Fortune editor and public speaker Gallagher presents illuminating, persuasive data on the recent preference for vibrant city life over softer suburbia.
An admitted West Village “city girl,” the author reminisces about her “almost comically idyllic” childhood in suburban Media, Pa., and then smoothly examines how attitudes about the upholstered American dream of life in a bedroom community with “a house and a yard” have permanently shifted. She attributes this urban renaissance to several factors: lengthy, impractical commutes; environmental consciousness; an influx of poverty-stricken citizens into the suburbs forcing the wealthy to the city; changing familial demographics; and, most importantly, the economic crash that either plunged many mortgage-bound homeowners underwater or made them fear foreclosure. This point is highlighted best with Gallagher’s story of her drive through a once-flourishing subdivision in Las Vegas, now riddled with foreclosed homes poorly camouflaged by desperate realtors. The author presents suburbia from a historical perspective that’s entertaining and educative and juxtaposes the old with the new using unfiltered opinions from builders, homeowners, “sprawl refugees” who fight for suburban redevelopment, and developers pushing rural, mixed-use “city replicas.” Though she focuses on a marked downturn in suburban affinity, Gallagher’s reportage is evenhanded and comprehensively researched. In fairness, she notes that there are a large number of suburbs attempting their own reinvention in an effort to adapt to the changing climate of smaller communities and the myriad challenges they face. Good or bad, “a new kind of Great Migration is taking place,” though the author admits it’s still too early to elaborate further on any concrete solutions for those still harboring that pastoral American dream.
A somewhat melancholic reality report made pleasant and palatable by the author’s congenial delivery and promising vision.