Flexibility and The Missing Middle

One of the ideas moving around city planning circles recently is the “missing middle,” a term coined by Daniel Parolek, an architect and urban planner in Berkeley, a few years ago.

http://missingmiddlehousing.com

For the past 70 years, it seems, zoning regulations, federal financing, institutional capital, and large real estate companies have combined to build either increasingly large detached single-family houses, or large apartment properties in tower or garden apartment configurations.  Whereas in pre-automobile cities and small towns housing types in between – rowhouses, two-, three- and four-family houses, and small apartment buildings with local small time owners, were more common.   The one-family rowhouses of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, the Brooklyn brownstones, and the New England triple deckers, large, detached, three-story houses with one unit per floor, are examples.

https://www.globest.com/2018/2018/10/15/missing-middle-housing-needs-to-take-into-account-changing-household-demographics/

“It’s a range of housing types that are house-scale, that is very compatible with a house, but they happen to have multiple units inside of it,” Parolek says.  “Over the course of the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic shift in household demographics and every time we present these it shocks me a little bit.”  Detached, single family houses match the needs of married couples with children, but such households are now a small share of the total, whereas single family homes a majority of the housing stock.

Living in Brooklyn, I was not aware that the middle had gone missing, but thinking about it there is another aspect of pre-automobile development that was important.   Both the buildings and regulations (or lack of enforcement) allowed the way they were used to change over time.

There is a reason why institutional capital prefers large multifamily properties to small ones.  Large properties can have on-site management and maintenance staff at a small cost per unit, but small properties cannot.  The smaller rental properties common in the “missing middle” were generally owned by individual people who lived at the property, or nearby.  The real estate industry is one of the most of diverse and competitive there is, with both a “mom and pop” component and a large corporate component.  The “missing middle” was and is owned and operated by the “mom and pop” component.  In the past 70 years, however, most of the development has been for sale to institutional investors.

The American lifestyle, moreover, has generally featured multiple moves, to different properties designed for each phase of life.  Post WWII properties, and communities, have been designed with the expectation of abandonment when they no longer meet current needs, not reuse and redevelopment.

It was not long ago, however, that one of those housing types and places that was being gradually abandoned was the “brownstone belt” of Brooklyn NY — a place that today has become unaffordable to all but the wealthy.  Consider the situation as described in

Plan For New York City 1969:  A Proposal, Volume 1 Critical Issues, The New York City Planning Commission, “The Brownstone Revival”

I’ll include the entire text of this section at the end of this post, because it doesn’t seem to be on the internet in downloadable form (I had to re-type it).  The 1969 plan was a puff piece for then-Mayor John Lindsay’s re-election, and was for the most part never implemented, in part because Lindsay’s policies bankrupted the city. But it contains a valuable description of what the city was like 50 years ago, and what people thought about it.  Including the shock that some people were actually choosing to move to, and reinvest in, “missing middle” neighborhoods.

Of their own free will, in the face of considerable odds and dire predictions, a growing number of younger people have been expending great amounts of psychic energy and borrowed money on the purchase and remodeling of old brownstones in beat-up neighborhoods.

The frontier is to be found in brownstone rows that have gone badly to seed as rooming houses.

These included, at the time, properties in the East Village, Upper West Side, and lower Harlem.

The great reservoir is in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Heights has been almost completely renovated, splendidly so, but to the south and east lie large areas with potentials still to be tapped:  Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and the southeast portion of Bedford Stuyvesant.  Adjoining Prospect Park is Park Slope, 100-odd square blocks of some of the finest brownstones ever built anywhere, and externally mostly untouched.

Brownstones were the development houses of their day. The design evolved as an Italiante version of the earlier Federal rowhouse and was executed with considerable grace and simplicity in the early, custom-built examples.  Beginning in the 1870s, speculative builders picked up the design, heavified it, squeezed down the width and applied it to the subdivisions there were building on undeveloped blocks of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Save for some individual homes put up for wealthy people, architects were not used.  The developers usually had an underpaid draftsman work up a stock plan and they built the houses with components that were virtually prefabricated.  Small factories all over the city were buys turning out standard mantles, skylights, banisters, fireplaces, lowered shutters, moldings and other artifacts now so highly prized as examples of old world craftsmanship.

That made them relatively affordable.  It was factory like production, similar to what happened 50 years later in places such as Levittown.

