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"The Great Inversion..."

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I just finished an interesting new book, "The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City" by Alan Ehrenhalt (it's available from the OC Library System.) Each chapter tells a story of different urban issues as they affect a particular city or two and is quite readable (Ehrenhalt was an editor of "Governing" magazine for 20 years and it shows.)

Three things I really liked:

* "There are two things Americans can't stand: sprawl and density." He makes the case for midlevel (based on Paris and Vienna, for example, 5 stories seems to be a sweet spot) development even in large cities (although he is by no means opposed to towers).

* In a story about center city Houston, he notes that transit development along their new light rail system is being delayed by speculators buying up land along the route and refusing to develop much so far. It's interesting to consider if we'll have to deal with this as SunRail comes on line.

* He looks straight at one of my favorite bugaboos - the complete lack of successful retail in redeveloping downtowns. Cities like Charlotte and Phoenix, just to name two (I am thankful he is not one of those urbanistas who refuses to acknowledge the South and West actually have cities, despite what some in the NYC-Boston-DC megaplex like to think.)

Perhaps the strongest point of the book is that he is neither a fanboy or total naysayer on the future of cities. He mentions both Richard Florida and Joel Kotkin but shows why the extremes both of them represent are probably not what will happen as the Millennials decide where to live in the next few decades.

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