How much does diversity matter?

MLewyn's picture

This weekend, I visited Kansas City, Mo. to look for apartments (since I am moving there in August to teach at the University of Missouri at Kansas City Law School). I focused my search on the Brookside and Country Club Plaza neighborhoods, two areas within a 45-minute walk of the law school.

Country Club Plaza is especially interesting- one of the first American shopping centers accessible by automobile. In some ways, the Plaza is a great urban place, full of pedestrians in a city designed around the automobile. Although residential and commercial uses are rarely on the same blocks, they are within a short walk of each other: the commercial areas are ringed by apartment buildings and condos, with single family houses a few more blocks away.

But one thing troubled me: the retail seems limited to restaurants and specialty shops (mostly national chains). However, many daily needs cannot be met at the Plaza- no grocery stores, no pharmacies, no place to get (for example) a small container of yogurt or a granola bar. This lack of retail diversity makes it a less-than-perfect urban place by my lights. On the other hand, does it keep people from going there? Evidently not.


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