Building the first draft of Mumbai in northern Virginia

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A reader (and old friend) comments on my hopeful post about the northern Virginia boom region that is Fairfax County:

I don’t really buy the assessment that Fairfax is another Paris in the making. I actually think there is something fundamentally different about the way sprawl works today and about the way places like Fairfax have developed (beginning in an essentially parasitic manner as commuter hubs for an older, core city) from the way places like London or Paris developed. Now I haven’t read Edge Cities. I’ll have to check it out. But I would offer a more cautionary analogy here to those who think runaway growth is a good thing: perhaps Fairfax is actually the next Mumbai or Sao Paolo or Lagos. These are great cities–but they are in many ways sprawling, unmanaged and unmanageable cities with huge environmental problems. Or maybe Fairfax will become the next Las Vegas–a totally artificial and sprawling place, completely out of touch with the natural environment into which its been planted. I think there is something so artificial and hermetic about places like Tysons that kind of give me the creeps.
And I don’t think guys like Til Hazel should be considered such great heroes and praised for their 19th Century attitudes. After all, we are still trying to repair much of the world for the damage wrought by those 19th Century ideas about progress.
I also think Fairfax is a bit unique in that the core city–DC–probably won’t ever become so hollowed out as to disappear. (The Congress, the White House and the Pentagon aren’t going to pick up and move any time soon.) But that’s not what’s happening in other areas experiencing a high level of suburban sprawl–in particular in those old Rust Belt cities like Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and my hometown, Cleveland. Here the boom in the suburbs and the exurbs has come at the expense of the core, which is really dying. I think it’s sort of happening in Seattle too where the Redmond and some of the other suburbs are now operating very indepedently of the downtown.

Update: Here’s the LA Times article on Orange County residential skyscrapers mentioned in the comments.