You can’t put a taco truck in a high-rise

A recent survey by Wendell Cox and Erika Ozuna lists the Oklahoma City metro area as 6th in the nation in terms of opportunity for minority entrepreneurs. (Greater Atlanta took first.) One reason for this, much to the dismay of urban-planning types, is good old urban sprawl:

[W]ith [the] exception of the Washington and Baltimore areas, the fast-growing minority regions, and rapidly growing self-employed populations, are regions with diffuse, multi-polar and heavily suburbanized land patterns.

The strip mall, much detested among urban aesthetes and planners, often serves as “the immigrants’ friend,” says Houston architect Tim Cisneros. In places like Houston, Cisneros points out, Colombians, Nigerians, Mexicans, Indian and Vietnamese businesses usually cluster not in downtown centers or fancy high-end malls, but in makeshift auto-oriented strip centers, where prices are low, parking ample and the location within easy driving distance of various ethnic populations. You want a good Indian meal in Houston, you don’t need to head downtown, but to the outer suburbs of Fort Bend County.

See, for instance, OKC’s Asian District, or any number of locations on the largely-Spanish-speaking inner southside.

Then again, urban planning is getting to be mostly a SWPL activity anyway, and while it’s no longer officially used as a tool of Jim Crow, one of the presumably-desirable side effects — keeping property values up — just incidentally tends to discourage the new folks. Not that this is necessarily deliberate, of course, but not everyone has figured out this whole Law of Unintended Consequences business.


  1. Tam »

    5 April 2011 · 12:29 pm

    One of the features pointed out about the ATL’s urban sprawl (which also applies to the DFW’s growth during a similar time period) is that there are no geographic or political boundaries to contain it: There’s not a huge river, lake, ocean, mountain range, or state border for a hundred miles or more in any direction…

  2. CGHill »

    5 April 2011 · 1:26 pm

    True enough. Here in OKC, which some consider a poster child for sprawl, there was a major annexation push in the 1950s and 1960s; the city grew to around 700 square miles before settling back to its current 621. Of course, nearby communities quickly coalesced into municipalities so they wouldn’t be devoured by Leviathan. But there’s not much to keep the place from expanding further, should the city fathers deem it necessary. (The cost of providing services Way The Hell Out There is probably enough of a deterrent — for now.)

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