Duany On High Gas Prices And Urban Revival

<p>Andres Duany and other experts discuss how the convergence of high gas prices and the foreclosure crisis may reverse years of cheap gas and cheap exurban land. He's pushing mixed uses and reformed zoning in suburbia, and he's betting on Texas.</p>
August 4, 2008, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The urbanism of the United States has been premised on two things," Duany says. "One is inexpensive land. And the other is inexpensive fuel. Both have led to sprawl."

"Urban planners have been beating their heads against the wall for decades trying to get Americans to settle in a more compact pattern on the landscape for the very reasons we're starting to see now," says Thomas Campanella, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. "To be honest, I feel that rising gas prices...are going to do more for good, sustainable urban planning than the entire urban planning profession."

"Together with the foreclosure crisis, gas prices "will really take the sheen off the distant suburbs," says Bob Dunphy, a senior fellow for transportation and infrastructure at the Urban Land Institute."

"New Urbanists such as Duany, who champion mixed-use environments, say suburbs must adapt to high gas prices by becoming more like villages. Central shopping should replace big box stores (and their aprons of parking) on the town edge. And entire swaths of city blocks with nothing but houses and cul-de-sacs must be retrofitted to fully functioning neighborhoods, with corner stores and businesses in walking distance."

"You'll see more people buying into the idea of a more dense suburb", says Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

However, suburbanites can adapt to high gas prices.

"At $4 per gallon for gas, Americans are paying an average of about $500 more to fill up a car this year over last year. That may dent the family budget, but it's hardly enough to trigger a wholesale reimagining of the American Dream. Not to mention that new automobile technology that features plug-in hybrids, electric cars, and hydrogen-powered cars may blunt the impact of gas prices and allow plenty of Americans to enjoy life as they've known it for decades."

"Some cities are better poised to take advantage of this urbanizing trend than others. Namely, those that are already have strong urban cores and public transit lines."

"Duany says he's betting on oil-rich Texas, the very home of suburban sprawl and the derisively dubbed McMansion. "Dallas has more retrofitted downtown suburbs than any place," Duany says. "I'm always betting on Texas. It's such a can-do place."

Thanks to Martin Dreiling

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Published on Thursday, July 17, 2008 in U.S. News & World Report
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