“The suburbs are dead,” declares Eric Klinenberg in the Playboy Forum (1/2-13), offering several sets of statistics, including this one that caught me off-guard:
According to Christopher Leinberger, a Brookings Institution fellow and professor at the George Washington University business school, urban planners and real estate developers expect a huge surplus of large-lot houses (built on a sixth of an acre or more) in the coming decades. One expert predicts an oversupply of roughly 40 percent of these homes by 2025.
Wait a minute. A sixth of an acre — 7,260 square feet — is now a “large lot”?
I tracked down Leinberger’s article, which appeared in The Atlantic in 2008, and yes, that’s what he said about “large lots.” Which suggests that when I fake my death and go off to live with Twilight Sparkle, I should have the house torn down and the humongous quarter-acre lot subdivided into two 5500-square-foot sections. Yeah, the city will just love that.
Then again, from that same bit of fiction:
There had been something here once, he remembered: a little stone house and a gravel driveway. Five or six years ago, there was a sign on the corner, proclaiming a New Upscale Development, with a number to call and a Web site to visit. A year or two later, with gasoline pushing five dollars a gallon, no one wanted to live in the 31000 block of anything, and the development was abandoned.
And Leinberger, we should remember, also said this:
I doubt the swing toward urban living will ever proceed as far as the swing toward the suburbs did in the 20th century; many people will still prefer the bigger houses and car-based lifestyles of conventional suburbs. But there will almost certainly be more of a balance between walkable and drivable communities — allowing people in most areas a wider variety of choices.
Which contradicts Klinenberg almost entirely. Still, so long as they can sell living downtown as a premium experience — and in this town, they can — that’s probably the way to bet.