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Inner Suburbs Face Identity Crisis

Places like Columbia Heights, an older suburb north of Minneapolis, lie at the focal point of conflict over development and gentrification. Can these places support a 21st-century urbanism?
April 5, 2016, 8am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Adjoining a rapidly-gentrifying arts district, Columbia Heights is known for its deep working-class roots and a heavy helping of automotive businesses. Alan Ehrenhalt discusses the tensions that are rising as demographic shifts have city leaders looking toward a hipper, more prosperous future.

Inner-ring suburbs like Columbia Heights "are blue-collar towns, developed after World War II to attract industrial workers lifting themselves into the middle class [...] these first-tier suburbs now are home to aging populations, aging housing stock and aging infrastructure [...] Lurking beneath the debate, as you might expect, is the issue of gentrification."

While some inner suburbs are cashing in on their inherent walkability (i.e., streetcar suburbs), others don't lend themselves so easily to the coffee shop set. "Sprinkled with drive-up businesses and constant curb cuts, Central Avenue [in Columbia Heights] is virtually unwalkable. Pedestrians who wish to stroll down the busiest mile-long strip have to cross the wide street over and over again to find sidewalk space." 

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Published on Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Governing
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