For all around adaptability…the stock brownstone is the best.  It is the basic rowhouse, and this is a form from 18th century London that has been hard to botch.  Most brownstones are 16 to 24 feet wide and built about 50 or 60 feet deep in a 100-foot lot.  Four stories or five (note – 2 ½ or 3 ½ stores in most of Brooklyn), they lend themselves well to division into duplexes and floor-through apartments.  (For such conversions the high stoops are very functional; they do away with the need for an extra stairway on the first floor and by virtue of a break in the upward journey make a 2nd floor seem like a 1st, a 3rd like a 2nd).

The brownstones went from one-family homes for the affluent, to rooming houses for the poor, to two-or-three family homes for the middle and now upper middle class.

The same basic buildings design, moreover, is found on commercial streets and block corners, but with a storefront on the ground floor.  On side streets ground floors have also been used for doctor’s offices, pre-schools, and other facilities. The fact that these buildings are of solid masonry construction, and have been able to be reconstructed for different uses over time as market demand shifted, is the key to their continued viability, and that of their neighborhoods.

Because of the space and scale, these blocks look like they have very low density.  In actual fact, they house a surprisingly large number of people per acre.  Some high-rise public housing projects do not average much more.

For those buying and renovating the buildings at the time, it was believed,

the obstacles are enormous.  “There is more courage going into a brownstone,” says a real estate man, “than going west in a covered wagon.”

Today that statement seems absurd.  It makes one wonder for what other kinds of buildings and places today’s attitudes will seem absurd in 50 years.

In retrospect yesterday’s outrageous prices can seem a steal. In 1967, to cite one case history, a middle management executive purchased a four story Brooklyn Brownstone for $8,000 cash on a purchase price of $43,000 (note – that’s $324,415 adjusted for inflation into $2018).  He and his wife and three small daughters live on three floors.  They have a bedroom for each child, a guest room, a large family room, a small office and a laundry in addition to the living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom. They also have a backyard for the children to play in.  One floor they rent.  The income from this, the amortization and the tax savings substantially offset the total costs (two mortgages, oil, electricity, real estate taxes and maintenance) and the couple’s net cost per month is only $130(note — $981 in $2018).  The market value of the house has risen substantially.

Fifty years later, a steal indeed.  Nor are Brooklyn and the brownstone the only example.  A friend lived in an apartment in a triple decker in Sommerville, MA in the late 1980s. At the time that city was nicknamed “Slummerville.”  I doubt the same nickname would be applied today.

It’s the places, not just the “missing middle” buildings, that have become extremely desirable, as Johnny at Granola Shotgun points out.

Give it Another Century and We’ll See How it Goes

Everywhere I go in the world I find older neighborhoods that were built in a surprisingly similar manner regardless of geography, culture, religion, politics, or climate. Philadelphia has a wide variety of established neighborhoods that rarely get above three stories tall. Yet they provide convenient employment, local shops, schools, hospitals, houses of worship, groceries, culture, public parks, universities, and so on. Everything is within a reasonable walk or bike ride of a generous supply of homes. The residential and commercial activities are completely mixed together. Rich and poor tend to occupy the same neighborhoods in close proximity even if their accommodations are wildly disparate. Before planes, trains, and automobiles there weren’t that many options beyond shoe leather, horses, and sailing ships so urban form and daily customs accommodated that reality.

Other examples are given, in photographs, for in Japan, Istanbul, and San Francisco.  It is well worth reading the entire post and viewing the pictures.

For thousands of years all around the world this is the dominant development pattern. Small lots built up with many small compact buildings in a row, very often with shops and other activities mixed with residential space. Streets are narrow and nearly everyone walks everywhere most of the time. It’s highly efficient in every way and continues to endure into the modern era. Humans built this way for a reason.

This is how all successful towns were built everywhere until about the 1920s. The streets are a comfortable mix of pedestrians, motor scooters, cyclists, cars, and buses. There’s no need for complex transportation systems because daily needs are all close at hand. This wasn’t an aesthetic choice. It wasn’t something reserved for the rich or forced on the poor. It’s just the thing that made pragmatic sense back in 1885. There’s a huge amount of private taxable value sitting on a very small amount of publicly maintained infrastructure.

