Sunday, July 6, 2008

Suburban Flight: Boomers Heading for Center City

New term in the NYTimes last week: suburban flight. In fact, we know five 60-something couples who have recently sold houses and moved to Centre City Philadelphia, so I think what we're seeing is the demographic bulge of boomers merging with the decreased mystique of suburban, car-dependent life. Real estate prices in the city are higher, so what these moves accomplishe is downsizing space, not housing overhead. But once in the city, the amenities seem to delight people. Less to no yard maintenance (depending on if they've moved to a townhouse or a condo), getting by without a second car thanks to density/walkability/mass transit + PhillyCarShare, local restaurants and culture events galore, and lots of shopping, easily accessed on foot. In fact, urban eco-footprints are much smaller. You might be able to grow your food out in suburbia, but you need to drive miles and miles to run errands. My hunch is that in previous generations, lots of these folks headed to Arizona or Florida. But now people don't fully retire, they just regroup and start new professional endeavors, not hang out fulltime at the clubhouse. Besides, their parents are still hanging out in Florida, living into their 80's and 90's!
Philadelphia's sub-optimal public schools have long driven families out of the city, but the trends of later child-rearing and healthy empty-nest boomers hitting their sixties is creating an inner city renaissance. Better planning has helped, too, like the Avenue of the Arts which has provided more cultural events, followed by restaurants catering to theatre goers.
Will be interesting to see how long it takes for neighborhoods adjacent to Center City, with good infrastructure but lacking in goods and services, to begin to gentrify. And how long it takes for suburban prices, especially in the further out newer 'burbs, to drop.
Big shakeout times ahead.... Are you noticing these trends in your community?


mapgirl said...

You're kidding right? Over the last 15 yrs, the neighborhoods near Center City HAVE gentrified. Queen Village was a mess when I was a kid, and now they have a Whole Foods.

All those hipsters moving down from Brooklyn have transformed 3rd and Arch. To which adjacent neighborhoods are you referring? Northern Liberties? Spring Garden? Lemon Hill? Geez. Even Lemon Hill is nicer than it used to be. I think Philly is a lot nicer now than 15 years ago. Heck Drexel's neighborhood is really wonderful now that construction is cleaned up and the university is growing.

Betsy Teutsch said...

I am thinking mostly of North Philly - the stretches one travels through between Mt Airy and Center City. The housing stock is nice, but the 'hoods are a mess....

Anonymous said...

If real estate prices are higher in the city, why are ghettoes usually found in cities?