From our winter issue, GOOD 025: The Next Big Thing
Some of these cities anticipated the developments currently popular among urbanists. Two decades after it was suspended in a filthy smog like something out of a Dickens novel, Chattanooga was greening its downtown with a riverwalk and aquarium. The city’s population has turned around, too: Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, Chattanooga quadrupled its growth rate, undoing a 10 percent population loss between 1980 and 1990. Others anticipated developments popular among the urbane. Asheville, North Carolina, where the growth rate nearly doubled over those 10 years, is home to a roster of microbreweries and independent restaurants well beyond what its population of 83,000 would suggest. The city bills itself as “The World’s Only Foodtopian Society.”
On June 15, 1957, the city of Tulsa celebrated Oklahoma’s 50 years of statehood with an event called Tulsarama. The city buried a brand-new, gold-and-white Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe in a concrete vault under the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse. The car, which was to be unearthed in 2007, was filled with objects that the citizens chose as representative of Tulsa. They included a woman’s purse containing bobby pins, lipstick, gum, $2.73, and a pack of cigarettes. In the glove compartment they placed a bottle of tranquilizers. In the trunk, a case of Schlitz beer.
Dennis Littky thinks that’s not good enough. “An 89 percent dropout rate? That’s absurd. Typically we blame the students, but it may not be all the students’ fault— it may be the colleges’ fault,” he says. “Colleges have to be student-ready rather than students just being college-ready.”
One cool evening this fall, I stopped for a quick drink in my neighborhood. The bar I happened into, Custom American Wine Bar, is about as New Brooklyn as it gets: sleek lines, warm wood, niche bourbons, and a crowd both tattooed and understatedly but expensively dressed. Custom is nice, but not unusual. There are plenty of similar spots in postindustrial Williamsburg. The neighborhood was famously hipsterfied more than a decade ago by hordes of 20-somethings who came for cheap housing, access to Manhattan, and an appealing nightlife that soon became practically the area’s claim to fame. The cake seemed baked.
To most Americans, Minneapolis is a stranger. There are exceptions, moments when the city percolates up—the first time a kid somewhere hears the Replacements, say, or when a bridge falls into the Mississippi. But to most people most of the time, Minneapolis is a place with no real shape or texture.