In 1980, an independent film called "Suburbia" flew beneath everyone's radar -- everyone except for those young punk rockers interested in the music and quasi-sociology of D.I., the Adolescents and other SoCal bands. One of the things that struck me when I saw the film way back when was the vast wasteland of suburban tract housing outside of L.A. that had become the late 1970s refuge of punks, squatters and stray dogs.
World Changing's recent post about suburbs as the slum of the future suggests that new trends are emerging that may suck the life out of the new suburban sprawl that surrounds America's larger cities. The trends -- long-term things like demographics and consumer demand, as well as short-term drivers like the current economic slowdown and mortgage crisis -- will definitely have an impact on Richmond, but I'm guessing they won't be as extreme as in other parts of the country (the Washington metro area, for instance).
In fact, the City of Richmond stands to benefit from the trends which see more and more people moving back into higher density urban environments. Recent reports that Richmond's population has finally climbed back above 200,000 are one indication that demographics are working in urban Richmond's favor.
"It's vitally important," said Rachel O. Flynn, Richmond's director of community development.
"When you think about it, we're the only country in the world that has abandoned our cities and actually seen decreases in population, and now we've come full circle. . . . It builds confidence in our vitality, and hope for the future."
"This is great news for the city," said Jack Berry, executive director of Venture Richmond, which promotes downtown. "It indicates the city's becoming a more attractive place to live."
He said the urban lifestyle is attracting young professionals and empty nesters to a downtown with 6,000-plus residents.
John V. Moeser of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond said the latest census figure breaks a long-term decline.
"People have been talking for some time about the significant influx of people who are living downtown and on the river," said Moeser, professor emeritus of urban studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. "One has to assume it's that influx that's kicked up the census to that level."