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Freddy C

The coming central city renaissance

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There are three trends that will radically change the urban paradigms of the last half century and revitalize high density living, which favors central city development. Those three trends are the reducing fertility rates of American women, the increased life expectancy of Americans and the depletion of oil reserves by growing world economies.

The American female fertility rate is hovering near the 2.1 births for women replacement threshold, the result of a steady decline over the last 50 years. Extrapolating from past trends, the fertility rate of American women will fall below the zero population growth in the next 10 years, similar to what has manifested in Europe. This phenomenon has tremendous implications on the future economic health of this nation as Japan and Europe is starting to understand.

Along with decreasing fertility, you have the phenomenon of increased longevity. The net resultant is that the percentage of our population composed of

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Well-said Freddy.

In Grand Rapids the trend to re-settle in the core of the city is already underway.

As with other parts of the country, the key engine of population growth is immigration from other nations. Chicago, for example, has quietly become a city with NO ethnic majority: the population is evenly divided 1/3 hispanic, 1/3 black, 1/3 white. As we can see from that city, the development of stable ethnic pluralities enriches the whole city and prevents neighborhood isolationism.

As for the future of metropolitan cooperation in Western Michigan, I believe John Logie explained it best (for better or worse.) There is a strong bias against regional government written into Michigan political culture and law. That said, there's hope for smart growth. As economies of scale begin to offer greater benefits in consolidated services than isolated local services, municipalities will begin to opt into cooperative relationships to save on costs. These already exist in terms of some of the services provided by the Grand Valley Metro Council (ie. water and transport services) but they are not enough to get a hold on sprawl. The Interurban Transit Partnership is an example of a truly effective regional organization.

The measure of the success of optional cooperation is fairness - does the whole region benefit equally? Given the inevitability of a move back to compact urban neighborhoods in light of the social trends Freddy mentioned, the question of whether Grand Rapids will keep getting its fair share in the region may be completely unimportant in the end: if people continue returning to the center of the city, it will become attractive for suburbs to cooperate with it.

I don't see this pattern taking place in Detroit, where local corruption and bad politics have created nearly autonomous metropolitan areas in the same urban conglomeration. Grand Rapids, however, got a hold on sprawl as soon as it started, and the region agrees on what is best (generally.)

As of now, as of this point in history, I see great potential for the future of Grand Rapids specifically and healthy urban areas in general.

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Yeah...I think that it would be extremely hard to turn around Detroit...which is a shame given that Detroit is a beautiful city with wide avenues and a well laid out grid system. There is too much polarization in Detroit along racial lines that manifest under the code words and euphemisms of city vs. suburban rhetoric and politics. It

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