the American Middle Class are gone, and in its place we have a very high-paid Professional and Creative Class and low paid Service and Working Classes. I'm no economist, but how we address the growing wage disparity may be the single most important economic challenge of our time. 

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^Yeah, there is no one answer. It will be a wide range of things we will need to address.

2 hours ago, JoshuaDrown said:

 I'm no economist, but how we address the growing wage disparity may be the single most important economic challenge of our time. 

It is. And since you're not an economist, you stand as one of the better people to determine how we move forward: Economics is a Form of Brain Damage

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7 minutes ago, rancenc said:

I legit would never have guessed that Fred's had 159 stores to close, but low and behold it had 628 stores as of summer 2017. 

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6 hours ago, rancenc said:

 

6 hours ago, tozmervo said:

I legit would never have guessed that Fred's had 159 stores to close, but low and behold it had 628 stores as of summer 2017. 

This is only a good thing for Dollar General, who is thriving off of distressed areas and food deserts in non-metro, rural America:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/13/dollar-general-walmart-buhler-haven-kansas

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With Corvid 19 hitting the most dense US cities the hardest like NY and Boston and now riots uncontrollable it is about time to talk what if urban areas DECLINE and suburban areas and small towns RISE.  and the massive  movement for work for home.    Now even Charlotte not as much due to the Corvid 19 but riots might make an impact here.  If I can work from home and go into an office a once or twice a week I can live 20-30-40-50 miles out of Charlotte.  My guess suburbs are going to boom again and hopefully Charlotte won't be affected as much as say a NYC but it will happen here I truly believe.  Trends don't happen in a short period but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next year or two.  

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/the-suicide-of-the-cities/

and it is happened in 1968 where up to that point downtown CBDs were the heart and soul of the community.  In the 1970s they emptied out.   But don't think nationwide riotous behavior is almost every major city is going to NO impact.  It will. 

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^ that would be the death of this forum, LOL. Nobody wants to chat about the next Target strip mall with a QT and stick built townhomes.

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3 minutes ago, CLT2014 said:

^ that would be the death of this forum, LOL. Nobody wants to chat about the next Target strip mall with a QT and stick built townhomes.

don't hate on QT now.  we will need even more gas stations if people are driving around.

But a discussion  needs to happen.  Why would uptown residents have night after night of protests and are they still willing to pay the highest rents in town?  if you can work from home anyway maybe you will choose a larger apartment in the suburbs.  There are lots of real implications.  Work from home, civil unrest etc.  

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This affects majorly within 277 ring.

 

South end will just be fine.

Except the rent might be too expensive now.

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11 minutes ago, XRZ.ME said:

This affects majorly within 277 ring.

 

South end will just be fine.

Coming home from uptown protests by bike I am always shocked by how different Southend feels compared to uptown. It feels very much like a gated community. It appeared that CMPD was preventing protestors from crossing 277. 

The other big difference of now vs 1968 is there has been a huge demographic shift. The core of suburbia is two parent households, there are many fewer of those now than at any other time in modern history. The chart below shows households with children only. The overall statistics are only 20% of US households are now part of the core suburban demographic (2 parents with children at home) vs 40% in 1970. Suburban housing is a bad demographic match for our current family makeup.

The American family today | Pew Research Center

 

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8 hours ago, kermit said:

????  I don't see that.

I see massive peaceful marches in Charlotte and video of  police allowing vandalism and looting to happen because its politically expedient for them (particularly in Minneapolis and Philadelphia). Beyond Charlotte I see massive protests marred by a few bad apples. It is clear to me that a very small portion of people are causing damage and only the  hysterical conflate these criminals with protestors.

1968 followed two decades of urban disinvestment. White flight and suburbanization got their start after WWII thanks to federal subsidies of highways, mortgages for single family homes and subsides for sewers and water into greenfield areas. 2020 comes after more than a decade of urban hyper-investment. Urban areas might stumble out of this, but I don't see much appetite among the upper half of the income spectrum for suburban life -- and 2020 has very few similarities with 1968 from the perspective of the built environment and flows of capital.

Think about much more attractive urban areas will become when we have a police force which works for everyone. 

Don’t forget, everyone also said that 9/11 would be the end of urbanization as well.

I guess I am talking about NY City, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Atlanta had a night or two as did Nashville, Charleston, Washington DC,  Chicago etc. these are all cities where looting took place. Few bad apples in the protests I would agree it is small minority but the movement at night is hijacked by people who do want violence.  All the damage uptown has happened late at night once the peaceful protestors have gone away. 

This is much different than 9/11 with a pandemic and such a concentration in NYC metro the densest in the USA.  Upper income can afford to live anywhere so why would they be less likely to move?  They can afford estate homes and the vehicles to commute if necessary.   We will see what happens but it will take time but this has been 2 very dramatic events that affected the urban areas greatly.  

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1 hour ago, KJHburg said:

I guess I am talking about NY City, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Atlanta had a night or two as did Nashville, Charleston, Washington DC,  Chicago etc. these are all cities where looting took place. Few bad apples in the protests I would agree it is small minority but the movement at night is hijacked by people who do want violence.  All the damage uptown has happened late at night once the peaceful protestors have gone away. 

