"I think the death of sprawl was probably pronounced too soon," said Taylor Anderson, an engineer in Atlanta, where at one point the 2010 census was expected to show that the metropolitan area had expanded into Alabama. Mr. Anderson used to work for a now-defunct company that extolled the virtues of the suburban lifestyle in a haiku-filled newsletter called Dirt. Mr. Anderson said that Atlanta was already too decentralized to be well served by public transportation but did not deny that habits would change. "The town center concept will ultimately be the answer," he said. "Either people will choose to move closer to their job, or they'll get a new job closer to where they live."

 Undoubtedly, cities have undergone a resurgence, bringing bike lanes and car-sharing, mixed-use rezoning and luxury rentals into vogue. But some question remains as to how sweeping the change has been. In 2011, the National Association of Home Builders' members reported that they expected their customers' ideal home size to shrink. But the median home size in the country has continued to rise, reaching a record high in 2012.

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