Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wall Street Journal: Dude, Where's My Car?

Flaws in the "new urbanism" model?

By Curmudgeon

Interesting and possibly important: Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting story here about empty-nesters returning to inner cities to live carless lives in urban condos. What caught my eye was this paragraph:
Demographers and economists have predicted that many aging baby boomers would opt for smaller, easier-to-manage dwellings once their children left home. Those predictions helped spur a surge in loft and condominium developments in many U.S. cities, as well as efforts to develop so-called walkable communities.

So far, the bet hasn't paid off. "The developers that anticipated a big increase in condominium living in center cities are sorely disappointed," says Gary Engelhardt, a professor at Syracuse University who's studied the influence of boomers on the housing market. The housing bust has led many people who might have sold their suburban homes to stay put. But even when the market recovers, Mr. Engelhardt says, "I don't foresee a massive movement back in center cities for older individuals."
The reason it caught my eye is that the master plan for re-developing downtown Ogden, and in particular for The Junction, rested largely on anticipating precisely the "walkable downtown condo living" model that the article says has not materialized nationwide as expected.

[And before the Godfreyista Gaggle begins denouncing me for naysaying, let me add that I was encouraged by the "new urbanism" trend that seemed to be underway, and that I am sorely disappointed that the condo plans for The Junction have pretty much collapsed, since so much of the Junction's business plan depended upon their being a certain population of relatively upscale condo-dwellers living there. The empty-nester downtown living idea I and Mrs. Curmudgeon found kind of appealing and are considering it for our next --- and last ever --- move. As an environmentalist, I like the idea as well of reducing driving around that living in a downtown condo with necessary shopping nearby (food, pharmacies, bookstore) in a walkable city with good public transit. But my liking the idea doesn't matter much if the trend doesn't develop and doesn't turn out to be an economically viable one for cities to encourage.]

Again, since so much of the downtown Ogden and Junction development model is based on the "new urbanism" model, I thought the article worth pointing out.


AWM said...

Rudizink...don't despair...if you want to give this inner city walkable community thing a fling..move to England..they have been practicing this concept for about a 1,000 years...AND they speak the language to boot...doesnt matter where you live..there is a corner store..a church, pub, chinese & indian eatery within walking distance. A bus stop will be close by that will get you to the train station, then to the subway in the London theater district to a show and back all before 11 pm. The Brits were able to this pretty much nationwide without the mayors trying to build on every square foot of open land they have left...are you listening Phipps?

get back to reality said...

I've tried the new urban lifestyle several times in my life with considerable susccess. It is great to hoof it to a neighborhood restaurant or bar, something that suburbanites will never be able to experience.

But let's face it, sometimes you're stranded and left vulnerable if you don't have a car parked close by in an underground parking garage.

The purely pedestrian "urban lifestyle" will never make it.

Without personal transportation to depend on, the "new urbanism" model will be a bust.

Curmudgeon said...


All the apartments and planned [and now stalled or abandoned] condos at the Junction had parking spaces included in the rentals or condo purchase agreements. While in some large cities with very good public transit, people are giving up car ownership, and discovering that they can rent a car on the relatively few occasions they might need one for much less than the cost of insuring, maintaining, parking in the city and operating one they own, in smaller places [like Ogden], I really don't see people giving up cars, but instead, having to drive them much much less frequently, and not as part of their daily routine. The "new urbanism" model is pretty flexible in that regard, offering options for urban living that range from "carless" at one end, to "one car not two and casual use" at the other.

But none of it works if the demand from empty nesters for urban digs doesn't develop as anticipated.

ozboy said...


"Without personal transportation to depend on, the "new urbanism" model will be a bust"

Huh? That will be big news to the 5 million or so carless people in NYC!

I lived in Manhattan on and off for 8 years and never had a car in the city. It worked out real good.

Moroni McConkie said...

Why would any Ogden urbanite need a parking spot downtown when the mayor gives them free horse stabling over at Lorin Farr Park?

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