Book about city sprawl keeps him enthralled

When you've spent almost all of your life building things and helping places grow, it's hard to leave that interest completely behind.

For almost 30 years, John Crosland Jr. was the chief executive of Crosland, a real estate and development firm that was founded by his father and now has projects from Virginia to Florida.

Although he stopped handling daily operations nine years ago and now serves as chairman emeritus, Crosland, 80, remains focused on housing – particularly affordable housing, the subject of a paper he said he recently finished. Sort of.

“I keep changing it every day,” he said, chuckling.

It's a subject near to his heart. Crosland helped found the Charlotte chapter of Habitat for Humanity and led it for seven years, and also was chairman of the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.

When he's not reading newspapers – usually the Observer, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal – or watching “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Crosland said he favors books on housing.

One of his recent reads was “Sprawl, A Compact History” by Robert Bruegmann, an urban planning and art history professor who wrote that urban sprawl is a natural process dating back to the world's oldest cities.

“He makes a good case that every city or town goes through sprawl and goes through revitalization,” Crosland said. “If you look at history – London, Paris, Berlin, wherever – they all have grown.” Jefferson George