The New American Dream
Robert Steuteville has a great post up on Better Cities & Towns somewhat based on Benjamin Ross's new book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism. He explains how the old American Dream of keeping up with the Joneses now has significant competition from the new American Dream:
In terms of the built environment, America has two competing dreams. One has the advantage of the status quo with all of the systems and policies that go with it. But the emerging one is arguably more powerful. It is better aligned with the market. It has better return on investment. It positions a community to succeed. It is the way of the future.
Everyone has a right to pursue their own dream. But they don't have a right to exclusion, protection, or subsidy. These dreams can compete on a level playing field. Let the best dream win.
The old American Dream of keeping up with the Joneses built the suburbs. The new one could rebuild our cities, towns, and neighborhoods and revitalize the suburbs for our children.
What we see happening in Mountlake Terrace confirms what a recent Time article described:
Young people are interested in a different kind of life than earlier generations it seems. Unlike their parents, who calculated their worth in terms of square feet, ultimately inventing the McMansion, […] this generation is more interested in the amenities of the city itself: great public spaces, walkability, diverse people and activities with which they can participate.
Even looking at development outside Town Center in Mountlake Terrace we see that large-single family lots with McMansions is not the norm any longer. Two examples are the cottage housing development w/ 9 homes ranging from 1,000 to 1,600 square feet, and 30+ small lots homes being built on the former City Church property. The developer of the City Church property, Sundquist Homes, even alludes to the changing housing preferences in their pre-application submittal to the City: "The urbanizing South County region has been undergoing a gradual transition for at least 15-20 years from traditional large lot suburban development to a more compact living environment that recognizes the shrinking availability of land, tethered to the more mobile lifestyle of live-commute homeowners."