Reimagining the Suburbs

With more people moving away from central cities, we have the chance to avoid past mistakes and redesign the American suburb to be less car-centric and more diverse.

July 29, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of suburban single-family homes

Roschetzky Photography / Suburban development in Austin, Texas

What if we reinvent the suburbs to be more sustainable? That’s what Addison Del Mastro asks in a recent piece on Vox. Del Mastro argues that, with remote work changing the nature of commuting and more millennials looking to buy homes, now is the time to reenvision what suburban life could look like and write a “second draft” that’s better than the first.

“The demand for something like urban living is real. Even at the outer edges of growing metro areas, mixed-use walkable developments pop up alongside familiar subdivisions and McMansions.” Indeed, “Between 2019 and 2020, the share of millennials who live in suburbs increased by 4 percentage points; and in 2014, more than 60 percent of immigrants lived in suburbs, up from just over half in 2000.” 

As Del Mastro has written before, immigrant communities are transforming the strip mall and other suburban spaces to accommodate different uses and culturally relevant services. “The ongoing diversification of the suburbs is coinciding with the appearance of New Urbanist, mixed-use development there, and the renewed interest in suburban living following the pandemic. The makings of a suburban transformation are here.”

As Del Mastro points out, “Zoning codes were not really meant to be perpetual; master plans were supposed to guide their evolution over the decades, planning for and accommodating growth.” It’s time for the suburbs to embrace change, and for planners to recognize their potential to transform into more walkable, sustainable, and diverse communities.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022 in Vox

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