It’s that time of year again: When public schools everywhere cast about desperately for a holiday celebration that doesn’t involve Jesus or a dude in a red suit; when families gather from thither and yon to spend a few days remembering why they’ve scattered thither and yon in the first place; and yes, it’s time to take stock of the year past, and look ahead to the one coming up. As the guy charged with keeping an eye on all things urban around here, I curled up with my laptop on a winter’s night that was definitely not as cold as they used to be, dug through the archives, and now offer this, my most humble (and totally non-denominational) retrospective of 2011.

The promise of 2011: “bright flight”

Seattle' Capitol Hill.The view from Seattle’s Capitol Hill.Photo: Matthew RutledgeWith Millennials and Baby Boomers both expressing interest in more urban living, it looked like 2011 would usher in the “triumph of the city,” to borrow the title from a book released this year by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. Between-year Census numbers released last year suggested that, for the first time in a generation in many metropolitan areas, white people were shunning the suburbs in favor of city living. “A new image of urban America is in the making,” William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, told the Associated Press. “What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into ‘bright flight’ to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation, and a new city ambience as an attraction.” It was music to many city leaders’ ears, and great news for the planet, too, as tightly packed, car-free living is what a green future looks like for many of us. But wait, there’s more …