Given the way the price of such buildings and neighborhoods has soared in some cities, why not build more of them? The closest equivalents are the rowhouse developments of the 1980s, but the problem is the automobile. Your house is attached to your neighbors’, limiting privacy, but you still have to drive to get to just about everything.  Car storage drives everything, and the ugly buildings are less like the charming streets of an Italian hill town and more like garages with accessory housing.

Notes Granola Shotgun

When I see these condos I don’t object to the architecture or even the way the buildings and complexes relate to each other per se. They aren’t that different physically from the traditional form seen all around the globe. There’s no more or less open green space here than in Philly. The faux Spanish casitas are pretty close to Japanese machiya in their morphology. The clusters of narrow side streets are reminiscent of Turkish souks. The density is comparable to many of San Francisco’s quiet neighborhoods.

Replace the garage doors with storefronts, and there might be a viable neighborhood.

The real problems are the administrative constraints, social prohibitions, and poor economic performance. Decades of suburban life have conditioned everyone to demand certain characteristics. Renters are a transient and unsavory element that destroys the value, safety, and respectability of the community. Therefore only owner occupied single family units are permitted. Anything too small or too inexpensive will attract the poor and undesirable. So let’s only build homes large enough for middle class families to filter out the riffraff. Strangers loitering on the street are a menace. Homes must be buffered and isolated from the public realm. It is absolutely forbidden to conduct any kind of commercial or professional activity within the residential enclave.

Each condo is required by law to have a two car garage because there’s a perceived shortage of parking spaces in the neighborhood. This is in direct contradiction to the official desire to get people to walk, bike, and use public transit like the newly expanded commuter rail system.

There isn’t an “affordable housing crisis.” Instead we’ve had a national economic policy that’s consistently driven down real wages for the majority of the population for the last forty years and concentrated wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Those same policies have condensed access and opportunity to a small number of geographic hot spots and denuded all others. You can’t fix that by building more condos. And let’s not forget that a third of the space and cost of each new building is dedicated to parking two cars in their own snug living room.

Even McMansions, he points out, could be cheaply and easily converted to multiple apartments if it were legally allowed and financeable.

https://nextcity.org/features/view/cities-affordable-housing-design-solution-missing-middle

We used to build lots of in-between housing in this country: rowhouses, duplexes, apartment courts. In other countries, the middle is still the default. Britain is the land of the semi-detached house; the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have dense, low-rise (and attractive) housing of various kinds. But the United States stopped building this way decades ago.

The result, critics say, is huge unmet demand from millions of people whom our bifurcated housing supply doesn’t serve. Young families are priced out of new single-family homes, which now have a median size of a whopping 2,453 feet, but can’t squeeze into studio or one-bedroom apartments. Older adults want to downsize and economize without giving up their own front door or a patch of garden. Lower- and middle-income Americans struggle to pay climbing rents while new housing is increasingly marketed as “luxury.”

Changing demographics are on my mind now that our children are in their mid-20s.  We bought our 17-foot wide, one-family rowhouse in 1994, in between housing bubbles.  It was just what I wanted, and it has been a great home.  We didn’t want to pay to buy and operate more space than we needed, and didn’t want to be landlords.  One job for each adult is enough, thank you. Today, however, we are not really one family anymore, but three sub-families with two little privacy. If and when the kids move out, my wife and I will have more space than we need, but would have to sell and move in order to downsize.

In retrospect we might have been better off with the standard Brooklyn rowhouse of the sort built by Congressman Calder, by the thousands, in areas outside the brownstone belt.  They are typically 20 feet wide by 45 feet or 50 feet deep, and 2 ½ stores (with a semi-habitable basement) or 3 stories (with a fully underground cellar).  These were built for the middle class, not the rich, with the option of having a tenant to help with the mortgage from the start.  The customers were so satisfied that they voted Calder to Washington.

Friends who have these buildings (or brownstones) have configured them in different ways over the years, depending on their need for space and/or income.  That’s the value of the buildings, and New York City’s extremely unrestrictive zoning regulations (and for the stupid rules for home occupations, lack of enforcement).

Here is the typical layout of a 2 ½ story Calder building, based on a building for sale.

Model

There are four main rooms in a row, with the inner rooms separated from the outer ones by walls with windows or large openings, to admit light and air.  The kitchens were typically on the side.  On the highest floor, there is a small room over the entranceway, which has two doors so cold wind won’t blow directly into the house. In the three-story equivalent, the bottom floor would be a fully below grade cellar, and an additional floor would be identical to the “parlor floor.”

