Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Essays of city growth: n+1 and Harper's take on Boise 40 years apart

The uber-hip Brooklyn literary magazine n+1 just published a nice essay about the history of development of Boise as told through the personal story of a Boise native gone away to Brooklyn.  The piece is, I think, a nice bookend to the 1974 article Tearing Down Boise, which appeared in Harper's 40 years ago.  While the 1974 article foresaw the end of a city that almost tore itself down through flawed urban renewal processes, the 2014 n+1 article tells a story of a booming city that, ironically, is booming because of savvy urban renewal processes.  It's a land use lover's dream!

The two essays could be read as seminal pieces about how individuals relate to growth of a city and the effect of a city on an individual, much in the vein of Joan Didion's Goodbye to All That, which tells her story of leaving New York, or maybe more accurately, in the vein of Wallace Stegner's A Sense of Place, which speaks to the movement of westerners and how they frame identity. 

We need more stories of mid-sized cities, especially of those cities like Boise that are growing dramatically.  As many have noted, the future of urban growth is not in megapolitan cities with 10 million or more people, but these 500,000 - 2 million person cities that are popping up all over and need their day in the sun.

Stephen R. Miller


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