Title credit to e.e cummings.

Growing up in New Jersey suburbia I, like many other adolescents across the state, despised my town. Now that I am older I can equate a fraction of this hatred towards teenage angst, but not all of it. Some of the reasons I would prefer living elsewhere then Parsippany, New Jersey has to to with how the town was planned. Parsippany is a small town made even smaller due to the fact that it is divided up by Route 46, a major four-lane road. This effectively creates two sub-communities within the town: Troy Hills to the south (where I live) and Lake Hiawatha to the North. However, these two areas share the same schools. Therefore, you can imagine  the difficulty of being a kid who lives in Troy Hills but has friends in other parts of town. Without a car you simply cannot go anywhere outside of your neighborhood, and it shows.

The streets around my neighborhood are usually devoid of pedestrians and it creates a depressing ghost town effect. Even the height of summer, I hardly see kids outside playing. Its almost as if everyone is somewhere else, anywhere else except my town. The division creates a more serious problem then just playdates; there is no town center. There’s no place for everyone in the community to meet or gather for events. There is no main street, its all just strip malls and corporate chains.

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Parsippany, known as “P-Town” to (some) locals.

All this adds up to the main problem I had with my town: There is no identity. This problem resides in all the suburban towns I’ve been in or traveled through. Parsippany could be any suburban town, anywhere in the state. Whenever I visit Boonton, a neighboring town with a more urban set-up, I instantly feel envious. Why can other people walk to stores and get to know their respective owners, while I have to drive 15 minutes to nearest Target? Why can’t I live in a REAL town?

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Cookie cutter houses for cookie cutter people.

These questions that I asked myself for many years are not unique to me. Most of my friends I have had this conversion with have stated their preference to cities over suburbs. I myself dream to live in a medium sized town, preferably close to a major city.Places like Stroudsburg or Morristown which were planned and maintained with the pedestrian in mind.

The designs of these towns follow the principles of smart growth. As opposed to urban/suburban sprawl, which is typically low density, spread out, and automobile-centric, smart growth focuses on creating more efficient and compact designs for space. This means utilizing concepts such as mixed land use, where commercial and residential are mixed together. For example, in a two story building the first floor may be a store while the second floor is apartments or lofts. Also, smart growth prioritizes the pedestrian and bicyclist over the motorist, and tries to keep walking distance to a minimum. Centrally located parks and recreation areas are included as well. All these concepts work in harmony to create an environment where people eat, sleeps, work, shops, walk, and play together: Thus, a sense of community is born!

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Traditional use of smart growth in Bitola, Macedonia.

Morristown_smart_growthExample of smart growth in Morristown, NJ

I wondered if not only my friends, but most of my generation has similar thoughts in mind: so I did some research. It turns out that in a survey done in Philly’s Mag survey, the majority of Millennials surveyed prefer to live in the city. The article states the instant gratification nature commonly associated with Millennials fits perfectly with urban life, because, “Cities deliver quicker-than-ever access to everything from our morning coffee to late-night drinks” (Palan). This is the bottom line on why most Millennials want to thrive in the concrete jungle: There’s always something to do. Whether its watching a movie or seeing a concert, whether its Portland or Dallas, cities are always awake when most are sleeping. Suburban life, where most members of this generation grew up in, is characterized by close-early stores and quiet, dark streets. Compared to the suburbs, the city is a bright, shining paradise for Millennials, and more importantly a symbol of freedom and opportunity. The independence offered by the layout of urban areas one of the main forces pulling Millennials towards cities.

millennial-survey-leave-cityHowever, it is important to note that not all members of the Millennium generation feel this way; it is just a statistically significant majority that do. So I want to know: Where do YOU want to live?

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