TIME Says Recycle the Suburbs

In a recent feature in Time Magazine called 'Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now,' no. 2 on the list is 'Recycling the Suburbs.'

"The suburbs need to be remade, and just such a transformation is under way in regions that were known for some of the worst sprawl in the U.S. Communities as diverse as Lakewood, Colo., and Long Beach, Calif., have repurposed boarded-up malls as mixed-use developments with retail stores, offices and apartments. In auto-dependent suburbs that were built without a traditional center, shopping malls offer the chance to create downtowns without destroying existing infrastructure, by recycling what's known as underperforming asphalt. "All of these projects are developer-driven, because the market wants them," says Ellen Dunham-Jones, a co-author of the new book Retrofitting Suburbia.

Not every suburb will make it. The fringes of a suburb like Riverside in Southern California, where housing prices have fallen more than 20% since the bust began, could be too diffuse to thrive in a future where density is no longer taboo. It'll be the older inner suburbs like Tysons Corner, Va., that will have the mass transit, public space and economic gravity to thrive postrecession."

Full Story: 2. Recycling the Suburbs



Suburban Density

Be careful. Suburbs in the western part of the U.S. tend to be denser than most because of smaller lot sizes. In Long Beach, for example, most of the suburbia is 6-7 lots per acre, which is much denser than suburbia in many other parts of the country.

That's why the LA metropolitan region, including Riverside, is the densest in the country on average, denser even than the New York metropolitan region.

Of course, there's the average and the standard deviation. LA hews closer to its average than New York, which is why Manhattan is a transit paradise, balanced out by aggressive sprawl at the fringe and many people in LA still cling to the myth that "you have to have a car in LA".

That said, I'm all on board with the idea of redeveloping suburban malls as denser centers. I just hope that redevelopment won't be confined to malls, and that mixed-use development will be carried out in a way that is sensitive to the noise issues that can arise from the careless mixture of residential and commercial uses.

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