Urbanization and the urban sprawl are threatening to make small towns even smaller—and tourists' nostalgia may be their savior — Quartz
SN: I love taking new routes during car trips or while on vacation, sometimes while even traveling for business. There is joy in discovering small enclaves of people, shops, and history that comprise small town life. My home state of Michigan is dotted with these towns, some successfully drawing tourists, others eerily dilapidated ghost towns some with hangers on residents. They are all special to me in someway. I couldn’t agree more with the closing of the following Quartz article, “Successful new urban endeavors are commonly built on the foundations of the past. Small towns are a reminder of sense of place and human values that we seem to have forgotten and are desperately try to hang on to. It is imperative that they thrive.”
Small towns put us in touch with a vanishing lifestyle; we crave a reminder and presence of simpler, bygone times. Perhaps it is our subconscious desire to live in a place where a shopkeeper knows your name, or to walk past the Quaint architecture bunches together along narrow streets that house a church, school, bank, and town hall with a requisite flagpole or statue in the square in front.
According to an article by Sarah Gibb and Rodger Johnson for the United States Census Bureau, “Places with populations smaller than 10,000 constituted about 9% of the nation’s population as of 2010, and this has held steady for every year between 2010 and 2014.” Gibb and Johnson also suggest that, contrary to popular belief, small towns are growing—but at a rate of 1%, compared to the 3% growth experienced by big cities.
Can a small town that experiences a decline of its historical economic income reverse its fortune and regain a sustainable economic footing? It is certainly possible, but it’s a challenge that will require innovation, tenacity, and, of course, some monetary investment.
History is also a big draw. By preserving old buildings and enhancing its sense of place, towns like Norfolk, Virginia remain a favorite of tourists. Recognizing the importance and value of urban heritage, small towns across the country have enacted strict preservation bylaws that oversee the alteration of old buildings, creating an outdoor urban museum of sorts.
America’s accelerated urbanization has put the future of many small towns in jeopardy: Will they have a lasting notable spot in America’s urban quilt, or be a relic of the past in constant survival mode?