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Phoenix ranks #7 of places Americans would rather be

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project finds that nearly half (46%) of the public would rather live in a different type of community from the one they’re living in now — a sentiment that is most prevalent among city dwellers.  When asked about specific metropolitan areas where they would like to live, respondents rank Denver, San Diego, and Seattle at the top of a list of 30 cities (Phoenix #7), and Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati at the bottom.  To read the full report, click here.

Viewpoint: Slow-growth achievements best route for urban renaissance

[Source: Joel Kotkin, Special to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review] — The current recession provides a new opportunity for Pittsburgh’s elite to feel good about itself.  With other boom economies from Phoenix to Miami on the skids — and other old Rust Belt cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo even more down on their luck — the slow-growth achievements of the Pittsburgh region may seem rather impressive.  Yet at the same time, the downturn also poses longer-term challenges for which the local leadership is likely to have no answers.

In large part, Pittsburgh’s “success,” such as it is, has been based on what may be called a “legacy economy,” essentially funded by the residues of its rich entrepreneurial past.  This includes the hospitals, universities, and nonprofits whose endowments have underwritten the expansion of medical services and education, which have emerged as among the region’s few growth sectors.  [Note: To read the full article, read here.]

Phoenix tops list for U.S. home price declines

[Source: Adam Kress, Phoenix Business Journal] — A new read on the housing market shows Phoenix home values have dropped nearly 31% in the past 12 months — the steepest decline of any major city in the nation.  Home prices across the country fell in August for the 25th consecutive month and prices in 10 major markets plunged a record 17.7% from August 2007, according to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price 10-city index.  From July to August, prices dropped 1.1%.  The 20-city index marked a record year-over-year decline of 16.6% with a 1% fall from July to August. 

The hardest hit of all 20 cities on a year-over-year basis was Phoenix, where prices plummeted 30.7% during the past 12 months.  Las Vegas prices plunged 30.6% and Miami sank 28.1%.  The cities that held up the best were Dallas, which saw a decline of just 2.7%; Charlotte, N.C., down 2.8%; and Boston, off 4.7%.  No city showed a price gain during over the last 12 months.  From July to August, San Francisco saw the biggest price decline, down 3.5%.  Phoenix prices fell 2.9% and Las Vegas homes lost 2.4% in value.  Two cities showed gains in August.  Cleveland prices rose 1.1% and Boston prices inched up 0.1%.

The S&P Case-Shiller indexes compare the sale prices of the same homes year-to-year and are considered one of the most accurate home price gauges.

Census shows older U.S. cities hold on to more people, Phoenix slows

[Source: William H. Frey, Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution] — Newly released U.S. Census Bureau population data for U.S. cities show a new twist on a well-known theme that could be good news for older cities hoping to reverse population declines of the past.  The familiar part of the report indicates that most of the nation’s fastest growing cities are located in the South and interior West.  Places like McKinney, TX; North Las Vegas, NV; and Cary, NC, are registering growth rates that cities in baseball’s “American League Central” division (e.g., Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City) can only dream about.  But the new estimates also show a clear retrenchment of the old “Snowbelt to Sunbelt” population surge, a turnaround that has brought modest gains to many older and coastal cities that lost population earlier in the decade.

Population trends in the nation’s nine largest cities (those with over one million residents) offer a glimpse at the story (Table 1).  Three of these — Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego — flipped from population declines to gains in the past year, while their more high-flying sunbelt counterparts — Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas — showed reduced levels of growth.  The growth slowdowns in Houston and Phoenix were substantial, while at the same time, Chicago’s modest gain was the first registered since 2001.  Another notable flip occurred in Boston, which last year became the fastest growing city in the Northeast, after losing population the year before.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Idea of the Day: Turning to t-shirts to spiff up downtrodden cities

Modern Phoenix

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  The following idea was passed along by Brian Kenny and written about in a July 13, 2008 New York Times article, Turning to T-Shirts to Spiff Up Downtrodden Cities, by Catrin Einhorn.  Here’s what it’s all about:

As Jeff Vines pulls down the iron on the heat press in his small studio here, he is trying something far grander than simply searing another image onto another T-shirt.  The machine hisses, Mr. Vines opens it and sizes up his handiwork: a cotton weapon in his quest to revive his long-challenged city.  The St. Louis-themed shirts that Jeff Vines and his identical twin, Randy, make are not for tourists.  They sport neighborhood references and inside jokes unintelligible to those not from here.  Some easily offend, displaying profanity and raunchy innuendo.  But to the Vines brothers, their edginess is part of their mission for St. Louis — a place many of their friends from high school fled — to rehabilitate its image from the inside out and, ultimately, to make future generations want to stay.  “You have to get the people who live there to be the best advocates for the city, or else you don’t really have much,” Randy Vines said.  “So you need to change the psyche and change the way they see their own city.”

The Vines brothers, 30, are not alone in their effort.  In cities like Youngstown, Ohio, and Detroit, damaged by the decline in manufacturing and decades of population loss, entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s are pushing back with the simple stuff of T-shirts, tote bags and soap.  Faced with condescending attitudes from outsiders and grumbling from many locals, they are determined to peddle in pride, and hope to convert others in the process.  “It’s reframing the identity of these places that have been misrepresented,” said Abby Wilson, a co-founder of the Great Lakes Urban Exchange, a new group dedicated to bringing post-baby boomers together to work for the health of postindustrial cities in the Great Lakes region.

The Vines brothers’ company, STL-Style, makes retro-looking T-shirts that extol and lovingly tease St. Louis; slogans include “My Way or Kingshighway,” and “Where the Mullet Meets the River.”  In Pittsburgh, Lindsay Patross, 28, offers T-shirts and aprons that read “Pittsburghers are tasty.”  At City Bird in Detroit, siblings Emily and Andy Linn, 30 and 25, make clocks, lamps, earrings and bracelets patterned with maps of their city.  Another company, Rusty Waters Apparel, sells skull-adorned T-shirts celebrating Youngstown, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.  A quote on the company’s MySpace page says: “Don’t mess with the underdog.  Rustbelt Warriors!”

Another Rusty Waters Apparel design depicts a downtown Youngstown building, the Home Savings and Loan, hanging upside down from the neckline, with birds flying around it.  “The fact that it’s upside down signifies the struggle that Youngstown has gone through,” the shirt’s designer, Kate Butler, 24, explained.  But the birds are flying right side up, symbolizing hope, she said.

These T-shirt makers know, of course, that their merchandise will not cure the deep-seated problems of their cities.  But they see them as one way to fight against powerful stereotypes, and consider them more authentic than city officials’ public relations campaigns.  Mark-Evan Blackman, chairman of men’s wear design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, said T-shirts can have a profound effect on social change, and that these shirts should not be underestimated.  “It’s saying we’re cool, we’re here,” Mr. Blackman said.  “We’ve not jumped out of the boat, this city is cool and we’re making it cooler, and look at us.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]