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TheBostonian

Boston in Decline?

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What does the recent news that Boston lost 20,000 residents since 2000 mean? Is it simple economics? Housing is too expensive so people will leave and housing costs will decline? Is there a corresponding rising rental vacancy rate? Or is the number of households remaining constant (or growing) while household size is shrinking? Is Boston undergoing a process of gentrification that replaces families with childless professionals in the same size apartments? If people are leaving, why are new residential units being built?

Is Boston simply in decline? The list of Boston area companies being eaten up by larger corporations and no longer headquartered in Boston is too long:

John Hancock (Manulife)

Fleet (B of A)

Gillette (P and G, pending)

Jordon Marsh (Macy's)

Converse (Nike)

Digital (HP)

The Boston Globe (NYT Co.)

And The Atlantic Monthly left for DC.

So I wonder: Is Boston gaining anything that offsets these losses? Or is Boston simply in decline as a city of particular economic importance?

Maybe the recent wave of David E Kelley shows set here--Boston Public, Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal--bring some sort of cultural significance to Boston. Same might be said for recent movies set here and nearby, like Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, Fever Pitch, Girl Interrupted and The Perfect Storm (Gloucester is metro Boston, right?). Maybe the city's recent sports championships are keeping Boston relevant.

To keep brainstorming, there are certainly some Boston institutions of national or international influence that are alive and well and still headquartered here or near:

Fidelity, State Street and Liberty Mutual

Reebok and New Balance

Harvard, MIT, etc.

WGBH

CS Monitor

The losing presidential candidate from Boston is becoming a Boston institution, with Dukakis and Kerry, and maybe Romney next.

The Kennedy legacy still feels rooted in Boston even though they have spread out and held office in NY and RI.

And Boston's historical importance can't be bought out by Procter and Gamble.

Clearly I think too much about Boston's significance in the world. But I am hoping others will chime in as I am digesting all these thoughts.

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The population decline story:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/06/30/census.cities.ap/

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I have never been to Boston so I am only guessing but over gentrification has had negative effects on inner city population. San Francisco is suffereing from the same problem, and much smaller Charleston SC, though a beautiful city, is pretty much a ghost town aside from the tourists. Most of the property is owned by out of town investors who don't live there. Governments, city planners and developers have to find a way to put a handle on this or they risk turning their revived cities into places for the very rich and very poor.

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Population decline is always a problem anywhere, but 20,000 is not a significant amount; it can be a leading indicator though. Part of the problem is economics: the South (and other parts) have become very accessible and attractive to businesses and people, so people are moving away from high prices and snow. If they like what they find where they move is another question.

Housing is expensive here, but other than lack of supply, this is because so many people want to live here.

Boston might be in a little decline from the highs of the 90s, but it certainly is not in the hole it was in in the 50s. The corporate buyouts and relocations might seem disconcerting, and should be of some concern, but is not much different from what is happening everywhere else. The gov. is allowing more businesses to combine, creating a new financial structure to form.

Boston is changing too. It is the leading city in bioscience, and is close to the top in high tech. Many companies have moved in and have been created which are not as visible as the older known ones.

Boston is definitely not losing any relevance, but continues to be overshadowed by the proximity of NYC in some people's eyes. Boston is a community of smart, innovative citizens who care about the direction of the city. As for not having someone in the White House from here, at least we are on the ballot! One way for any city to gain more prominence in the world's eye is by gaining population, regardless of how sh*tty the city really is (ie Atlanta).

Boston will be a shining light for years to come.

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it's definitely an interesting question. i have only been here about 2 months now and i haven't even experienced the winter, but i am dreading it. it seems like nearly every person i talk to asks why the hell we moved up here from the south when i tell them where we are from. i think that people definitely get tired of the harsh winters, especially older people.

of course the housing costs are just absolutely ridiculous as well. it still blows my mind that we are paying $1250 a month for a place that is about the same as our last apartment, which was only $680 a month. our rent is almost double what we were paying and we traded down on a couple of things that we used to have.

it seems like the middle class is shrinking everywhere. maybe some larger cities like SF and Boston are just hurt more by this shift. i have a friend out in LA and he is doing very well as a music engineer, yet he still can't afford to buy a little house or condo where he lives. the cheapest thing he will be able to find will run around a half a million bucks.

part of the problem right now is that there are tons of people who are buying houses at these prices who simply can't afford them. but they are qualifying for special loans and are getting what they think are good rates on arm mortgages not really understanding how they work. sometime soon people are going to start defaulting on their mortgages left and right, and then maybe people will see just how crazy the housing market is in these areas.

