When is a Suburb Not a Suburb?

Joel Kotkin has said there is a war on suburbia. But as Michael Scott writes on New Geography (Kotkin's home base), where does suburbia start and the city end? Where do inner-ring suburbs fit in this model?

Scott is moving from suburban Sacramento to Denver, and is choosing where to live based partly on his own desire for a more urban life and partly on the needs of perceived safety and good schools for his daughter.

He writes, "Our choice of location within the Denver area seems to support a national trend that was much discussed at the recent Urban Land Institute Summit/ Spring Council Forum in Boston; namely, that the vast majority of population growth in U.S. urban regions will occur not in downtown cores, but in suburbs, and of those, most notably the close-in suburbs exuding an urban feel."

One commenter writes, "I'm not sure why there has to be a "debate" between metro or suburban living. The type of environment people choose to live in is a personal choice."

Full Story: Can The Suburban Fringe Be Downtown Adjacent?



Since I'm a huge fan of Denver's inner ring

I hereby give you some random & rambling observations:

A. Here's a link to good descriptions of just about all the expensive neighborhoods:

B. For up and coming neighborhoods, I like Overland and Villa Park because they still have depressed prices, but are physically adjacent to some of the above expensive neighborhoods.

C. You don't want to leave a newish laptop in your car anywhere in Denver overnight. With that caveat, I would say any neighborhood in the city is safe and nearly crime free even at night. This wasn't true in the 70's when racial tension was higher.

1. Denverites are crazy about their tree-lined, old-house neighborhoods, and as one might expect, hate change. (If you love it, why change it?) That attitude recently resulted in a huge downzoning, eliminating some 40k potential dwelling units in the most desirable neighborhoods citywide.

2. Denver itself isn’t very big, about 10 miles by 10 miles. Only in the south part of the city in the outermost 2-4 miles will you find anything that fits the concept of “suburban”. Closer to town, most homes are built on a rectangular grid on 50’x125’ lots, and single-family. The new zoning code and map identifies this well, and actually calls the form "urban" even though it's very low density.

3. Cheesman Park and Capitol Hill are by far the densest residential areas, walkable, and closest to downtown. Even close-in Congress Park, Curtis Park and Whittier are mostly single family.

4. The inner ring neighborhoods have been re-establishing themselves as the most desirable primarily because of the charming streetscapes, not necessarily because of the livability of their older housing stock.

5. As in many U.S. cities, these neighborhoods developed as “streetcar suburbs” before cars were common. They haven’t been truly walkable since the streetcar system was removed in the early ‘50’s and the neighborhood grocery stores vanished. The older "embedded" commercial strips are now reborn and lively, but art galleries are far more common than bodegas.

6. Forced busing in the 60’s caused “white flight” and further decaying of the inner ring. The school system, DPS, still hasn’t recovered from these blows. Because the Middle and High Schools in some of the best neighborhoods are still substandard, some families still flee to the non-DPS suburbs when their kids get older. (It should be noted that students can often choose which school they attend, Bromwell excepted)

7. Walkability has returned to many areas with the light rail system, which is expanding. Buses work well for non-drivers, but if you own a car, you won’t take the bus regularly.

8. The new b-cycle bikeshare program has added to the bike friendliness of Denver. Many cross-town commuter routes are quickest by bike, and the weather suits bicycling nearly year-round so expect more improvements.

9. I believe that housing dollars will continue shifting to the inner ring at the expense of the far-flung suburbs. These new and remodeled homes and carriage houses will be smaller, ultra energy efficient, close to transit, low maintenance, _____________, and _____________ (please help me fill in the blanks)

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