Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Is Suburbia coming back? Did it ever go away? What does it mean for Reston?

The Atlantic has a major article on the demographic shifts in the nation's urban areas.  It's headline pretty much tells the story:

American Cities Are Booming—For Rich Young College Grads Without Kids

Everybody else is moving to the suburbs.

And the opening to the article amplifies the theme.
Americans aren’t moving back to the cities. Just 20- and 30-somethings.
But actually, not all 20- and 30-somethings are moving back to the cities. Only those with a four-year college degree and incomes in the top 40 percent are.
And not even all 20- and 30-somethings with a four-year college degree and incomes in the top 40 percent are moving back into cities. Mostly the ones without school-age kids are.
And if you thought that was it, it turns out that not all 20- and 30-somethings with a four-year college degree in the top 40 percent of income without school-age children are moving back into cities. It’s mostly just the ones that are white.
Such is the Russian nesting doll of myth-busting from the housing researcher Jed Kolko in a post today on urbanization. There was a period, shortly after the collapse of the housing bubble, when it really did look like the United States might collapse back into dense cities, in a dramatic return to pre-1950s America. Instead, it turns out that America isn’t ready to abandon the suburban project. They just like sun and space too much. In fact, most American cities wouldn’t even be growing today if not for immigration. . . .
And ends:
In the meantime, if you are a 20- or 30-something white college graduate without children earning more than 60 percent of the country, it might seem to you like everybody is moving to the cities. That might be because the only micro-demographic that’s pouring into cities is the one that perfectly describes you.
The demographic group this article does not seem adequately to address are empty-nest seniors who may be looking for smaller residences in an environment with all of life's needs within easy walking distance--and maybe even a chance to take advantage of the excitement of urban living.  

All of that suggests Reston is ideally situated to take advantage of the shifts in living patterns among America's many demographics.  If they can afford it, Reston's evolving Metro station areas offer the urban living experience for childless young adults, without many of the pitfalls of actually living in a city; hence, Restonian refers to it as our "fake downtown gritty urban core."  It offers (and will offer more) high-rise living, rental and condo, in everything from one-room efficiencies to three-bedroom luxury dwelling units.  Metrorail, if it becomes a reliable and safe transit service once again, will offer easy access to jobs in Tysons, WDC, or elsewhere on its many routes.  Certainly the dining is there (and more will come) and more nightlife, cultural, shopping, and other urban amenities are on their way. 

Reston also offers suburban living no matter what your lifestyle choice--single-family, townhouse, apartment, or condo.  This has been available to Restonians since Reston began along with a wide variety of recreational activities and natural spaces to explore and enjoy.  And the "exciting" urban environment is no more than a 10 minute drive away.

And, as the childless twenty-somethings become 30-something families with small children, they can easily shift from a station area condo to a single-family home elsewhere in Reston.  In fact, some of Reston's neighborhoods (including the one this writer lives in) have undergone a generational change in the last decade.  Ten years ago, there were virtually no children living on our block.  Retirees began moving from the neighborhood, often to warmer Southern climes (something Reston can't offer in the wintertime), and a new generation of young families have moved in.  In this writer's neighborhood, there are now well more than a dozen young children living on our street, including at least four were born here. 

And that's the beauty of Bob Simon's vision of Reston:  There is a place to live for everyone, no matter their age or station in life.  It is one of the key features that helps assure Reston's long-term economic success.  And now, Millennials--once the darlings of urbanologists--are becoming our community's and our country's young families seeking a new way of life--in the suburbs.  All here in Reston.

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