Revisiting Retrofitting Suburbia
The topics touched upon in their discussion, conducted in advance of the twentieth Congress for the New Urbanism being held in May, include the demographic shifts changing how Americans view their ideal neighborhood, whether the marketplace has altered its view of the traditional suburban paradigm, and recent exceptional projects.
One type of innovative retrofit that has caught Dunham-Jones' attention are re-greening projects. "It was very common, before the Clean Water Act, for commercial properties in suburbs to be built on the wetlands. We'd drain them and put in some culverts. Now that those properties are going dead, there is an opportunity to either reconstruct the wetlands or put in parks. We're finding that dead property is reducing property value around it, but if you put in a park or well-designed bioswales and other kinds of green infrastructure, you are increasing neighborhood property value."
Speaking of the overall shift towards suburban retrofitting as a growing area of practice, Dunham-Jones contends that, "The argument that June [Williamson] and I make-and I think it resonates well with students-is that we spent the past 50 years designing and developing suburbia, and yet all of the unintended consequences of that, and the continued resource depletion that we're very well aware of, means that the big design project for the next generation is going to be retrofitting suburbia."