"To put it simply, the suburbs have lost their sheen," writes Ania Wieckowski in the May edition of Harvard Business Review." Her article, Back to the City, suggests that "(some) companies are getting a jump on a major cultural and demographic shift away from suburban sprawl. The change is imminent, and businesses that don’t understand and plan for it may suffer in the long run."
"The change is about more than evolving tastes; it’s at least partly a reaction to real problems created by suburbs. Their damage to quality of life is well chronicled. For instance, studies in 2003 by the
American Journal of Public Healthand the American Journal of Health Promotionlinked sprawl to rising obesity rates. (By contrast, new research in Preventive Medicinedemonstrates, people living in more urban communities reap health benefits because they tend to walk more.) Car culture hurts mental health as well. Research by behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and his team shows that out of a number of daily activities, commuting has the most negative effect on people’s moods. And economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer have found that commuters who live an hour away from work would need to earn 40% more money than they currently do to be as satisfied with their lives as noncommuters.
A recent report sponsored by Bank of America, the Greenbelt Alliance, and the Low Income Housing Fund examines the inefficiencies of the current “geographical mismatch between workers and jobs.” Focusing on California, it says that sprawl “reduc[es] the quality of life,” “increase[s] the attractiveness of neighboring states,” and yields “higher direct business costs and taxes to offset the side-effects of sprawl”—which include transportation, health care, and environmental costs."
The article also quotes Carol Colleta, the Executive Director with CEOs for Cities that “increasingly CEOs understand that without a vibrant central city, their region becomes less competitive. Good CEOs care about the fate of their cities, because they have to question whether that is the place where they can attract the talent they need.”
Slowly but surely the pieces are all being tied together by many formerly disparate interests that suburbia isn't as healthy or sustainable as it was once promoted. Suburbs have their place, for sure, but not to the exclusion of the rest of our developed and undeveloped areas. Natures dislikes a monoculture and the single-minded focus on suburbia as the exclusive panacea to our society's ills is thankfully being unraveled.