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I believe that the honeymoon with Sun Belt-type mass-suburbanization is slowly coming to a close, and that people are beginning to realize the enormous downsides of what superficially appears to be a huge net gain: move to the South, get twice as much house for your money, pay lower taxes, and have easier winters to boot!

As someone whose (native New York and Boston) family moved to metro Atlanta almost 10 years ago, my empirical, if admittedly unscientific, experiences seem to point to a growing movement toward city-living, walkable environments, and higher density. People are slowly but surely becoming tired of the homogeneous landscape of the suburbs of the last quarter-century and, maybe more potently, the traffic and long commutes they bring.

You can see this movement afoot in Atlanta, as people are genuinely getting excited about development -- residential, commercial, transit -- in the city core, which has long gone neglected during the area's enormous growth.

The relevance of all this is that in my personal, 100% subjective opinion, vibrant cities such as Boston are going to become commodities even more valuable than they already are, as my generation especially becomes disenchanted with the faceless places where they grew up.

Whether that will help the situation by adding to the critical mass of people willing to sacrifice by living in the city, or hurt it by further driving up costs and accelerating the gentrification that's pushed the middle class out, I can't say. But the bottom line is I don't believe that a city like Boston has to worry about becoming an undesirable place.

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As for my experiences in Atlanta (5 years of school), there seemed to be an anti-urban value among the people. They seemed to have a disgust for the city, and city-living, preferring to commute long distances in order to live in the suburbs and leave the city vacant by 5pm.

There are many highrise buildings going up in Midtown and parts of downtown right now, where developers are banking on people to buy. But Atlanta will never be a city like NY or Boston not for another 50 years if they keep their current rate. The Checkers and Dominos at 14th and Spring will have to go first.

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"But Atlanta will never be a city like NY or Boston not for another 50 years if they keep their current rate. The Checkers and Dominos at 14th and Spring will have to go first."

Becoming a city like Boston or NYC is an unreasonable demand of Atlanta. It'll never have that sort of density or vibe on a large scale. Already its most vibrant intown neighborhoods are made up of dense, detached, single-family homes, not apartment high-rises or brownstones or condos.

But that's precisely my point -- in an area that has bought in as thoroughly as any to the rapid homogenizing force of suburban growth, there is a movement to return to the city. Witness (the half-assed but well-intentioned) Atlantic Station project, the Belt Line, the bike paths, etc.

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" It'll never have that sort of density or vibe on a large scale"

This is just one (of like 50) reasons why I moved back here, so I can live in Boston, my home city.

As for the Atlantic Station project, I thank god I was done with school before this came to fruition. Talk about a totally huge traffic jam! Half the project is a parking deck.

Atlanta has a lot of problems. For one, with the state not really supporting the city (all the reps went to Athens), Atlanta has no money and no tax base. The sewer system is literally falling apart, creating sink holes for trucks to fall through (right on 14th St.) So I'm sure city planning will still not be a priority.

I also found how much people love cars down there! LOVE THEM! And with conservative values, few want to move into Midtown where all the gays live.

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I grew up in the Northeast and have lived in Atlanta for several years now and can tell you that the above comments are accurate. Atlanta will never have the critical mass of density to be a true urban city - the damage of years of suburbanization (even within city limits - look at Buckhead) is too much to reverse. By and large, people don't want to reverse it. Sure there are more condo towers going up in Midtown, but most Atlantans want it both ways. They want their burb in a city and their Cheescake Ftory (ughhhh).

Add in the overwhelmingly awful attitude towards education and all things beyond Southern Culture as bad... yes even in Atlanta, I suggest you appreciate every faulty part of Boston and New England. Atlanta will never be Boston or Philly etc.

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It seems as if Boston has dropped back over the peak to decline. Detroit is on its way back up from the lowest point. I am predicting 30 years of a Boston decline. I hope it stays the way it is because I think Boston is an awesome city and should stay nice because it is sooooo historical.

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It seems as if Boston has dropped back over the peak to decline. Detroit is on its way back up from the lowest point. I am predicting 30 years of a Boston decline. I hope it stays the way it is because I think Boston is an awesome city and should stay nice because it is sooooo historical.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Decline in terms of population and political influence in Washington maybe, but other than that it's definately not in decline, it's more in the middle of a boom...

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I think that Boston's public transit system puts it at a great advantage over such cities like like Atlanta and Houston. How vibrant can an urban core be without a subway system? I think many area residents aren't even fully aware of how extensive our commuter rail system is compared with other metro areas. Service to Providence and Worcester is priceless, reminiscent of the glory days pf passenger rail. Many commuters in metro Boston have an alternative to terrible rush hour gridlock. Countless other cities have no alternative. And there are people like me who use it for a lot for non-work related travel.

