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In his Broadacre City designs, architect Frank Lloyd Wright proposed "the end of cities"; communities with downtown, industrial zones and suburbs distributed throughout the landscape rather than in a central core.
Wright was on to something.
His idea involves highways that web everything together, permitting citizens to make complex connections. What he didn't anticipate was just how intricate our connections have become.
Automated vehicles, expanded highways, advanced internet connectivity, improved public transit and the acceptance of irregular work schedules not only confirm Wright's prediction, they're encouraging businesses to move outside the center.
Will you join them in a move toward "new urbanism"?
In most countries, city centers continue to be hubs for economic activity. In Britain, for instance, 8 percent of private sector business and 14 percent of private sector jobs cluster on a mere 0.08 percent of the country.
Cities offer access to knowledge, infrastructure and skilled workers; features highly attractive to businesses. But access isn't free. Pricey real estate, congestion and pollution make city life difficult, if not impossible, for many.
So now, many corporations are opting for surrounding areas. In Utah Overstock, CHG Healthcare, Pluralsight, and dōTERRA have left the bustle aiming to make the suburb more urban-like; walkable and human-scaled.
But it's not only the expense. James Bullington, senior VP at Colliers International, says there are many factors encouraging companies to leave the city. “Traffic is one…they don't have to deal with nearly as many cars on the road." And, as Utah's unemployment rate drops, being able to recruit from multiple regions is increasingly important. “It's all about where employees base lives and where they will live in the next 10 years."
So, where do you see yourself in the foreseeable future? Stuck in traffic, or sitting in your pj's as you e-commute, receive automated deliveries or attend an online class?
When businesses move out of city centers, they shape communities by bringing in employees who support local restaurants and shops. Increased shopping drives sales tax and helps build new infrastructure.
Advanced internet connectivity, location-based services and automation could mean a more decentralized civilization where once city-only advantages are distributed throughout whole regions. Here's a few examples:
Redesigning for “new urbanism" includes reducing commercial real-estate costs, new legislation that makes it harder to for mega-companies like Google to inflate housing markets, and better connecting cities with surrounding areas.
While it may no longer be necessary for you to live in cities, what will remain is the possibility of preserving a sense of urban and regional diversity; "new urbanism" is a movement away from economic trends that threaten urban and rural communities alike.
The San Francisco architect Daniel Solomon observed that in the past, the "urban experience" was the by-product of the need to concentrate industry in a single place. Now it's the desire for the “urban experience" itself, that enables dense cities to survive.
What will you choose?