Justin James Reed‘s New Cities

Kirk CrippensForeclosure, USA

Andrew PhelpsHigley

Jeff Brouws delivered a lecture at the SPE conference in Dallas in March, and American Suburb X recently published a transcript: “It Don’t Exist”, The Impact of Sprawl and Suburban Build-out on Inner City America. It is a great read. He discusses transportation infrastructure and different zones – industrial, commercial, residential. Here’s an excerpt on the development of the highway system and the implications of the integrated garage:

Prior to the 1930s there was no organized infrastructure of highways across America; unmarked roads and scarce services for the motorist were the norm.

When Eisenhower signed into law the The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act in 1956, construction of a freeway system linking all major cities began, fueled by this idea of growth. In this way, decentralization became a guiding principle for not only developers who owned land on the periphery they wished to sell, but for a federal government who in the final analysis thought a low-density lifestyle, dispersed population and scattered infrastructure would be less vulnerable to a paralyzing nuclear attack.

Notice the garage integrated right into the design of the house; this type of home reinforced individual automobile usage and discourage pedestrian activity; people could drive right into their home without interacting with their environment, which is totally different then living in the city.

He also mentions why corporate chains, with Walmart as an especially egregious offender, are bad for local economies.

Historically, locally owned downtown businesses paid local taxes; money generated from that business stayed in town and re-circulated there. With sprawl and the growth of multinational chains the majority of what you spend at Wal-Mart today gets sent back home to a out-of-state home office or funneled through tax shelters in Michigan, Delaware or Nevada — states that charge no corporate income tax.

I wonder why more books like, say, What’s the Matter With Kansas don’t include photography. Is it out of some ridiculous belief that adults don’t look at books with pictures in them? That reading books with pictures in them makes you a simpleton who can’t understand the words without the pictures? Too bad. There’s the reading about the Walmart’s slow community attrition and then there’s seeing photos of a small town transformed in a decade because a Walmart moved in. Maybe I am a simpleton, but it’s just easier to believe it when you see it. It’s like standing there in person, right?


~ by Jin on August 6, 2009.

2 Responses to “suburbia”

  1. Although I love this photography and I agree with most of the assertions above, his argument that national chains siphon profits out of the local economy is only partially true. National businesses still have to pay sales tax and property tax to the local cities and counties. If you assume that all of the employees live locally, then most of the company’s largest cost, payroll, also gets spent locally. The only money that gets squirreled back to corporate HQ is the profits, which are tiny compared to payroll and local taxes.

    Mind you, I am not supporting WallyMart. I prefer local businesses as much as anyone else. I just wanted to get the facts straight.

    • That’s an important point, I agree, but I think his remarks are in the context of our modern concept of economic health, which depends on growth. In that sense, profits being siphoned off becomes significant. A community might be able to survive, cover expenses, etc, but when the profits go elsewhere there is perhaps adequate financial compensation, but no prosperity. Thanks for the thought!

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