The suburbs didn't die — just short-circuited

 

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that we were all celebrating the death of the suburbs? Both Millennials and Boomers, and perhaps many of those in between, were headed for the walkable, vibrant urban core. We would bulldoze no more desert for McMansions; sunflowers would invade exurban golf courses; and the expressways built to accommodate mind-numbing commutes would be taken over by bicycles. All those homogenous homes out in the fringes would be abandoned.

But wait. The paradigm has shifted yet again! Or so it seems. In Census bureau data released May 22 on population growth in metropolitan areas, the Wall Street Journal found “Signs of a Suburban Comeback:”

The long tug of war between big cities and suburbs is tilting ever so slightly back to the land of lawns and malls. After two years of solid urban growth, more Americans are moving again to suburbs and beyond.

The fastest growing towns of over 50,000 could be considered suburban or even exurban, and many of them are in the West. A quick glance at the list would lead one to conclude that our growth patterns are heading right back to where they were before the housing crash, and that rumors of the death of suburbia were wildly exaggerated. Western ‘urbs in the top 10 for percentage of growth from 2012 to 2013 include:

  • South Jordan, Utah — a suburb or even exurb of Salt Lake City — placed third nationally after a couple of Texas towns, growing by a whopping six percent and adding 3,400 people;
  • In fifth place is Lehi, Utah, another city along the sprawling Wasatch Front/Salt Lake metro zone. It added 2,842 to its population, for a growth rate of 5.5 percent;
  • Goodyear, Arizona, a sort of poster child for Phoenix-area leapfrog development, was number six, with a 4.8 percent growth rate, adding 3,308 people;
  • And Meridian, Idaho, a suburb of Boise, was in 10th place, adding 3,187 people for a growth rate of four percent.