City living will feel like a blast from the past – USATODAY.com


Andres Duany. And a dog. From usatoday.com.

Andres Duany is the granddaddy of New Urbanism. His design of Seaside, along with his wife, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, changed the course of greenfield development in this country. Rick Hampson of USA Today sat with him to ask him about what will happen to cities and suburbs in the next 30 years. He brought up five main points:

  1. Urban retrofit for suburbia – Suburbs will be rebuilt to serve alternative transit modes. Homes will be smaller and there will be more connected units.
  2. Gardener on the roof – People will practice “agrarian urbanism,” where they grow more of their own food on rooftops, in yards, or in window boxes.
  3. Government goes hyper-local – land use conflicts between developers trying to densify the city and make it more mixed use will push up against NIMBYs and certain environmental groups, and local government will have a large hand in mediating these issues.
  4. Buildings that look cool and safe – Duany gives the example of Alys Beach, a community he designed, where the houses are designed to be cooler and resistant to hurricanes and other extreme conditions. He argues that this sort of sustainable, durable design will be more common.
  5. Mormon settlers as models – As a Mormon, I found this particularly interesting (in fact, this is why a friend sent me the article), but Duany points out that, in the first 50 years of settlement in Utah and other parts of the west, Mormons built 537 towns, most of them located where they are after studying things like access to water and soil quality. This “precision planning” will be more important in the future.

Suburban Retrofitting Design Tactics — Build a Better Burb


Urbanize the suburbs. From buildabetterburb.org.

This post from June Williamson details some of the tactics discussed in the book Retrofitting Suburbia. It has details, including real-world examples, of how to implement these strategies in your community. The eleven tactics are:

  1. Reuse The Box: Adaptive reuse of vacant commercial buildings for new, often community-serving uses, such as libraries or medical clinics, is both socially desirable and reduces waste.
  2. Provide Environmental Repair: Restore Wetlands and Creeks: Retrofits sometimes provide the opportunity to reconstruct wetlands and creeks, components in the metropolitan watershed that were erased or diminished by suburban development patterns.
  3. Revise Zoning Codes and Public Works Standards (Re-development): Make it easier to build compact, mixed-use developments with complete streets, and make it harder to build single-use, auto-dependent places.
  4. Keep Block Size Walkable: Without careful modulation, the hybridization of suburban building types and parking into urban blocks and streets can lead to oversized blocks and monotonous building fronts. The rule of thumb for a walkable block is a perimeter dimension of less than 1700 linear feet.
  5. Establish a More Continuous Streetscape with Shallow Liner Buildings: Wrappers can be employed around reused box buildings and liners can screen surface parking lots to provide a more continuous streetscape.
  6. Use Appropriate Street Types and Real Sidewalks.
  7. Improve Connectivity for Drivers, Bicyclists and Pedestrians: Build interconnected street networks to increase walkability and public safety, while distributing traffic and reducing overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
  8. Consider Future Connectivity and Adaptability.
  9. Diversify Housing Choice and Price: The future success of suburbs will hinge on their ability to respond to changing demographics; provide more housing choices.
  10. Add New Units to Existing Subdivisions: Infilling residential neighborhoods with accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can provide affordable housing choices for singles and seniors, and increase residential density without dramatically altering the morphological pattern.
  11. Invest in Quality Architecture: The most successful and sustainable retrofits will be beautiful, durable, culturally significant, and built to meet high standards of environmental performance both in the public spaces and the buildings.
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