So far this year, I’ve visited three American cities, four if you count my Christmas holiday trip to San Francisco. The first city I lived in (and visited frequently as a child) was Buffalo, NY. Over the years I watched its downtown transform from a busy place with department stores, shops, and restaurants into an after work ghost town unless there’s a special event taking place. That’s increasingly the way an American city functions- it’s a place to escape from to a suburban home or it’s a place to go for entertainment like seeing a team play or going to a play. The idea of including activities with living space has largely vanished except in larger cities like NY.
In a smaller city like Buffalo many essential needs can’t be met within the city. My neighborhood has a café, restaurants, and boutiques. For all practical concerns, I have to take a bus. Contrast that with my neighborhood in Barcelona, called Gracia. It had all of the above plus a supermarket across the street, a gym minutes away, and a medical center and cinema all within walking distance.
“City Life” by Witold Rybcznski addresses how American cities have changed, and why, and how some may even thrive.