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Urban Renewal Precedent

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Question. Is there a historical precedent for the kind of renewed interest in urban living that's taking place in the U.S. (i.e. European cities). Or is this strictly a North American phenomenon- are we the only country in dire need of urban renewal? I ask this only because I fear the level of population density and commercial presence that city centers' require to maintain vibrancy, may not be possible (in many cities) due to suburban competition- low-cost housing, wal-mart, BIG parking lots, etc. I'm not a dooms-dayer by any means, I'm just curious if there have been similar re-invigoration efforts in other cities in other countries- and what are the results?

I believe (hope) that this call to bring back the urban center is due in large part to environmental concerns, however I just saw a poll on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos where 60% of Americans believed that global warming is actually taking place, in the same survey however 60% also said they didn't want to see any immediate action taken!

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Other cities around the world (especially Europe) tend to be much more environmentally conscious, less wasteful, and much more realistic than American cities. Most of them would never have let things get as bad as they did here. Not that they don't have sprawl, but they have much less of it and it is generally high density sprawl (highrise projects, etc.).

There are also many countries have developed "smart" simply due to lack of land, like Japan and the Netherlands. As far as other countries that have developed like America has and then turned themselves around, I don't think that has ever really happened, since America has gone so far in the wrong direction in some cases.

I don't think that it's too late though, for American cities to change. Remove government subsidies that warp the free market, raise gas taxes, fund more transit, develop urban growth boundaries or urban service areas, adopt fair-share housing policies for metro areas as well as tax-base sharing policies for metro areas and put parking caps into downtown areas---then cities will have to change. And, if you make people pay the full price that being automobile dependent actually is, then you'll get people out of their cars, and into areas better suited for walking and transit (downtowns).

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