Yesterday, the New York Times published an opinion piece by David Brooks called "I Dream of Denver." The piece, based on the late January news on what cities Americans want to live in, calls into question what Americans want from their cities, from density and from their lifestyle.
Reading the piece, I kept thinking about how the descriptions of how people want to
live are quintessentially Seattle culture. One thing Americans want, the article says, is a stuffed garage "filled with skis, kayaks, soccer equipment, hiking boots and boating equipment. These are places you can imagine yourself leading an active outdoor life." If that's not Seattle, I don't know what is. Then again, Seattle was named third on the list of cities Americans would most want to live in.
This sentiment, of people from other cities knowing Seattle and identifying with it, never struck me harder than at the U.S. Green Building Council's 2008 Greenbuild conference in Boston when faced with a trio of reporters from the Eastern half of North America. When I said I was from Seattle, all three of them (two from New York City and one from Toronto, I believe) all sighed and said, "I want to live in Seattle!"
One of the New Yorkers went so far as to say, "Everyone wants to live in Seattle." Which stuck me as funny because from my experience, everyone wants to live in New York. And when going to college in Boston, nobody I spoke with had really ever heard of Seattle.
The reporter went on to say that once people realize they can have an urban lifestyle ... and not live in an apartment, they fall in love.
(Not sure if they also fell in love with this city's must-have-a-car mentality or the lack of a subway but that's a different story.)
The mix of home-life and city-life has always been my favorite thing about Seattle. But the NYT opinion piece points out that urban-living is still an ideal of the young, and I am in that demographic. Even here in Seattle, there seems to be a large amount of baby boomer residents who just want more space, whether it be in another state, on one of the islands or in a more spacious city neighborhood. My mother, for example, recalls the excitement of living in urban Chicago in her youth but now wants nothing more than a remote log cabin in Montana.
Is the desire to live in an urban environment a sentiment of youth? Will we, like our parents prefer to retire in a more remote space? ... or is it generational? Will today's younger generations (meaning Xers, Yers....etc.) still idealize open space and isolation or will we choose density?
What do you think? Comment below or answer my poll at right.
P.S. If you read the NYT article, also check out the comments. They're pretty interesting.