If a tree grows in Brooklyn, then Queens can claim an entire garden.

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When a settlement grows suddenly and rapidly, it’s common for the new development to completely overwhelm everything that preceded it: not just for the older settlement to get engulfed in the new, but for it to disappear completely. It’s happening all over the fast-growing areas of the American southwest, particularly states like Texas, where formerly rural …Read more…

Power centers: where beauty is in the eye of the consumer.

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Particularly in the last few months, this blog has honed in on retail trends that usually point to the slow demise of the conventional, enclosed, middle-class shopping mall. I just can’t get enough of the topic. And most evidence suggests that, with the possible exception of the high-end ones, the mall is typically failing to …Read more…

Why America deserves its retail blight.

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My latest was just published in full at Urban Indy.  It focuses on a new greenfield development proposed in Greenwood, the first suburb just south of Indianapolis.  The proposal, at a site just off of I-65 at County Line Road, includes 700,000 square feet of retail in what is anticipated to function as a lifestyle center arrangement, …Read more…

Hustling all the antiques under one roof.  

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Even metros with the most resilient of economies couldn’t salvage many of their historic buildings downtown during the 1970s, the virtually undisputed nadir of urban America. The imbroglio facing most cities wasn’t just a lack of investment—there simply wasn’t even any psychological interest. (Not surprisingly, “interest” and “investment” go hand in hand…in more ways than …Read more…

Preventing an Elm Street nightmare.

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It’s a trend one encounters all across the country, in large towns or small cities, of varying degrees of economic health. Almost instinctively, we know when we’re there—in the oldest part of town, usually co-located with the downtown. For the most part, it’s hard not to miss the central business district, which often amounts to …Read more…

Fencing in the human will.

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Driving westward from the suburbs to downtown Grand Rapids earlier this year, I came across an unusual road sign.   Needless to say, it wasn’t easy to read, but it clearly wasn’t a conventional one. In Grand Rapids (as in many cities), most street signage uses a bold, white sans-serif lettering against a green background, as …Read more…

A signal to retreat to the suburbs? Too late.

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Scattered throughout various locations throughout the City of Detroit, one is likely to run into this unusual sign. It may be unusual in almost any other urban area, but not the Motor City.  In due time, the city could end up removing this traffic light at the intersection of Peterboro Street and Second Avenue altogether.  …Read more…

Grow quickly. Live better.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that, from the perspective of urban sociologists and planners, at least, major discount retailers such as Walmart have thrived on the destruction of commercial activity in traditional town centers.  No doubt my assertion borders on exaggeration, but it would have to, considering I’ve cribbed Jane Austen’s famous (and equally …Read more…