Thursday, February 01, 2007

Trailer parks and the new suburbs: how is my world changing?

I live in the urban residential core of the “twin cities”, a relatively wealthy mid-sized north american metropolitan region. We’re colder than average, I suspect the relatively harsh climate accounts for why we’re also healthier and wealthier than average (selection pressure). The climate has probably also slowed our population growth, but we still have massive urban sprawl — among the worst in the north.

It’s an interesting spot to watch America evolve. Which brings me to trailer parks and the new suburbs.

We have a lot of trailer parks (?modular homes?) in the metro area. The more I look for them, the more I see. They’re surprisingly invisible; it’s only on a second look that an apparent wooded area resolves into a trailer park.

In the urban core they’re old, but there are many new ones on the urban perimeter. I assume they’re subsidized by speculators who want to buy large amounts of land for future use while minimizing taxes and generating a revenue stream. I’d like to know how many people live in these parks, and if they’re becoming more common. It would be interesting if urban sprawl and tax laws were shifting people from urban appartments and low income housing to peripheral trailer parks, and whether that’s a good think or a bad thing for the families involved.

On the other hand, when my children’s hockey team visited the northern home of the fierce Polars, we killed a few minutes driving around a massive suburban development just north of the National Sports Center in Blaine MN. The current sat map is misleading — that open space is all homes now. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of homes. A small town with a handful of non-gated entrances from the surrounding ring roads. Town homes, separated homes, bigger homes, fancy homes, large homes on a golf course — homes for the middle class and the upper middle class about a one hour commute north of the metro center. It looks like a factory town from the outside, but it’s not quite so bad in the middle of it.

Of course it’s not built for my family — to me it feels claustrophobic and eerily robotic, something straight out of the Truman Show with its planned migration from the middle to the upper class. There’s no poverty and no retail; a few modest parks, but no grand parks. It’s almost, but not quite, treeless. There are sidewalks on at least one side of each street, but no interesting lanes or bicycle paths or walking paths — the space is used efficiently. In a hundred years it will either be gone, quaint, or a slum. I don’t know which.

There’s a large trailer park about a mile from this massive suburban development.

Trailer parks and Disney World inspired urban suburban settlements. The world moves on in novel and unpredictable ways.

Update 1/12/09: Flash forward.

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