Beacon Citizen Network (BCN): a place for neighbors to get the word out, be heard and stay informed in all matters concerning Beacon, NY.




In short, the era of the strip mall and the McMansion are over. Due to rising fuel prices, real estate collapse, and a demographic change having to do with livability.


In the late 1990s, high-end outer suburbs contained most of the expensive housing in the United States, as measured by price per square foot, according to data I analyzed from the Zillow real estate database. Today, the most expensive housing is in the high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of the center city and inner suburbs. Some of the most expensive neighborhoods in their metropolitan areas are Capitol Hill in Seattle; Virginia Highland in Atlanta; German Village in Columbus, Ohio, and Logan Circle in Washington. Considered slums as recently as 30 years ago, they have been transformed by gentrification.

Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.

The shift is durable and lasting because of a major demographic event: the convergence of the two largest generations in American history, the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the millennials (born between 1979 and 1996), which today represent half of the total population.

Many boomers are now empty nesters and approaching retirement. Generally this means that they will downsize their housing in the near future. Boomers want to live in a walkable urban downtown, a suburban town center or a small town, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.

The millennials are just now beginning to emerge from the nest — at least those who can afford to live on their own. This coming-of-age cohort also favors urban downtowns and suburban town centers — for lifestyle reasons and the convenience of not having to own cars.


The era of 50 years ago was about leaving downtown areas and populating the suburbs, and everything car-dependent. The future is about dense development, walkability, bikeability, and light rail. Old downtowns will come back to life, the suburban fringe will wither.


This is why we need to revive the Beacon Line, whether as light rail, as a biking/ walking trail, or both. To do so will cement Main Street and turn the story of Beacon's revival into the story of Beacon's new golden age.


The cities and inner-ring suburbs that will be the foundation of the recovery require significant investment at a time of government retrenchment. Bus and light-rail systems, bike lanes and pedestrian improvements — what traffic engineers dismissively call “alternative transportation” — are vital. So is the repair of infrastructure like roads and bridges. Places as diverse as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Charlotte, Denver and Washington have recently voted to pay for “alternative transportation,” mindful of the dividends to be reaped. As Congress works to reauthorize highway and transit legislation, it must give metropolitan areas greater flexibility for financing transportation, rather than mandating that the vast bulk of the money can be used only for roads.

For too long, we over-invested in the wrong places. Those retail centers and subdivisions will never be worth what they cost to build. We have to stop throwing good money after bad. It is time to instead build what the market wants: mixed-income, walkable cities and suburbs that will support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.


That OpEd piece was a really good read, just wanted to share.


Views: 333

Tags: hiking, light rail, millennials, retirees, walking


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Comment by Mark Roland on December 2, 2011 at 10:09pm

We've been hearing about the death of the suburbs since the early 80s. I found this piece highly unoriginal, and full of virtually meaningless buzz phrases. For a more in-depth critique,see my blog.

Comment by Pamela Garfield on November 30, 2011 at 10:52pm

Interesting article. Thanks for posting it. He can't be talking about the NYC outer-ring suburbs - demand for housing in those places was pretty brisk this season.

"Over all, only 12 percent of future homebuyers want the drivable suburban-fringe houses that are in such oversupply, according to the Realtors survey. This lack of demand all but guarantees continued price declines. Boomers selling their fringe housing will only add to the glut. Nothing the federal government can do will reverse this.

Many drivable-fringe house prices are now below replacement value, meaning the land under the house has no value and the sticks and bricks are worth less than they would cost to replace. This means there is no financial incentive to maintain the house; the next dollar invested will not be recouped upon resale. Many of these houses will be converted to rentals, which are rarely as well maintained as owner-occupied housing. Add the fact that the houses were built with cheap materials and methods to begin with, and you see why many fringe suburbs are turning into slums, with abandoned housing and rising crime."







Comment by Steve Knowles on November 27, 2011 at 12:33pm

I don't know about the Beacon line, but the trends discussed in this article suggest that towns along major commuter rail lines should fare well, and that relatively inexpensive homes in those towns will likely retain their value, and may even increase in value as the Mcmansion communities waste away. 

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