Suburbs Go Head To Head With The City

"With cities worldwide busy repurposing their industrial districts and docklands as upmarket housing and waterfront retail centres, the suburbs need to find a new competitive edge," writes Sarah Murray.
September 12, 2010, 11am PDT | George Haugh
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New suburbs are now planned to include movie theaters, medical centers, gyms, retail outlets and restaurants clustered around town squares. This realignment of development styles has occurred in response to the growing popularity of city living. "And as single-person households increase, they also need to cater to a different type of buyer – one looking for entertainment and possibilities for social life, rather than a convenient place in which to raise a family."

"You find a lot of new suburbs are now building in a town centre with a fake history," says John Archer, chair of the department of cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.

Anthony Townsend, director of technology development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, has observed the same trend. "The suburbs are being re-engineered," he says. "And it's about going back and filling in buffer zones around development sites and increasing the density to make transit more feasible. Shopping malls are being turned into urban villages."

Townsend believes the suburbs have a viable future. "People keep proclaiming the death of the suburb, but they're underestimating how flexible a form it is," he says. He cites his home in New Jersey, on the US east coast, where suburbs are being reconcentrated around the early industrial transportation systems. "The suburbs aren't going anywhere," he adds.

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Published on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 in Financial Times
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