Monday, June 23, 2008

the end of sprawl?

(Copywright © 2007 DWRowan)

Some might not like the Downtown Rising or City Creek Center developements taking place downtown. But don't count me among them for this reason:
Planners predicted it, but not this way - not this fast. Yet new urbanism - punctuated by a rush on downtown Salt Lake City - is sweeping a swath of northern Utah, a place long defined by suburban flight.
A new report reveals residential building permits in the south-valley boomtowns plunged 80 percent since last year. By contrast, the capital saw permits skyrocket to 194 this year from 13 in the first quarter of 2007.
Not that I have anything specifically against West Jordan, Draper et al. I just don't think it is wise to keep building little subdivisions and roads and houses etc. and then be surprised when there is smog, traffic, high property taxes, and nothing but chain box stores and McMansions in sight.

My wife and I could have bought a much bigger house in a suburb, but we chose to live in the Avenues because it is close (10 minutes) to downtown and the University. I would rather spend more time with my family in a smaller house than sit in traffic and get stressed out in a commute. And with gas above $4 a gallon with no sight of retreat, the mortgage bubble bursting, TRAX and FrontRunner, the LDS church's downtown development which will bring grocery stores, shopping, housing, and office space all close together, people don't have to live on 90 million south and 20 million west anymore.

Just drive around Salt Lake and even Sandy and you will see that condos are popping up like wildflowers all over the place. Has the culture changed such that people are more interested in Quality of Life than Quantity of Life? Have Utahns grown tired of keeping up with the Jensens (our version of the Joneses)? Only time will tell. But I am optimistic that the capital city will become a true urban space that will recast its image around the world as not just "where the Mormon church is" but as Mayor Becker called it a great American city.

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