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The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City

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With a “quick glance backwards,” Ehrenhalt offers up Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s redesigned Paris of the 1860s (with a few references to fin de siècle Vienna) as the paradigmatic city, with its percolating street life acting as “a theatre for living,” and, in Ehrenhalt’s mind, “what the “millions of people with substantial earning power or ample savings ... are moving toward” in the future.  

Then starting with Sheffield, a neighborhood three miles north of downtown Chicago as a prime example of this great demographic inversion, Ehrenhalt takes his reader on a tour of the changing American cityscape, pointing out the salient features that have given rise to the transformation of this once shabby, working class neighborhood into one of cosmopolitan chic: the proximity to downtown Chicago, the mass transit station, the nearby university, the charming Victorian cottages, and the commercial corridor. And that’s just Sheffield. Chicago’s entire Loop (five miles north and south of downtown, and a mile from Lake Michigan) exploded by 48% in just seven years between 2000 and 2007.

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