19th-Century Mill in a 20th-Century Suburb
Defunct industrial revolution-era properties litter the northeast, their redevelopment stymied by high overhead costs of land cleanup and building rehabilitation. Originally sited near water sources to capture the hydroelectric energy that powered historic manufacturing processes, they languish distant from the urban knowledge centers generating wealth and opportunity in the twenty-first century.
Neglect aggravates wasting, blight conditions, compounding costs and depressing values of contiguous properties and area wide. These campus-scale factories of production long since outmoded, relocated, and/or off-shored drag down the very communities they once not only proudly supported but in most cases, as beacons of opportunity, created.
In the aftermath of the financial collapse, with urban knowledge centers attracting (and retaining) talent, 20th-century suburbs struggle as their economic raison d’être — proximity to retreat-like corporate office parks — vacate for city street vitality.
Hard-hit exurban communities assumed their collapsing home values were caused by a market correction, albeit brutal, that would stabilize and recover, given time. For many homeowners, values continue to fall or are stagnant. Those who bought at the peak of the subprime market remain, more than a decade later, underwater, stranded in communities whose outmoded templates have lost favor.
Private car dependency for long-haul commutes on congested roads is rejected in favor of walkable communities with mobility options mixing cycling, public transit, ride-sharing, on-demand, and car-sharing services.
Education priorities are likewise evolving. Suburban schools in campus-like settings, modeled after corporate office parks, are similarly cocooned from their own communities let alone the vibrant contestation of ideas at play in urban counterparts. Test-prepped graduates, once a ticket to top-tier schools, are groomed for a society increasingly skeptical of rules-based learning. In the A.I. future, robots win before you can say “S.A.T.”
As urbanist Jane Jacobs observed, “When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.”
“When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.”– Jane Jacobs
Wasting nineteenth-century assets in stranded twentieth-century assets in communities with aging demographics and declining populations creates a turducken of debt, loss, and overhead primed for twenty-first-century reinvention and value creation.