There seems to be a constant debate over the migration of people living in suburbs back into the city core. On the one hand, you have urban life advocates believing in the resurgence of the city claiming that urban sprawl is a thing of the past. Their urban renaissance is marked with a massive movement back to America’s urban centers transforming suburbs into the “new slums” as people abandon them in favor of dense urban centers. But, in our area, statistics crush these dreams of an urban utopia pointing to continued suburban growth. According to the Williamson County Association of Realtors, for example, the number of single-family residential closings increased by 22.9% in November 2014 compared to November 2013. That is a 15% increase over November 2012. As sales data shows us, the great migration back into the cities has not occurred adding fuel to the suburbanite argument favoring less traffic, less crime, and less density.
Limiting this debate to urban vs. suburban is short sighted and misses the point. The discussion should be centered around the type of communities people prefer. We are seeing a rising demand in city-style living relative to the traditional suburban lifestyle. Consumer preference continues to point to neighborhoods that are walkable, bikeable, and public transportation oriented with housing close to amenities. In addition to investing in infrastructure, communities should also focus on attracting employers, having top-notch schools, and providing cultural amenities for residents.
Economic development efforts in the Williamson County area seem to be paying off as large employers like Mars and Nissan have moved their headquarters to this area. Brentwood schools are rated as some of the top in the country. In addition to local favorites like 55 South, Franklin now has some of Nashville’s favorites like Burger Up. The Franklin Theater is stronger than ever and the Franklin Art crawl gets more popular every month. The next big challenge for Williamson County, will be creating desirable housing near these amenities so that residents can reach them by a short walk, bike, or ride on public transportation.
Whatever side of the urban-suburban migration debate you are on, we can all agree that creating communities that cater to the needs and desires of local residents is key.
(Originally Published for 12th&Broad: 12/17/14)