Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Proposal For Saving Suburbia

Here's a great discussion from the Infrastructurist about how to fix America's dying suburbs (via desmoinesdem):
For a half century, it’s been easy to mock suburbia for being too comfortable, white-bread and conformist. That’s all changed in the last 18 months as many suburbs have abruptly taken on a sense of tragedy and desperation–a fact that underlies Obama’s trip to devastated Lee County, Florida, later today. Drug violence, gangs pillaging half-empty subdivisions for scrap metal, skateboarders reclaiming the pools of abandoned McMansions, and whole streets of dead lawns spray-painted green have emerged as the new symbols of life in the ‘burbs.

One man who foresaw all the ugliness is Christopher Leinberger. The Brookings Institute fellow and distinguished scholar of the suburban living arrangement has decades of experience in real estate development and urban planning. The meme of doomed suburbs went mainstream with his cover story for the Atlantic magazine last March, “The Next Slum?” The problem, he says, goes much deeper than the foreclosure crisis. It’s part of a painful societal adjustment that will take a generation or more to work through.

After heralding the crash of America’s predominant living arrangement, his latest efforts are devoted to showing how suburbs can adjust and reemerge as healthy communities. In this conversation he analyzes the roots of suburbia’s current plight and explains how three straightforward adjustments to infrastructure can save a community.

Continue reading.

1 comment:

taco said...

Read about a 1/3 of The Next Slum, and it's so full of BS I hardly know where to begin, nor do I really care to make the effort of a sentence-by-sentence critical analysis.

All I can say for sure is: "The U.S. grows its total stock of housing and commercial space by, at most, 3 percent each year, so the imbalance between the supply of urban living options and the demand for them is not going to disappear overnight. But over the next 20 years, developers will likely produce many, many millions of new and newly renovated town houses, condos, and small-lot houses in and around both new and traditional downtowns."

Yeah. Right. I can so totally foresee Coralville's families deserting the mall and expansive food and shopping options to huddle shivvering in the Apartments Near Downtown amid the sexual assaults and raging drunk students. We all know what excellent luck the City Council has had and continues to have up to this very month with those redevelopment efforts.

I feel sorry for Windy Ridge, Elk Grove, and Lee County. But at least two of the three are boomburbs in key regions exploited and particularly hard hit by the housing bubble and the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and it's extremely disingenuous to use those observations from those three locations to lament the fate of all of suburbia.

Outliers are a hallmark of Leinberger's article. Besides the boomburbs, in talking about reurbanization he cites statistics on NYC, DC, Seattle and Portland. NYC and DC are unique cities with (especially DC) abnormal population distributions. They have never experienced suburbanization to the typical degree that cities like Chicago - and Portland and Seattle - have. They are unique and different from the average US metropolis in a thousand different ways that we're all well aware of and carry little weight in a discussion of general trends.