The new American Dream will transform cities and towns in the 21st Century. To understand it, we have to grasp a few features of the previous American Dream, which created the metropolitan regions that we know today. That Dream is still operative — although it has faded a bit since the 2008 housing crash. A Pew study shows the country now evenly split between two visions of the good life.
There were many good parts to the 20th Century American Dream. It provided shelter for three generations of Americans. It delivered a house, a yard, and a car (later two or three cars) to most households. It also tended to separate society by income, reduce community connections through sprawl, and increase automobile and road costs.
The top tier of that American Dream was the McMansion. The front of the McMansion has what is called “curb appeal,” an effect not unlike what the peacock achieves with its feathers. The multiple gables, the big, little-used front lawn, the porch too shallow to sit in — all have little practical function.
Those are status symbols — as is the big, expensive car. You can’t walk anywhere from the McMansion. There’s nowhere to walk to. For the children who grew up in these areas, the shopping mall was the town square.