Only the common side walls are bearing, with beams across the entire 20-foot width carrying the floors and roof, except where the stairs are located – note the location of the posts in the basement. So most walls could be easily moved.  Consider this revision, more in line with today’s living.

Model

The first three rooms are now one big one, with the kitchen in the center of the building set off by a counter, and two bedrooms in the rear.  The top floor could have two small children’s rooms, and be large enough for a space-efficient middle class family.  Each floor could have its own electric panel attached to its own electric meter, and its own hot water heater.  In the three-story variation of the Calder house the ground floor is only a couple of steps down from street level.  It could be made handicapped accessible, for a senior household, with a handicapped bathroom, for a total of three units — or a duplex plus a senior in-law unit.

windsor terrace floor plan-1

Or the ground floors could be used as a work or business space.  In this building, part of the basement level is used as a studio, and there is more room for equipment on each other floor.  In New York City, corner lots in rowhouse neighborhoods were typically built with first floors at grade for possible use by storefronts, even away from the neighborhood “main streets.”  Zoning later made this illegal, but the existing spaces are grandfathered in.

New York City’s home occupation rules are a mess, but no one is being bothered about them.  In fact, the city’s own TV channel has programs about “start-ups” that describe their early days working out of their homes, doing things that I know to be illegal.  “Community facilities” – social workers, teachers (of one to four students at a time), doctors, dentists – and artists have always been legally able to work out of their homes – provided that no employees or present for most, or for “professions” just one employee is present.

The builders of Brooklyn buildings probably were not planning for them to be restructured after 50 years, and restructured again after another 30 years.  But that is exactly what kept their Brooklyn neighborhoods vital and occupied.

But this post isn’t really about Brooklyn.   It’s about other places, places that are either already perceived the way Brooklyn’s brownstone belt was perceived 50 or 60 years ago, or perhaps heading for decline and abandonment.  I see these neighborhoods all over the country, in places that were generally built for the non-rich after the ascendance of the automobile and now more than 50 years old themselves.  These are the areas that have been plagued by foreclosures and abandoned houses since the previous housing bubble burst in 2008.   Can the Brooklyn experience, the way buildings and neighborhoods were reused, be replicated there?  That’s the subject of my next post.

The entire text from the “Brownstone Revival” text of the 1969 plan follows.  If nothing else, it shows how much can change in 50 years – from “pioneers” to “gentrifiers” to housing virtually no one can afford in two thirds of a lifetime.

______________________________________________________________

Plan For New York City 1969:  A Proposal, Volume 1 Critical Issues

 The New York City Planning Commission

The Brownstone Revival

Of their own free will, in the face of considerable odds and dire predictions, a growing number of younger people have been expending great amounts of psychic energy and borrowed money on the purchase and remodeling of old brownstones in beat-up neighborhoods. The people are of all kinds – artists, writers, professionals, junior executives, civil servants, returned suburbanites.  What binds them is a dogged common sense.  They like the city and in their old brownstones they have found a way to live there in spaciousness and style at a reasonable cost, close to their jobs and close to challenge.

The frontier is to be found in brownstone rows that have gone badly to seed as rooming houses. In Manhattan, this is the East Village, the Upper West Side and southern Harlem, which by any rational standard should be one of the choicest luxury areas of all.  There are still a few individual houses still to be redone in Chelsea, Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side, but most of the blocks have long since been upgraded and the prices are beyond belief.

The great reservoir is in Brooklyn.  Brooklyn Heights has been almost completely renovated, splendidly so, but to the south and east lie large areas with potentials still to be tapped: Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and the southeast portion of Bedford Stuyvesant.  Adjoining Prospect Park is Park Slope, 100-odd square blocks of some of the finest brownstones ever built anywhere, and externally mostly untouched.

