Yesterday, I was strangely fascinated with the New York Times’ article about the hip young cities. I looked at the slide show with pictures of ski slopes, bike paths, and microbreweries several times. I like that stuff, too. Why are those cool things in cities and not out here in the suburbs?
Schools, jobs, housing and spending priorities. People in their 20′s have different needs than people in their 30′s.
Cleveland made the list as a place where young people are moving back to the urban areas. Cleveland with its decreasing population growth, actually has young people moving in. Why? There are a couple of neighborhoods that have cool restaurants and bars. They have funky old housing that is dirt cheap. The schools are horrible. So, once people have kids, they usually move back to the suburbs where they grew up. For the childless, these urban areas are perfect.
About fifteen minutes north of here, just over the border into New York state, housing is cheap. New restaurants and music shops are opening up there like crazy. Even though there isn’t a tech center or other cool jobs, they have the cheap housing and lots of places to build funky restaurants. It’s nice for us, because it’s a lot easier to get there than shlepping out to Brooklyn.
My particular suburb isn’t very exciting. It has a lot of restaurants, but most of them have been around for decades. There’s no industrial lighting or artisanal pickles. They cater to meat and potatoes old people. There are some apartment complexes, but there hasn’t been any new construction in ages. In fact, local residents continually block the construction of apartment buildings. But people still pay a premium to live here. Why? It has a ton of pre-schools, after school sports, a bazillion civic groups, great SAT scores, a train to Manhattan, and large funky houses.
We’ve been here for three years now, and I’m starting to become more involved in the community. I could go to a meeting for some group every day. Last night, I went to the board of ed meeting. Wednesday night, I’ll be attending an information meeting on special education. There are book clubs, movie groups, spin classes, art centers. I’m throwing a pasta party for the cross country team on Friday night. Ian has a school dance that night, too. On Halloween, we’re having a bonfire party in the backyard. Most of these local activities are aimed at families, so I can’t imagine younger people going. But, for me, it’s a big playground.
So, there’s some comparative advantage going on here. Cities can short change the schools and put their resources into creating fun things for childless people. Suburbs put their effort into families. Personally, I would love artisanal pickles and bike paths AND good schools and lots of civics groups, but that’s hard to pull off.