18 October 2012

Even Conventional Economists are Starting to Recognize the Problem of Suburbanization…

Posted by Admin under: Community Development; Economy; Land Use; Neighborhoods; Suburbs; Sustainability; Transportation .

In the light of our ongoing discussions on creating more sustainable neighborhoods and communities, some comments in a recent article touting “the real Jersey comeback” in NJ Spotlight caught our attention:

Analysts, developers, and academicians all saw hopeful signs, however faint, for New Jersey’s economy and housing market, but told a state conference in Atlantic City that the highly suburbanized state is poorly adjusted for longer-term changes….

… James Hughes, dean of Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy… pointed to “transformative” demographic changes that should shape policy in housing and elsewhere. Some fallout already is apparent in the office market, he said. Hughes pointed to formerly “iconic” exurban business campuses like the now vacant BASF building in the Mt. Olive foreign trade zone, or Merck’s Whitehouse Station headquarters, being phased out for a reconsolidation to Summit.

Those sort of sprawling business centers are rapidly becoming relics, “along with the McMansions and starter-castles scattered across our countryside,” Hughes said.

Transportation costs, salary pressures, the sparseness of surrounding communities. and changes in personnel priorities are all pushing against the suburban patterns that have reshaped America since World War II, he said.

The Suburban Life

That is particularly a challenge in a state generally considered with Connecticut as the most suburbanized in the nation. Such state rankings can vary by population, land area or other factors, but as Newgeography.com put it last year, “New Jersey virtually defines suburbanization in the United States.” [Emphasis added]

…the conference’s keynote [speaker], planning consultant and author Richard Florida of the University of Toronto [said that] many of America’s cities are already coming back from the doldrums of the late 20th Century, but in a place like New Jersey, “remaking the suburbs is going to be the greatest revitalization project we have ever seen.” [Emphasis added]

…[real estate appraiser and analyst] Jeffrey Otteau  surprised many in his audience by pointing out that only 30 percent of the state’s households now have children living at home. That figure drops when scanned for two-parent households.

That is another demographic change that undermines the suburban development pattern that has marched across New Jersey, according to Hughes. While well suited for a boom in child-rearing by parents in a stable economy, sprawl is less suited to current times, he said.

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Correction: We'll be hosting this year's holiday potluck — "Bringing Solar Power Home for the Holidays" — on Saturday, December 15, 2012 from 4 to 9 p.m. Click here for more details. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Sustainable Neighborhood & Community Conversations (III).
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Dec 11 SLF Potluck: "Bringing Sustainability Home for the Holidays" Basking Ridge, NJ. RSVP to [email protected].
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Saturday, March 19, 1-4 p.m. "Creating the Morristown EcoCenter." Held at 55 Bank Street, Morristown, the site of the proposed EcoCenter.
Saturday, February 19, 1-4 p.m. Monthly meeting, ""A Profound Transformation in Consciousness," Morris County Library, Whippany, NJ. Click here for details.
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