This is much different than 9/11 with a pandemic and such a concentration in NYC metro the densest in the USA.  Upper income can afford to live anywhere so why would they be less likely to move?  They can afford estate homes and the vehicles to commute if necessary.   We will see what happens but it will take time but this has been 2 very dramatic events that affected the urban areas greatly.  

While much of the looting has been in city centers, suburban areas aren't necessarily immune. Much of the most intense looting in the Chicago area was in suburbs like Naperville, IL, a suburban bedroom community 33 miles from downtown Chicago with a median household income of $130,000. Raleigh has had vandalism and looting in suburban areas like North Hills and Triangle Town Center in the city's affluent northern suburbs. Philadelphia had looting at the luxury King of Prussia Mall 22 miles outside of downtown Philadelphia in the leafy Main Line suburbs. In the Phoenix's areas exclusive suburb of Scottsdale, the mall and downtown were looted. In the San Diego area, the suburb of La Mesa had a bank burned to the ground and strip malls looted. In the SF Bay Area, the affluent suburb of Walnut Creek 18 miles from Oakland saw its mall and downtown looted. 

Really somebody would need to go move into a small rural area, go live on a mountain, move into the woods, et. if they wanted to avoid the potential for civil unrest in a metropolitan area. Places like Ballantyne, Concord, or Huntersville could easily have riots as seen in the suburbs of Chicago, Philly, Raleigh, Phoenix, San Diego, et. 

Edited by CLT2014

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I think people are drastically overestimating the impact of Covid on the changing workplace (and protests somehow as if it is going to be an semi-annual thing that people plan their housing situations around).  What you had in general prior to Covid was space optimization projects for most of the dated office space to help improve occupancy efficiency. This lets companies get more out of their real estate investments simply because most employees were not working in the office 5 days a week. These types of projects were not reducing overall market vacancies because of the continued growth in urban areas, even if new companies are leasing smaller spaces than before. 

The rule of thumb for office investment is that for every $1 you spend on utilities, you spend $10 on real estate costs, and $100 on employee salaries. Even if people have coped with working from home, companies realize that they work more efficiently being around their coworkers to help promote open communication and it is worth the extra real estate costs, just like they don't keep their offices hot in the summertime to save money because they end up losing more money in employee productivity. Allowing people to work from home some days lets them recharge for the days they are working in the office in order to be more productive; not to help save on real estate. 

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This work from home trend sounds it will be continuing for quite some time and this will effect decisions on office space location and even where people live.  If you just come in the office 2-3 x a week you might choose a different location on where to live if you are not making a daily commute.

https://businessfacilities.com/2020/06/even-after-covid-19-execs-expect-remote-work-trend-to-continue/

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1 hour ago, KJHburg said:

This work from home trend sounds it will be continuing for quite some time and this will effect decisions on office space location and even where people live.  If you just come in the office 2-3 x a week you might choose a different location on where to live if you are not making a daily commute.

https://businessfacilities.com/2020/06/even-after-covid-19-execs-expect-remote-work-trend-to-continue/

Yea, I can certainly see an increase in work at home for x days per week sticking now that everyone has been exposed to the technology, I think that will have the effect of increasing the use of CBD office space and decreasing use of suburban office space. The process driving this “decentralized centralization” is some people will move further away, but they will scatter in every direction. The location most central for everyone is who scattered to the four-winds. For a company doing part-time office, part-time home work, a Ballantyne office is going to suck for the people who choose to move to Iredell.

No comapny is going to want to limit their employment pool to one corner of a metro.

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52 minutes ago, kermit said:

Yea, I can certainly see an increase in work at home for x days per week sticking now that everyone has been exposed to the technology, I think that will have the effect of increasing the use of CBD office space and decreasing use of suburban office space. The process driving this “decentralized centralization” is some people will move further away, but they will scatter in every direction. The location most central for everyone is who scattered to the four-winds. For a company doing part-time office, part-time home work, a Ballantyne office is going to suck for the people who choose to move to Iredell.

No comapny is going to want to limit their employment pool to one corner of a metro.

I agree with this. The geographic centrality and the density of services and amenities in CBDs  will always be fundamentally desirable IMO.  While we don't yet know how office use will change post-covid, thousands of years of human civilization suggests that center cities will always remain important.

An interesting question to ponder if kermit's prediction comes true - how do you adaptively reuse a suburban office park? On the plus side, the excessive surface parking allows for plenty of new development opportunities. On the other hand, most office parks have anti-urban, auto-oriented street networks and are often located in areas that would be difficult to serve well with transit. Also, the office buildings often have massive, deep floor plates that could be difficult to retrofit to residential or other uses.

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46 minutes ago, jthomas said:

I agree with this. The geographic centrality and the density of services and amenities in CBDs  will always be fundamentally desirable IMO.  While we don't yet know how office use will change post-covid, thousands of years of human civilization suggests that center cities will always remain important.

