The Plank

Best Of Tnr 2008: The Demographic Inversion Of The American City

Alan Ehrenhalt looks
at the amazing revitalization of American cities:

We are not witnessing the
abandonment of the suburbs or a movement of millions of people back to the city
all at once. But we are living at a moment in which the massive outward
migration of the affluent that characterized the second half of the twentieth
century is coming to an end. For several decades now, cities in the United States
have wished for a "24/7" downtown, a place where people live as well
as work, and keep the streets busy, interesting, and safe at all times of day.
This is what urbanist Jane Jacobs preached in the 1960s, and it has long since
become the accepted goal of urban planners. Only when significant numbers of
people lived downtown, planners believed, could central cities regain their
historic role as magnets for culture and as a source of identity and pride for
the metropolitan areas they served. Now that's starting to happen, fueled by
the changing mores of the young and by gasoline prices fast approaching
$5-per-gallon. In many of its urbanized regions, an America that seemed destined for
everincreasing individualization and sprawl is experimenting with new versions
of community and sociability.

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