Brownstones were the development houses of their day.  The design evolved as an Italiante version of the earlier Federal rowhouse and was executed with considerable grace and simplicity in the early, custom-built examples.  Beginning in the 1870s, speculative builders picked up the design, heavified it, squeezed down the width and applied it to the subdivisions there were building on undeveloped blocks of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Save for some individual homes put up for wealthy people, architects were not used.  The developers usually had an underpaid draftsman work up a stock plan and they built the houses with components that were virtually prefabricated. Small factories all over the city were buys turning out standard mantles, skylights, banisters, fireplaces, lowered shutters, moldings and other artifacts now so highly prized as examples of old world craftsmanship.  The brownstone facing was shipped in from quarries in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Architects and people of tasted universally scorned the brownstones for their plainness and they constantly remarked on the lugubrious brown cast the rows and rows of brownstones gave the city.  By the 1890s, to their relief, the brownstone wave was spent.  The buildings that then began to go up are today referred to as brownstones but they were usually faced with limestone or yellow brick, and were more elaborate in their detailing.  Exteriors were quite fanciful, with many with bow fronts and ornate stone carving and ironwork; inside there were 40-foot living rooms with parquet floors, mahogany paneling, stained glass and marble top basis in the bathrooms.  Park Slope is particularly rich in such houses.

For all around adaptability, however, the stock brownstone is the best.  It is the basic rowhouse, and this is a form from 18thcentury London that has been hard to botch.  Most brownstones are 16 to 24 feet wide and built about 50 or 60 feet deep in a 100-foot lot.  Four stories or five (note – or 2 ½ or 3 ½ stores in most of Brooklyn), they lend themselves well to division into duplexes and floor-through apartments.  (For such conversions the high stoops are very functional; they do away with the need for an extra stairway on the first floor and by virtue of a break in the upward journey make a 2ndfloor seem like a 1st, a 3rdlike a 2nd).

On the lower floors ceilings are 10 feet or more high and there are fireplaces throughout. Some of the builders were rascals, but the buildings have stood up remarkably well and the thickness of the walls and plaster make them far more soundproof than today’s luxury apartments.  The relative simplicity of the interior makes remodeling much easier, psychologically as well as structurally, than in limestone houses, and owners are not in thrall to Victoriana.

The former backyards are highly functional.  They make excellent gardens for people on the ground floor and in some blocks they have been massed to provide a commons for all the residents.  The relationship of open spaces to the buildings makes for an intimate scale and it provides for everyone that most vulnerable of city amenities, sunlight through the windows.

Because of the space and scale, these blocks look like they have very low density.  In actual fact, they house a surprisingly large number of people per acre.  Some high-rise public housing projects do not average much more.

The uniformity that once made the brownstone blocks so monotonous now works as a base for variation.  Facades can be refashioned every which way; in lower-middle-class areas stone veneers may be favored; elsewhere fronts may be done up in with brick, plaster, painted anything from buff to pink, or, as in some upper-brow blocks, faced with brown stone.  Whatever the variations, however, the cornice and the window lines are usually unchanged and thus the blocks can absorb a lot of idiosyncrasy and yet retain an underlying unity that is quite pleasant.

But the obstacles are enormous.  “There is more courage going into a brownstone,” says a real estate man, “than going west in a covered wagon.”  The simile is justified.  Buying into a run down neighborhood takes a large act of faith that it will indeed get better and plenty of stamina to wait out the improvement.  While brownstoners tend to be very proud that they are mixed up with low income people, the diversity can cause cultural shock.

The toughest obstacle is money – real money, cash in hand.  A brownstone buyer has to put up a large proportion of the purchase price in cash – generally somewhere around 30 percent.  Getting mortgage money for the balance, furthermore, is very difficult.  Bankers are much less venturesome about neighborhood upgrading than brownstoners and in some areas will not grant any mortgages at all.  Federal mortgage guarantee programs that make home buying so easy in the suburbs do not apply to the brownstoner.

Getting financing for the renovation job is just as difficult.  The job itself, furthermore, can be exasperatingly long and expensive.  The brownstoner must deal with a host of contractors and craftsmen and they have a disconcerting tendency to walk off the job at critical junctures.  Few renovations can occur with something going very wrong.

There is much encouragement to be taken from these difficulties.  If brownstoners have done what they have done in the face of them, it is staggering to think of what could be done if the major difficulties were removed.  The financing and tax abatement measures proposed in this plan will not solve all the brownstoners’ problems, but it will give them the break they deserve.  We cannot think of a more galvanic investment the City could make.

Even now, the benefits of brownstone rehabilitation warrant its ordeals.  While financing charges have been steep, the rise in values has been steeper.  Owners do have the benefits of homeownership for income tax deductions and if they rent one or more apartments the income can more than cover their carrying charges.

