Fascinating article by The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee on a shift happening in North American cities: where prior the white collar professionals lived in the suburbs -- leaving downtown for the recently immigrated and the poor -- a "reversal of the flight to the suburbs" is on. People are moving back and revitalizing the downtown core filled with people who "enjoy the buzz of urban life."
Alan Ehrenhalt begins his book on the transformation of American cities with a story about Chicago. In the winter of 1979, a big snowstorm made the roads impassable. Suburbanites who usually drove downtown to work decided to avoid the highways and take the commuter train instead. The train cars were so crowded that the poorer, mainly black and Hispanic, residents of the inner city couldn't get on. Their anger helped unseat the incumbent mayor of Chicago.
If a similar storm were to hit today, writes Mr. Ehrenhalt, something quite different would happen. The commuters crowding onto the train at the end of the line in the northwest suburbs would be mostly immigrants and minorities. Those who would be left stranded on station platforms nearer to downtown would be well-off professionals.
This is what the author calls the "great inversion." A massive shift in city life is reversing the flight to the suburbs that unfolded in the decades after the Second World War. Affluent people are flooding into central cities -- filling up condominium and apartment towers, settling in converted warehouse lofts and renovating old row houses or worker cottages in down-at-heel neighbourhoods. Most immigrants no longer follow the old pattern of settling first in cheap, crowded inner-city housing then moving up to a suburban bungalow when they can afford it. They are heading straight to the 'burbs.
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