Suburbia 'reinvented'

August 7, 2002

Smart growth initiatives good, mixed-use developments better

Inman News Features

An article published in the July issue of Urban Land magazine argues that the nation has too many suburbs, that the suburbs fail to elicit a feeling of community and contribute to such quality-of-life ills as traffic, pollution and environmental degradation and that smart growth initiatives are a solution for only a small number of these communities.

In the article,Reinventing Suburbia, author Paris Ruthford touts revitalization efforts with a focus on mixed-used developments as a possible solution to blighted suburban communities.

"There is no 'one-size-fits-all' answer," Ruthford wrote. "Solutions must deal with individual realities of the suburban condition multiple fragmented ownership, investment structures that provide cash flow with no apparent motivation for change, engineering-driven design rationale, the not-in-my-backyard mentality, outdated zoning and reentitlement processes, well-intentioned but poorly informed leadership, and, in many cases, an aging physical environment in which the whole is definitely not greater than the sum of its parts."

The article states that successful suburban developments tend to be mixed-use programs in which no single land use dominates the central community experience.

Areas that could be revitalized in this way are the new office park, the new mall, main street redevelopment and the resuscitated corridor, according to the article.

Because traditional, single-use office parks fail to provide the amenities necessary to retain a desired employee base, redevelopment of the structures should include nearby mixed-use projects that offer shopping, dining, hospitality, housing and health care, according to the article.

Redevelopment of malls also should include the implementation of various mixed-use developments, including housing and hospitality, and the massive structures, which typically have stood detached from the communities they serve, should be reintegrated with the communities, according to the article.

The success of main street revitalization lies in the development of the spaces between the buildings, which also should focus on mixed-use development and overall integration into the surrounding neighborhoods, according to the article.

The redevelopment of the resuscitated corridor poses the greatest challenge for older suburbia because neighboring residential communities tend to view the plans as potentially having a negative impact on property values, according to the article.

Using government subsidies to purchase the most troubled properties and converting them into high-density residential developments or parks is a solution posed by Ruthford.

Copyright: Inman News Service

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