Americans still want to live in exurbs

This month Joel Kotkin argued in the Wall Street Journal that the predicted back-to-the-city migration has actually been more myth than reality.

“Virtually every survey of opinion, including a 2004 poll co-sponsored by Smart Growth America, a group dedicated to promoting urban density, found that roughly 13% of Americans prefer to live in an urban environment while 33% prefer suburbs, and another 18% like exurbs. These patterns have been fairly consistent over the last several decades,” Kotkin writes.

That means that despite all the problems of living in the exurbs — long commutes, increased gas prices, lack of walkability — people continue to come there for its benefits.

When planning for the future of Baldwin, it’s easy to look at development trends in cities or suburbs and wonder how exurbs can take part in similar movements — less dependence on cars, for example.

But the township can’t ignore its inherent strengths, greatest of which is probably that Baldwin is nothing like an urban environment.

How can the township work towards walkability, building central gathering places and maybe even a town square, without building itself up into a suburb?

I think green space is a big piece of that. Green space is a hallmark of exurban life. Baldwin’s residents may not be able to walk to do all their errands, but when they do go for a walk they see trees, open land and lakes — the very things that drew them out of the city in the first place.

And these open spaces are likely what will continue to draw people out of the city.

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