Is the City Moving to the Suburbs?

Is the recent trend to build more walkable suburbs a sign of sustainable change?

1 minute read

April 2, 2024, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Suburban outdoor mall in muted colors with decorative tower.

mtaira / Adobe Stock

Suburban developments are increasingly trying to mimic the walkability and vibrancy of urban neighborhoods, writes Alan Ehrenhalt in Governing. Is this a purely aesthetic shift, or is it a real movement toward more sustainable suburbs?

In Tempe, Arizona, 10 miles from Phoenix, a new community called Culdesac opted to remove private cars, offering access to transit, shared micromobility, and rental cars instead. According to Robert Steuteville, removing the need for car infrastructure inside the development “allows for a porous, fine-grain urban pattern with a network of narrow, shaded pedestrian-only paseos, intimate courtyards and a central plaza.” However, limited transit options mean that residents will often have to drive when leaving the community.

Ehrenhalt admits that the trend could be a blip. Lower housing costs — which could be brought on by the adaptive reuse of office buildings into residential units — could promote a stronger resurgence for urban city centers. But the strong demand for walkability among younger people is encouraging. “And if there is one thing we learned from the experience of the baby boomers, it is that when enough members of an emerging generation want something, they stand a very good chance of getting it.”

Monday, April 1, 2024 in Governing

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