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Cities May Be Back, But Don't Forget About the Burbs

A review of June Williamson's new book reminds us that the need to retrofit suburbia is as urgent as ever, despite the ascendance of cities. Amanda Kolson Hurley explores the top five reasons 'why the suburbs are shaping up as the new frontier.'
May 22, 2013, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Saucy Salad (Rebecca Wilson)

"Remember when we were going to save the suburbs?" asks Hurley. "In 2008, Ellen Dunham-Jones, AIA, and June Williamson released Retrofitting Suburbia, a handbook for turning sprawl into walkable, sustainable, more urban places. The book got national media attention, Dunham-Jones gave a TED talk, and for a while, dead malls were the topic du jour."

In her new book, Designing Suburban Futures: New Models From Build a Better Burb, Williamson returns to the topic, which seemed to recede over the past five years, with a look at the winning entries from Build a Better Burb, an ideas competition for transforming suburban Long Island.

Hurley speaks with Williamson and other "suburban visionaries" to identify the top five reasons why "the need to retrofit suburbia is more urgent now than it was five years ago."

  1. NIMBYism isn’t what it used to be.
  2. Cities alone can’t meet the demand for walkable urbanism.
  3. Both policy changes and success stories can encourage investment.
  4. Big boxes are awesome.
  5. Suburbia’s fabric lends itself to innovation.
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Published on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in Architect
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