Boston will always have the asthetic advantage of having fewer parking lots and garages. The couple of huge garages that lined the elevated central artery, which will of course remain along the greenway, are monuments to Boston's experiment with auto-domination, which thankfully came and went.

I can add that Boston is seeing no decline in the expansion of its skyline with a handful of new buildings in these last few years, such as 111 Huntington, One Lincoln, 33 Arch and the Millenium Towers. One Lincoln is prominent from the parts of Somerville and Cambridge I pass through (e.g. crossing Somerville Ave. to Porter Station). Russia Wharf and the Residences at Kensington Place will be a delightful addition, too. I often, probably mistakenly, judge cities by their skylines. And I see a growing Boston from that perspective, and I look forward to what we get when Boston recovers from its high office vacancy rates--maybe SST and a South Gate tower. And the Stata Center and that other new building on Vassar Street (can't think of the name) have brought life to Boston's architecture for those who can enjoy low rise buildings too.

Maybe Kendall Square is the symbolic center of Boston's 21st century economy. Though none of the high techs there employ as many people as Harvard and MIT. Boston's job growth is outpaced by the growth outside 128. I can think of all the office complexes in Waltham and Framingham. I suppose metro Boston's economic future will have a lot going on in such areas. Maybe that will someday involve a frequently running, electrified commuter rail. Oh, I dream.

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Actually Atlanta has a subway system and Houston is building a modern light rail system. Also Houston operates one of the largest metro bus systems in the country.

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Actually Atlanta has a subway system and Houston is building a modern light rail system. Also Houston operates one of the largest metro bus systems in the country.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Opps! That's right. And I see that Atlanta's Green Belt plans may include some sort of mass transit. I haven't seen this outline explicitly, but they mention tracks that you can walk over. Does that mean commuter rail or light rail? It certainly doesn't mean anything with a third rail.

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I've been to Boston quite a number of times and think it's a pretty neat and fun city. Although it's a fun place to visit, I definitely couldn't live there. My biggest complaints are: Negative attitudes toward race, crazy drivers who tailgate the likes I've never seen before, cold winters and high cost of living. But really, it's only the expense part that I believe is driving people out of the city and will probably continue to do so. Very unaffordable.

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Again, the whole "Everyone is leaving because there are so many people wanting to live there"

Anyways, Atlanta's MARTA sucks, and is not part of the philosophy of Atlanta. No city can be judged by a skyline view: a lot of times there is nothing between those buildings!

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"No city can be judged by a skyline view: a lot of times there is nothing between those buildings!"

As I am learning.

"Anyways, Atlanta's MARTA sucks, and is not part of the philosophy of Atlanta."

To an outsider, it looks like it is useful in the way it connects to the airport. It is also great just to have some sort of rapid transit system in place that will probably become more important in the future and could be expanded. Auto congestion is only going to get worse.

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The Airport!....That's the only reason why anyone uses it...including me.

Congestion will get worse, but as long as people love their cars, and hate being around other people, they will seek shelter in their steel bubbles as they drive on the highway.

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Congestion will get worse, but as long as people love their cars, and hate being around other people, they will seek shelter in their steel bubbles as they drive on the highway.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ha, wonderfully accurate statement!

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SMACK!

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachus...sachusetts+news

Reports: Adidas near deal to acquire Reebok

August 2, 2005

NEW YORK --Shares of Reebok International Ltd., the United States' No. 2 athletic shoe and apparel maker, rose sharply in after-hours trading Tuesday amid media reports that it will be acquired by German sporting goods company Adidas-Salomon AG.

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its sad to see, but not just boston is in decline the hole north east is in decline

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Not exactly. New York has the highest population in it's history and is still growing. Brooklyn in particular has changed enormously in the past 10 years. The Washington area (which i'd consider "northeast") is booming. Even Providence is still adding people.

So I think Boston's problems are its own. There are a lot of aspects of the Boston mentality that I would like to see change. (One is in regards to race, but that's a whole other subject... ) Whenever the issue of boston's decline comes up there is a lot of talk about it's historic character, good mass transit, etc., in comparison to places like atlanta. That's a good point in the right time and place but it has NOTHING TO DO with the problem at hand. In fact it's more of a smokescreen to avoid fixing the problem. I've lived in Providence and Chicago and these cities seem a lot more interested in asking what they can do to increase growth, whereas Bostonians tend to settle for bragging about "livability" as a sort of consolation prize when the city is stagnating.

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