An interesting question to ponder if kermit's prediction comes true - how do you adaptively reuse a suburban office park? On the plus side, the excessive surface parking allows for plenty of new development opportunities. On the other hand, most office parks have anti-urban, auto-oriented street networks and are often located in areas that would be difficult to serve well with transit. Also, the office buildings often have massive, deep floor plates that could be difficult to retrofit to residential or other uses.

Research Triangle Park has been struggling with the adaptive reuse issue for nearly a decade now. I believe they have begun construction on a muti-billion plan for a mixed/use/live#work/thingamajig, but I just don’t see how it does anything but paint over some serious shortcomings in terms of available activity spaces, congestion  and the ‘isolation’ that workers in the park dislike so much these days. As one skeptical developer said about the RTP redesign “I fear this project will be the equivalent of building the world’s greatest 6 disk CD changer in 2014.”

[RTP digression] Research has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, it is no longer about test-tubes and fume hoods, its almost entirely about modeling and virtual analysis. There is no reason most RTP research activities can’t be moved to downtown Durham or Raleigh where the employees can be much happier. The example of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is an example to be admired. Not redesigning RTP would have also saved the Research Triangle Foundation billions and reduced some traffic on I-40.

Edited by kermit

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1 hour ago, kermit said:

Yea, I can certainly see an increase in work at home for x days per week sticking now that everyone has been exposed to the technology, I think that will have the effect of increasing the use of CBD office space and decreasing use of suburban office space. The process driving this “decentralized centralization” is some people will move further away, but they will scatter in every direction. The location most central for everyone is who scattered to the four-winds. For a company doing part-time office, part-time home work, a Ballantyne office is going to suck for the people who choose to move to Iredell.

No comapny is going to want to limit their employment pool to one corner of a metro.

Listen to this man. He knows about this pattern.

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1 hour ago, kermit said:

Research Triangle Park has been struggling with the adaptive reuse issue for nearly a decade now. I believe they have begun construction on a muti-billion plan for a mixed/use/live#work/thingamajig, but I just don’t see how it does anything but paint over some serious shortcomings in terms of available activity spaces, congestion  and the ‘isolation’ that workers in the park dislike so much these days. As one skeptical developer said about the RTP redesign “I fear this project will be the equivalent of building the world’s greatest 6 disk CD changer in 2014.”

Yeah - my personal opinion is that even with massive investment, attempts to urbanize surburbia are doomed to fail. Even the best greenfield mixed-use developments are sterile compared to true inner-city urban fabric. The type of money required to "fix" sprawl would be much better invested in densifying areas of cities that already have urban layout and infrastructure.

As for the office parks, the low-hanging fruit is putting buildings on the parking lots. Beyond that, one of the major obstacles to any kind of urban feel is that "block" sizes are massive (if you can even call the spaghetti of typically curvilinear roads a block). Establishing a finer-grained street grid would help, but again I question whether that level of investment is wise or appropriate, especially in outer-suburban areas that ideally would have never been developed in the first place.

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39 minutes ago, jthomas said:

Yeah - my personal opinion is that even with massive investment, attempts to urbanize surburbia are doomed to fail. Even the best greenfield mixed-use developments are sterile compared to true inner-city urban fabric. The type of money required to "fix" sprawl would be much better invested in densifying areas of cities that already have urban layout and infrastructure.

As for the office parks, the low-hanging fruit is putting buildings on the parking lots. Beyond that, one of the major obstacles to any kind of urban feel is that "block" sizes are massive (if you can even call the spaghetti of typically curvilinear roads a block). Establishing a finer-grained street grid would help, but again I question whether that level of investment is wise or appropriate, especially in outer-suburban areas that ideally would have never been developed in the first place.

I hear a bit about Englewood in Denver (converting a mall into a large TOD project) being a good example of urbanizing suburbia (I have not seen it in person). I have also heard some buzz about the Battery in Atlanta, but its limited to game days and verry few suburban developments will land an MLB team as an anchor.  I have not been to Northhills in Raleigh in 25 years (might be an example?).  Beyond that, every suburban rebuild I have seen is nothing more than power center in disguise, although I am sure to be overlooking some success stories.

I think success is rare because good projects will require two things to work. The first is a decent transit system, suburban traffic is universally awful and only getting worse. The second is the location getting rebuilt needs to be nearly completely decayed -- otherwise NIMBYs will kill it before it begins.  Carolina Place might fit this description in 10 years. Depending on how we come out of Corona land, these two conditions will be much more common everywhere. 

I do agree with you about greenfield 'urban' projects. No developer has found a way to give any of these more character than your average B mall. I blame: financing which requires credit tenants (yumm, Olive Garden!); the homogeneity of any residential in the project and auto dependence which ends up  requiring oceans of parking. All this dooms "suburban-urban"  to eternal borningness (see Mayfare in Wilmington for an example).  

I have seen even fewer examples of good office space refits. Unless you can market "creative space" (which is impossible in anything remotely resembling an office park), its seems like the only consumers of frumpy, single-story,  office space is call centers or medical.  There is only so much of that to go around. (and I think we are on the cusp of some health care industry downsizing as the boomers expire)

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