Please don’t go

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Portlandia? This particular item comes from Long Island, but you can hear it in this town just as loudly:

Advocate: Let’s keep our young people from leaving! There’s a … brain drain!

Public: How do we stop it?

Developer: Build denser housing! Let’s make it … affordable! Walkable! Let’s make it … mixed-use sustainable smart growth … with a downtown, pedestrian-friendly feel.

Municipality: Development approved!

Seriously. You could sell the idea of an abattoir in Bricktown if you promise to make it “mixed-use.”

The inspiration for all this flapdoodle, apparently, turns out to be the Underpants Gnomes:

Phase 1: Create a cool city.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Retain talent.

That will be $500,000.

Don’t get me wrong. I like busy street scenes and weird little shops and, yes, bike lanes. But the idea that the creation of busy street scenes and weird little shops and bike lanes will make Joe Average, Jr. shout “Huzzah! I don’t have to leave this crappy little burg after all!” is risible in the extreme, even if you trot out that half-million-dollar research study showing potential diminished crappiness.


  1. nightfly »

    17 April 2013 · 1:52 pm

    This article is close-to-home for me, being an ex-Long Islander myself. They can’t keep their kids from leaving upon graduation because it’s way too expensive to live on most of the Island; there aren’t jobs sufficient to keep a roof over one’s head while simultaneously paying student loans.

    Anyone who wants to change this runs into the increasingly-cantankerous and graying establishment folks who like the peace and quiet, and don’t realize that the entire place is slowly getting mummified. They vote down anything that resembles renewal. They elect politicians who care more about getting credit for things than doing them. The Islanders are leaving for Brooklyn in large measure because these morons couldn’t get out of each other’s way with a map and a tour guide. It’s a miserable shame.

    And all the while, everyone says they want quirky sitcom-ready towns that are much better to look at than live in. Why not, instead, and just as a wild idea that you lose nothing by trying, why not make it affordable to live there, so that people will want to buy houses and open shops? Maybe you’ll get the sort of vital town you’re talking about by letting it grow around the people who choose to make it vital.

    I dunno, it could be overly-simple on my part, but I sometimes think that it’s another example of “we have to do something” in government, when the something to be done is to just get out of the way and let people do something… and then lo! the problem is solved. But there’s no glory to be had in it, so they can’t just let it alone long enough for it to happen.

  2. Tatyana »

    17 April 2013 · 2:05 pm

    one prerequisite to all that urban d&d is availability of productive (as opposed to purely service) jobs suitable for local talent level.
    if we satisfy that condition, however, what would you rather have, a municipality with varied compact services/shopping/entertainment and recreation capabilities or a typical suburban stretch with Mother of All Malls in 40 miles distance in lieu of all those?

  3. CGHill »

    17 April 2013 · 4:02 pm

    Actually, I have, if not the best, at least the “good” of both worlds at my doorstep: much of my shopping could theoretically be done within a half-mile radius, and said Suburban Stretch is nearby. Besides, downtown, which is nowhere near as empty as it was thirty years ago, is only five miles away.

    The thing about suburbs, of course, is that they require urbs in the first place.

  4. McGehee »

    17 April 2013 · 4:53 pm

    In Fairbanks we lived with not having all the restaurants and stores we were accustomed to in our respective prior hometowns and — though we did make a point of visiting such places on vists “Outside” and sometimes wished they were available locally — I don’t think we missed them during those five years as much as we subsequently missed what we had come to like about it. But I also spent those five years arguing that the place needed a better vision if it was ever to grow beyond its longstanding boom-and-bust cycle.

    We still dream of retiring to a place out West far from large cities, and even have a town in mind that lacks a lot that we have in metro Atlanta, good and bad. Like Fairbanks it has difficulty keeping young people around, but it’s also both less isolated and less hidebound.

  5. jsallison »

    17 April 2013 · 9:32 pm

    After a Thunder game lets out, there’s nowhere to go to speak of in walking distance, of course that might be a good thing. As a kid way back when Rochester NY boasted a population about a 1/3d what OKC claims and had a bustling, vibrant downtown. There were working class neighborhoods nearby, affordable shopping and entertainment and the local eateries stayed open all day and in some cases all night. Downtown OKC pretty much shuts down starting around 2pm. Pretty much no one goes downtown unless they have to, protestations of da Mick to the contrary notwithstanding. Need a 5 and dime and an all night beanery, for starters.

  6. CGHill »

    17 April 2013 · 11:02 pm

    At the very least. And “working class” is anathema to the New Urbanists, who are, or aspire to be, rich young pretty people. (A distinct minority are the old disciples of Paul Ehrlich and other predictors of doom, who want us stacked up in warehouses like rolls of linoleum.)

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