Add another distinction to those collected by Naperville over the last 15 years:
Naperville has been ranked the richest city in the Midwest in a list by personal finance website NerdWallet.
The city topped the region — and came in at No. 19 in the nation — in the rankings announced Monday…
NerdWallet rated cities with at least 65,000 people based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Zillow Research and credit bureau Experian.
In the Midwest, the runner-up — Carmel, Indiana — bested Naperville in only one category, with a median household income of $109,375, according to NerdWallet.
For its size – over 140,000 people – Naperville is unusually well-off with a high household income, a low poverty rate, and plenty of good white-collar jobs. There are certainly wealthier communities in the Chicago region and the Midwest but many of them are quite small and have little interest in growth.
How did Naperville get to this point? Two articles I have published help explain the suburb’s rise: a 2013 article in Urban Affairs Review that compares Naperville’s growth to West Chicago and Wheaton and a 2015 article in the Journal of Urban History that examines narratives about Naperville’s growth.
With the plans for a 150-story Chicago building postponed or dead, the massive hole in the ground is going to be harder to see:
It was supposed to be a strutting 150-story lakefront symbol of the city’s virility — but eight years after construction of the Chicago Spire skyscraper ground to a halt, the gaping hole where it was to have stood has instead become an enduring reminder of the Great Recession.
So owner Related Midwest is now hiding the unsightly circular hole that would have formed the foundation of the world’s second-tallest building behind a pile of dirt.
Workers last week started moving dirt to form a landscaped berm that will block the view of the 110-foot diameter hole from a row of 10 Streeterville row homes on the 400 block of East Water Street…
The screen, which won’t be tall enough to block the view of the hole from nearby high-rise buildings, is simply “the neighborly thing to do,” Anderson said on Tuesday, declining to comment on Related Midwest’s long-term plans for the land.
There could be a variety of reasons for blocking views of this large hole:
- The city requires such changes.
- People have complained about this, either because it is a safety issue or it harms property values.
- The company has some plans or changes they don’t want to broadcast.
- The empty hole in the ground is a negative symbol that reflects poorly on the property and Chicago.
We tend to like stories of large skyscrapers that succeed against all obstacles. They fit with narratives of endless urban growth, humans producing technological marvels, reaching for the heavens, and serve as symbols of power and wealth. Recently, I had my class watch part of Episode 8 (“The Center of the World”) of the PBS documentary New York which details the decades long effort to build the World Trade Centers which were not needed but came to be important markers. Yet, there are certainly stories of significant building projects that failed or never got off the ground. These are rarely told or there is little physical evidence that something went wrong. A large hole in the ground present for years suggests something didn’t work out and few corporations, planners, or urban officials would want to be reminded of this.
If water supplies are dwindling, should cities or farmers get more of the water? One writer suggests Arizona has made a clear choice for cities:
The shift away from irrigated agriculture in Arizona hasn’t come without a fight. By some measures, farmers are still winning. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, more than two-thirds of Arizona’s water is still used to irrigate fields, down from a peak of 90 percent last century.
Decades ago, state officials in Arizona begin to plan for a future without water—and that meant sacrificing agriculture for future urban growth. A massive civil engineering project in the 1960s diverted part of the Colorado River to feed Phoenix and Tucson. Those cities could not exist in their current state without this unnatural influx of Rocky Mountain snowmelt. Now there’s tension across the region, as the realities of climate change and extreme weather catch up with the business-as-usual agricultural bedrock that laid the foundation for the economy here.
Hopefully, future dispatches in this series about water and drought in the Southwest will begin to address the normative questions: what is the proper ratio of water for cities and farmers? Is it necessarily bad if farmers can’t produce as much in Arizona and California (could more be produced elsewhere, do farmers need to shift to new crops, etc.)? Both farming and urban growth have changed the natural water patterns in the region but does one have a stronger claim to the water in the long run?
A new study of San Diego’s development suggests five factors that lead to city growth:
According to Walshok and Shragge, five major characteristics of civic culture are necessary to move forward:
1) A risk-oriented culture adept at managing uncertainty. A central feature of San Diego’s experimental history and prevalence of small industries is a civic culture and business community that embraces risk.
2) Entrepreneurial talent: Civic leaders, scientists, business professional. San Diego’s long history of creating opportunities for people who want to challenge the status quo or create something new has resulted in an unusually large aggregation of entrepreneurial civic, business, and scientific leaders.
3) Integrative civic platforms. San Diego’s civic culture is highly inclusive, cross-functional and interdisciplinary. Institutions that span the boundaries between communities of ideas and practice have proliferated; in many other regions such entities continue to be siloed.
