Don't Forget Suburbia, Fix It

As more and more people move to cities, they will be the focus of much policy and investment. But the suburbs should not be forgotten, argues Mary Newsom. They should be fixed.
February 18, 2011, 10am PST | Nate Berg
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"[T]he suburbia-dominated Sun Belt has a vast challenge. How we meet it may well determine whether our cities thrive or fade.

First, let's be clear what I mean by "suburbia" - a fuzzy term. Some use it for any growth at the urban edge. Some use it to mean only separate municipalities outside a city, regardless of age or form. I'm using it to mean development with a specific pattern, typically built after 1945: single-use zones (stores separated from offices and housing, single-family houses apart from apartments); lots a quarter-acre or more; car dependent.

Millions of people aspire to live in suburbia and love it when they do. The U.S. real estate industry has sold the nation on the idea that a house with a lawn in the 'burbs is the "American Dream."

Nevertheless, suburbia will pose a growing problem due to a number of converging factors."

Shifting demographics, rising oil prices and an increasing carbon footprint will make the suburbs as they exist today big problems in terms of sustainability. Newsom says the work to fix that looming problem should start now.

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Published on Thursday, February 17, 2011 in The Charlotte Observer
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