‘Is America’s suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare?’

June 20, 2008 at 10:15 am 1 comment

The above is the provocative headline on a story on cnn.com. After some description of the foreclosures in suburbia, the story focuses on the shifting attitudes of homeowners.

“The American dream is absolutely changing,” (Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution,) told CNN.

This change can be witnessed in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and Dallas, Texas, said Leinberger, where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars.

Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls “walkable urbanism” — both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything — from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters.

The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls “drivable suburbanism” — a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since.

We don’t want to wish ill on the suburban dweller, but times may get tougher out there before they get better.

Read the whole story here.

— photo by respres on Flickr

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Entry filed under: Culture, Jon Swerens, Neighborhoods, Urbanism. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment

  • 1. blackwasp19  |  June 22, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks for the article.

    The most interesting thing was reading the comments that people made. They were all over the spectrum and several on the negative.

    I do worry that people here “Urban” and the only think of downtown, or they think of this “super-urban” condo/small apartment Manhattanesque area. People often only think of apartments over retail when they here mixed-use.

    With urban design being presented that way of course there are many who are weary. That super high dense environment is great for some (especially young adults and DINKS), but when people have children many what their own home.

    What urbanists really need to be pushing is a “traditional neighborhood” design, with corner stores within a walkable distance and/or attached rowhomes that offer something more like a house (Throwing some apartments in there both over stores and freestanding would be an added bonus).

    Downtowns are great, but there is only a small segment of people who are going to want to make downtown their home, we have to have more relevant and intelligent urban alternative to suburban sprawl.


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