In a post-World War II United States, two achievements signaled someone’s arrival at the doorstep of the American Dream: a house in the suburbs and a brand new, gas-guzzling sedan to get them there. Well, things have changed since then, and the urban neighborhoods, corner stores and coffee shops that Americans left en masse more than a half a century ago are back in style.

Or is it just a blip that will soon see people once again on an hour-long commute headed back to their favorite cul de sac? Well, the research is in, and it looks like the love of all things urban is here to stay.

The appeal of urban living

For starters, the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trend Survey, published in December, found that access to public transportation, multi-generational housing, walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use facilities rule the day when it comes to homeowner preferences. The AIA found that this is all part of a swing toward the desire for more community-oriented living.

“It’s nice to have the wide open spaces of the suburbs,” CMD Construction Data Chief Economist Alex Carrick told Construction Dive, “but there’s something that’s somewhat anonymous about it, whereas living downtown, you’re more a part of things.”

“There’s always these little (neighborhood) pockets that have a long history, and people want to tap into that because it gives them a sense of being a part of history. And you don’t get that in the suburbs,” Carrick said.

Carrick added that another draw to the city environment is that it’s simply “a lot nicer than it used to be.”

“In most major cities, there isn’t the same fear about crime. Those parts have been spruced up, and even cars don’t pollute as much as they used to,” he said.

Gregg McDuffee, chairman of the Urban Land Institute Michigan, agreed that cities are experiencing a “densification,” or the drawing in of a larger population to the city’s core — which he called “the true heart of an urban region.” However, he added that the challenge lies in making sure that, as people are coming together, they’re building high quality-of-life communities in the process, and that means walkability, entertainment, natural resources and, of course, jobs.


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