Our take on environmentalism is what I call the "original green." Which is really about quite simple, economical things. One thing I don't like about the current environmental movement is that it's been captured by a very high tech ethos, which actually turns out to be more expensive. I think its absolutely absurd that people say that LEED-certified buildings might cost two, three, four, five times as much. And I say, "What are you talking about? How did you get there?" This thing about triple glazing and 8 inches of insulation and green roofs, my God it's so expensive. You can't say, "Yeah, I'll do it just to be popular." We have to go back to the original green--not the gold plated green.
Last week, Brookings Institution released a report on the state of metropolitan America. Have you had a chance to read it? Apparently more and more young people are fleeing suburbia these days.
There's this generation who grew up in the suburbs, for whom the suburbs have no magic. The mall has no magic. They're the ones that have discovered the city. Problem is, they're also destroying the city. The teenagers and young people in Miami come in from the suburbs to the few town centers we have, and they come in like locusts. They make traffic congestion all night; they come in and take up the parking. They ruin the retail and they ruin the restaurants, because they have different habits then older folks. I have seen it. They're basically eating up the first-rate urbanism. They have this techno music, and the food cheapens, and they run in packs, great social packs, and they take over a place and ruin it and go somewhere else.
I've known for 10 years about this destructive monoculture that's condensed in the suburbs. These people would normally be buying real estate by now. And we designed for them. We kept saying, "Aha, these kids, between 24 and 35, will be buying real estate." Guess what? They aren't. Because they can't afford it. But they're still using the cities--they're renting and so forth. The Gen-Xers also discovered the cities; they're buying in a proper way. The Millennials are the ones we're talking about. And they love cities desperately. And they're loving them to death.
What other projects are vying for your attention at the moment? We hear a lot about the Sunbelt these days.
There's the Sunbelt, the Phoenixes and such, which I think sort of swallowed suburbanism whole. But the old south--the formerly provincial, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina--is going through a renaissance. When you meet young southerners, you're talking to people who have gone to really good colleges, and they're sophisticated and they aren't scared.
When I work in New England or Washington, D.C., or California as a planner, these people are terrified of the future. They have seen the future and they hate it. Because what they've tasted of it has made their lives worse. It's made them poorer, it's eaten up nature, you name it. Traffic congestion, loss of things they love. So they hate the future and they're really, really conservative. But I think the old south is where they were in the 19th century: really excited about the future, a can-do attitude. For about 10 years there's been a stirring there. I love working there.