This Land: Development in America

THU, MAY 4, 2006 (1:04:38)

Anthony Flint argues that, despite a modest revival in city living, Americans are spreading out more than ever into “exurbs” and “boomburbs” miles from anywhere, in big houses in big subdivisions. They cling to the notion of safer neighborhoods and better schools, but what they get is long commutes, crushing gas prices and higher taxes, and a landscape of strip malls and office parks badly in need of a makeover. This Land tells the untold story of development in America: how the landscape is shaped by a clash of political, economic, and cultural forces. It is the story of a burgeoning anti-sprawl movement, a 1960s-style revolution of New Urbanism, smart growth, and green building. And it is the story of landowners fighting back on the basis of property rights, with free-market libertarians, homebuilders, road pavers, financial institutions, and even the lawn-care industry right alongside them. The subdivisions and extra-wide roadways are encroaching into the wetlands of Florida, ranchlands in Texas, and the desert outside Phoenix and Las Vegas. But with 120 million more people in the country by 2050, will the spread-out pattern cave in on itself? Could Americans embrace a new approach to development if it made sense for them?

+ BIO: Anthony Flint

Anthony Flint is Director of Public Affairs at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think-tank based in Cambridge, Mass., where he is engaged in writing and research about urbanism and development patterns. He is author of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City. He has been a newspaper journalist for twenty years, primarily at The Boston Globe, where he covered urban planning, development, architecture and transportation, and had a weekly column on urban design and public space. He has also published papers on planning and transit for the Rappaport Institute of Greater Boston at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a chapter on planning in the book Governing Greater Boston. A graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, he served in 2005-2006 as education director at the Office for Commonwealth Development, the Massachusetts agency coordinating housing, transportation, environment and energy.

Boston Athenaeum