The Beginning of the End: 1950-1999

The story of the American city has many chapters, each one very different from the next. Early in their history, American cities experienced dramatic growth primarily due to industrialization. Cities became hubs of commerce as factories quickly replaced farms as the primary employer of the country’s workforce.

By the 1950’s many great cities reached their peak populations and began to slowly transition into a period of decline.

Several factors fueled the flight to the suburbs, including the advent of car ownership for the masses, the intrastate highway system, and the general view of suburbs as part of the American Dream.

As people continued to move away from the city (taking their wealth with them), many urban neighborhoods fell into states of decay. These issues snowballed leaving several cities seemingly beyond repair.

The Revival of the American City: 2000 - Today

Today, a new chapter has begun in the story of American cities. There’s been a revival centered around the benefits of urban living. Investments in public transit, including the rebirth of streetcar networks, as well as new programs like bike and car shares have attracted a younger generation who are forgoing large homes for a walkable 24/7 lifestyle.

These factors combined with increased job opportunities and the desire to live more sustainably, have created a tidal wave of growth. In some cases, the pace of growth in the past five years has been rapid enough to replace 30 years of decline.

Real Estate’s New Frontier

Where there is rapid growth, there is almost always opportunity in real estate. The previous wave of suburban strip malls and planned residential communities has given way to transit-oriented mixed-use development and micro-units. Real estate developers across the country are looking for strategic opportunities related to this cultural shift back to cities.

At Fundrise, one of our core focuses is on high quality, urban infill projects in the top metro markets. We believe that through our innovative approach to raising capital we can be a driving force in the revival of the great American city. Over the next few months, we’ll continue to make the case for investment and development in the American city with posts on topics like the evolution of transit-oriented development and the increased sustainability that comes with city living, among others.