The Childless City

From City Journal:

Here is an article that explores a phenomenon that we are seeing sweep over central Austin as real estate prices escalate: childless neighborhoods occupied by wealthy seniors and hipsters.

I found the focus on green space particularly interesting:

"Families are also deeply attracted to open space. The great Frederick Law Olmsted–designed New York parks, including Prospect Park in Flatbush, are enormous assets for families without backyards. Irvine may lack stunning urban architecture and glorious cathedrals, but it has a magnificent park system that gives residents ideal settings for recreation, exercise, and family gatherings. “It’s an environment that is clean and nice and open to everyone,” says Veronika Kim, a mother of three and an apartment tenant in Woodbury, an Irvine neighborhood. “You can walk there with the kids and let them play. Even if you rent, you don’t feel like an outsider.” The parks are good not only for kids but for adults—for example, the members of the Woodbury Woodies, who play softball every week against teams from other neighborhoods. “There’s a deep sense of community here,” says Woody regular Julian Forniss. “Softball is part of that.” On the site of a former Marine Corps base, Irvine and Orange County are developing a “Great Park” that will be twice the size of New York’s 840-acre Central Park.

Other family-friendly cities have embarked on ambitious park and open-space projects as well. In Raleigh, North Carolina, the nearly completed $30 million Neuse River Greenway Trail cuts through 28 miles of forest. Houston’s $480 million Bayou Greenways project will eventually add some 4,000 acres of green space across the city, from the downtown to the outer suburbs, including 300 miles of continuous hiking and bike trails. Houston’s rival, Dallas, is planning a vast 6,000-acre park.

What families need is more affordable urban neighborhoods with decent schools, safe streets, adequate parks—and more housing space. As New York University’s Shlomo Angel points out, virtually all major cities worldwide are growing outward more than inward—and becoming less dense in the process—because density drives families away from urban cores and toward less dense peripheries. The lesson is clear: if cities want families, they should promote a mixture of density options.

The solution is not to wage war on suburbia, as urbanists have been doing for years. Following the notions that Jane Jacobs advanced a half-century ago, contemporary urbanists argue that high density creates a stronger sense of community. (Jacobs once opined that raising children in the suburbs had to be difficult, somehow overlooking how families were flocking to those suburbs.) But that contention isn’t self-evident. The University of California’s Jan Brueckner and Ann Largey conducted 15,000 interviews across the country and found that for every 10 percent drop in population density, the likelihood of someone’s talking to his neighbor once a week went up 10 percent, regardless of race, income, education, marital status, or age."