Intown Living: A Different American Dream

Paperback Hardcover
By Ann Breen and Dick Rigby
Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005
285 pages with maps
ISBN 1-59726-002-9

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By Ann Breen and Dick Rigby
Westport, Conn. and London: Praeger Publishers, 2004
300 pages
ISBN 0-275-97591-6

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Intown Living: A Different American Dream by Ann Breen and Dick Rigby documents in eight disparate North American cities the movement into and near downtowns, spearheaded largely by young adults for whom our car-oriented subdivision lifestyle is unappealing. They seek instead urbane, lively neighborhoods where diverse lifestyles are encouraged. They are attracted to intown neighborhoods that are walkable, with sufficient density to support amenities like cafes and clubs, and that have a certain degree of hipness.

The book focuses on the following areas of the case cities: Midtown and Downtown Atlanta; Uptown and Downtown Dallas; Downtown and Midtown Houston; Downtown and South Main in Memphis; Mill Quarter and North Riverfront, Minneapolis; the Warehouse Area Business Association district in New Orleans; Pearl District Portland, Oregon, and North False Creek and Coal Harbour, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

The principal conclusion of Intown Living is that, contrary to the suggestion in much current literature about cities, it is not the so-called baby boomer/empty nester generation moving back into the cities in 2003. Rather it is young people by a predominant margin, which the book documents using census and other data. The median age in the districts discussed in detail in Intown Living is generally around 30. They are effectively the first wave of resettlement in a number of neighborhoods explored.

If properly nurtured, the trend could spread and deepen and thus enliven larger portions of our urban centers. The authors believe that this must happen if North America is to have a chance of arresting wasteful subdivision sprawl. There are economic, social, psychological, health and environmental reasons why increasing residential developments in and near center cities is sound policy.

The American Dream of the single-family home on its own lot is still strong, but a Different American Dream is taking hold for significant segments of the population and should be encouraged, the authors argue. Beyond an under-40 population, the other principal group attracted to intown neighborhoods is gays. Two additional smaller niches of the intown market are divorcees and weekenders. The authors conclude that for the time being, most empty nesters will either stay put, move to new subdivision-style cities in the Sunbelt or relocate nearer to a city but still apart from it (such as the Galleria area of Houston or Bethesda, Md., outside Washington, D.C.). Persons with an interest in the subject will get current data on who is buying intown, at what prices and in what size of apartments and condominiums, and details about the financial and programmatic incentives needed to help make it happen, and why they are necessary.

Ann Breen and Dick Rigby are the founders and co-directors of The Waterfront Center, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., since 1981. Intown Living developed out of community consulting work Breen and Rigby performed in 1999 in Dallas and Houston where they were surprised to find instances of residential developments in and near the downtowns of these quintessentially sprawling metropolises.

The Center organizes an annual international conference on urban waterfront planning, development and culture; conducts an international awards program, and does community consulting. Breen and Rigby are authors of two major books on urban waterfronts: WATERFRONTS: Cities Reclaim Their Edge (New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1984 and The New Waterfront: A Worldwide Urban Success Story (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1996). The have backgrounds in planning, government and the non-profit world. Research for this book began in earnest in 2001.


Intown Living: A Different American Dream ($29.95, shipping and handling is $4.50 for first book, $1.00 each additional.) Ordering information from Island Press follows:

By phone: 800-621-2736
By email: or order online at
By mail: Island Press, 1718 Connecticut Ave. N.W, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20009

Intown Living: A Different American Dream ($69.95) Ordering information from Greenwood Publishers follows:

By phone: 800-225-5800
By fax: 603-431-2214
By email: or order online at
By mai
l: Greenwood Publishing Group, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881

The Waterfront Center