Region Forward Blog

The Morning Measure: Is balanced urbanism elusive?

Apr 19, 2011


Ken Archer has a very interesting post over at Greater Greater Washington on the need to bridge the gap between longtime residents of the District living in established lower-income neighborhoods and a growing group he refers to as “hipster urbanists” (in which he includes himself). The post is lengthy but well worth a read.

Archer sees a growing animosity between these two groups – the former generally younger and wealthier the latter typically older and less wealthy – as a major problem and one that is hard to overcome given that both groups think they know what’s best for the city. “Hipster urbanists” advocate for bike lanes transit-oriented development and streetcars to bring vibrancy to the city and make it more environmentally sustainable while long-time residents often view such initiatives with skepticism especially after seeing gentrification reduce the black majority in many neighborhoods.

To mitigate this anxiety Archer calls for a “big tent urbanism” with that incorporates so-called hipster urbanists as well as “a broader constituency including families the elderly and the poor and working-class.” Sounds good. Is it possible when income inequality in metro Washington has reached its highest level in 30 years?

The need to balance the economic benefits of redevelopment with the need to build an inclusive city is a topic that is often discussed here in The Morning Measure. Perhaps “big tent urbanism” is an effective way to make progress on these at times seemingly opposing goals. We think cities need to be areas of opportunity and upward mobilization for all their residents.


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