In retrospect yesterday’s outrageous prices can seem a steal.  In 1967, to cite one case history, a middle management executive purchased a four story Brooklyn Brownstone for $8,000 cash on a purchase price of $43,000 (note – that’s $324,415 in $2018).  He and his wife and three small daughters live on three floors.  They have a bedroom for each child, a guest room, a large family room, a small office and a laundry in addition to the living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom. They also have a backyard for the children to play in.  One floor they rent.  The income from this, the amortization and the tax savings substantially offset the total costs (two mortgages, oil, electricity, real estate taxes and maintenance) and the couple’s net cost per month is only $130 (note — $981 in $2018).  The market value of the house has risen substantially.

There is big potential in cooperative renovation schemes.  On West 93rdStreet in Manhattan, a group of friends organized a cooperative and bought from the city nine brownstones slated for demolition.  Architects drew up a plan for ingeniously remodeling the whole row as one structure.  The individual facades have been more or less kept intact, but inside, the old party walls have been broken through and 34 separate apartments constructed.  A landscaped garden in the rear provides a common area.

With the kind of financing aid we propose (note – never adopted because the city went broke) cooperative schemes should be increasingly ventured.  Other possibilities are simple partnership arrangements or the division of brownstones into condominiums.

One of the benefits brownstoners like to dwell upon is their sense of community.  Through block and neighborhood associations they are forever whipping up cooperative efforts for everything from tree planting to building fires under a local politician.

This leads to another benefit:  self esteem. People who live in brownstones are proud because they are homeowners.  They are proud of being culturally in tune with the city, proud that their neighborhood has so many different types of people. They are proud most of all of the difficulties they face.  They are, they like to believe, the new pioneers.

6 thoughts on “Flexibility and The Missing Middle

  1. Richard Layman

    Gosh, re your point about Amazon, my thought besides Philadelphia was maybe Newark… But yes, the impact on the housing market, which they said was important to them, clearly didn’t factor in.

    Lots of links to previous pieces here: http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2018/11/crystal-city-arlington-as-amazon-one.html

    But yes, as you say, … what did we know.

    2. Yes, very good point to distinguish between these key cities and others. I wrote about this wrt the recent Minneapolis change.

  2. Pingback: Revitalizing Aging One-Family Neighborhoods With Flexibility | Saying the Unsaid in New York

  3. Richard Layman

    Then there is the issue that you write about, currently regulations and the ability to add units to existing properties. This is similarly complicated, not just by nimbyism, but cost. The cost to build such units either within existing buildings or on lots, given the need for separate mechanicals, cost of utility hookups, etc., isn’t cheap, maybe up to $200,000/unit. The time for ROI relative to how long people own houses, mortgage approvals, financing etc. is considerable. The average owner occupant isn’t going to pursue this unless they have lots of money lying around in search of better returns.

    OTOH, it does pay for a low level developer to do this, because they can convert all the units to owner occupied and sell them off. But that creates long term property management issues. But they are addressable at least with broken up rowhouses. I think having separately owned ADUs on a “single property” is likely to be more problematic, and main unit dwellers aren’t likely to be willing to buy a property under these conditions.

  4. Richard Layman

    The failure in a lot of this thinking is to distinguish between “missing middle” as a building type vs. an income issue. In DC and the core of the Washington metropolitan area, the reality is that we have a lot of “missing middle” housing as a type. But because housing demand is significantly higher than supply, these dwelling units have been bid up on access and location criteria beyond what they would normally be worth in terms of size and amenities.

    http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2018/12/minneapolis-eliminates-single-family.html

    1. larrylittlefield Post author

      New York, Boston, DC, California — the issues are different here. Basically, the problem is more places like this need to be created, because the collapse of urban America in the 1970s means the demand exceeds the supply.

      Taking Amazon.com at their word, I had predicted (writing reports in my job) that they would choose Philadelphia, the most affordable large metro on the Northeast Corridor. That city’s proposed site was right at the 30th Street Amtrak and commuter rail station, with commuting connections to the entire region and Philadelphia International Airport and a short Amtrak ride to both Washington and Manhattan.

      Instead, they chose two locations across the rivers from Washington and Manhattan. Mooooo. The same bovine herd instincts that led cities to be abandoned at one time is now concentrating activity in a few locations, to everyone’s detriment.

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