4) Multiple gateways through which ideas and opportunities can be developed. There is no one Establishment, Inc., in San Diego. There are actually many centers of gravity vis-a-vis leadership and access to resources. San Diego is characterized by an open innovation environment that allows people to easily move among social groups and within hierarchies.
5) A culture of reinvestment: Time and money. The absence of multinational corporations until recently, the century-long reliance on the federal government as a key customer, and the lack of accumulated family wealth have required a civic culture characterized by people investing significant amounts of personal time and resources to achieve civic goals. This is enhanced by the fact that those who come to San Diego stay because of their attachment to the place.
Sounds interesting for two reasons:
1. This sounds like a combination of the creative class bringing in new talent, ideas, and business and a committed growth machine of business and civic leaders. If this works in San Diego, the next question to ask is whether this particular combination and set of circumstances is generalizable to other cities.
2. San Diego doesn’t get much attention in urban sociology. Although it has the 8th largest population in the United States (and 17th largest metropolitan area), it is dwarfed by nearby Los Angeles, is all the way at the corner of the country, and doesn’t stand out for any particular reason outside of fantastic weather.
We had a chance to spend a few days in San Diego a few years ago and enjoyed some of the sights including the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the USS Midway. Here is the view toward the city from the deck of the USS Midway:
We enjoyed our visit though it required a lot of driving around.
The suburb of Rosemont, Illinois has changed quite a bit in recent decades with a strong push from local leaders:
“Now Rosemont pretty much has everything people need,” Stephens said. “There is no need to go to downtown Chicago.”
That’s essentially been the philosophy of Rosemont since its incorporation in 1956. The village covers only 2.5 square miles. But it’s blessed with being at the center of a transportation hub. It’s in the shadows of O’Hare International Airport. It stands at the convergence of I-90 and I-294. And it has a stop on the CTA’s Blue Line el.
Donald Stephens’ ambition was to convince travelers to O’Hare that they didn’t need to go to Chicago. So he built hotels and restaurants, the Donald A. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena), Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont Stadium for softball, Muvico 18, a movie multiplex, and MB Financial Park, a de-facto town square filled with restaurants and entertainment venues, including a bowling alley and ice skating rink…
Beyond a great location, Rosemont made the decision early on that it wanted to attract commercial development, said Steve Hovany, president of Strategy Planning Association, a Schaumburg-based real estate consulting firm.
This sounds like a classic case of the political economy model for urban growth. One key family, now spanning two separate mayors, made decisions alongside business and local leaders to pursue economic growth. They made use of an existing advantage in the community, being located near transportation options, and attracted new opportunities. The only piece missing from the article is some explanation from the leaders themselves why they did all of this. Just to put Rosemont on the map? Or, to make money for leaders as well as the community who then benefits quite a bit from property and sales taxes (items many suburbs wish they had).
Here is a series of maps that show both the growth and decline of Detroit over its history. When looking at these maps, I’m reminded that it is quite difficult to talk about either the rise or decline of a major city just by discussing raw numbers, such as population increases or losses or economic figures, or photographs. For example, we could talk about the rise of Houston in recent decades and contrast this to the sharp population decrease in Detroit. Moving past statistics, we could include photographs of a city. Detroit has been photographed many times in recent years with often bleak scenes illustrating economic and social decline.
In some middle ground between numbers and photos and in-depth analysis (of which there does not seem to be much about Detroit recently – the mainstream media has primarily focused on short snippets of information) are maps. A good map has sufficient information to provide a top-down approach to the city and give some indication of the city’s infrastructure. Additionally, it is much easier today to provide multiple layers of mapped information based on Census data and other sources. Growth is relatively easy to see as new streets and points of interest starting showing up. On the other hand, decline might be harder to show as the streets may be empty and the points of interest might be decaying. Still, a current map shows the scope of the problem facing Detroit: it is population and economic decline plus a large chunk of land and structures that is difficult to maintain.
All together, I’m advocating for more widespread use of maps in reporting on and discussions about cities, whether they are struggling or thriving. Maps can help us move beyond seeing vacant houses or economic developments and take in the big picture all at once.
Urban growth and building can occur at a very quick pace. The population growth and building in Chicago in the late 1800s was tremendous. BusinessInsider has two pictures that show the rapid construction that took place in one part of Shanghai between 1990 and 2010.
The pictures are fascinating in themselves. But an explanation of exactly what happened and how it happened would be even better.
h/t The Infrastructurist