Have a problem with Houston's notorious suburban sprawl? Better get used to it — this is type of urban development is the future.
So says demographer Joel Kotkin in a recent piece on The Daily Beast, in which he explains that "low-density, car-dominated, heavily suburbanized areas with small central cores likely represent the next wave of great American cities" — pointing to Houston as a prime example.
But it's not all as negative as this initial description may indicate. For one, Kotkin notes, the Bayou City's historic central underdevelopment paired with its unprecedented job growth has lead to opportunity for greater urban density and development. Not the type of density that, like, New York and San Francisco are known for, but still laudable.
"[Cities like Houston] grow primarily because they do what cities were designed to do in the first place."
"Although nearly 60 percent of Houston's growth over the decade has been more than 20 miles outside the core, the inner ring area encompassed within the Loop around Interstate 610 has also been growing steadily, albeit at a markedly slower rate," writes Kotkin. "This contrasts with many urban regions, where close-in areas just beyond downtowns have been actually losing population."
Think of the surge in Midtown midrises, townhouses in Montrose and Rice Military and residential towers being planned in the downtown corridor. Simultaneously, the arts are flourishing and the culinary scene is becoming — according to GQ food critic Alan Richman — one of the most "electrifying" in the nation.
Thus, Houston's recent designation by Forbes as "America's Coolest City."
"Such praise may make some of us, who relish Houston's unpretentious nature, a little nervous — but it shows that hip urbanism can co-exist with rapidly expanding suburban development," Kotkin says.
"[Cities like Houston] grow primarily because they do what cities were designed to do in the first place: help their residents achieve their aspirations — and that's why they keep getting bigger and more consequential, in spite of the planners who keep ignoring or deploring their ascendance," he concludes.
Read the full article, entitled "Houston Rising — Why the Next Great American Cities Aren't What You Think," on the Daily Beast.