CNU Report Outlines Incremental Steps for More Walkable Suburbs

Transforming suburban sprawl is a massive undertaking, but these small steps can help communities understand their needs and assets and develop clear, actionable goals for the future.

January 21, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Thomas Barrat / Shutterstock

Pedestrianizing the suburbs might seem like a monumental challenge, writes Robert Steutenville, but a new report from the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) and the Michigan Municipal League outlines a list of small, incremental steps that communities can implement to move toward less auto-oriented, more walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods. "Reorienting suburban neighborhoods for pedestrians requires an incremental yet integrated approach, calibrated to local needs, prioritized according to public aspirations, and targeted to specific areas within the community."

The list includes "proven techniques" drawn from successful projects from across the United States, ranging from identifying existing assets and future goals to aligning codes and ordinances to reforming parking regulations. These interventions act at a hyper-local level to identify community needs, leverage existing resources, and change regulations to support and anticipate higher density and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Adjusting land use regulations and parking requirements can go a long way toward "offering an alternative vision for existing buildings" and "adapting from placeless sprawl to walkable urbanism" by easing the way for adaptive reuse and denser development. "The process of rescaling suburban communities can be long and difficult, but seeing the road ahead will help a municipality measure their success, manage development outcomes, and maintain a sense of place amidst change."

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