Suburbs

EPA Joins the Green Building Party

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By Richard Reep

Well into the last decade, green design and smart growth operated as two separate and distinct reform movements. Both were widely celebrated in media, academic and planning circles, seeing themselves as noble causes albeit underdogs in the struggle against the mighty capitalistic enterprise of real estate development. Starting in 2009, the frozen credit market has kept private development moribund, and these two movements are somewhat moot as development takes a cease-fire.  read more »

Don't Mess With Texas

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One of the most ironic aspects of our putative "Age of Obama" is how little impact it has had on the nation's urban geography. Although the administration remains dominated by boosters from traditional blue state cities--particularly the president's political base of Chicago--the nation's metropolitan growth continues to shift mostly toward a handful of Sunbelt red state metropolitan areas.  read more »

Ruining our Cities to Save Them

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Latching onto Kevin Rudd’s call for “a big Australia” and forecasts that our population will grow by 60 per cent to 35 million in 2050, urban planners are ramping up their war against suburbia. In paper after paper, academics across the country have been pushing the same line. Climate change, peak oil and the financial crisis mean we can’t go on driving and borrowing for low-density housing.  read more »

America in 2050 -- Where and How We'll Live

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The presence of 100 million more Americans by 2050 will reshape the nation's geography. Scores of new communities will have to be built to accommodate them, creating a massive demand for new housing, as well as industrial and commercial space.

This growth will include everything from the widespread "infilling" of once-desolate inner cities to the creation of new suburban and exurban towns to the resettling of the American heartland -- the vast, still sparsely populated regions that constitute the majority of the U.S. landmass.  read more »

Forced March To The Cities

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California is in trouble: Unemployment is over 13%, the state is broke and hundreds of thousands of people, many of them middle-class families, are streaming for the exits. But to some politicians, like Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the real challenge for California "progressives" is not to fix the economy but to reengineer the way people live.  read more »

The Myth of the Strong Center

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At the height of the foreclosure crisis the problems experienced by some so-called “sprawl” markets, like Phoenix and San-Bernardino-Riverside, led some observers to see the largest price declines as largely confined to outer ring suburbs. Some analysts who had long been predicting (even hoping for) the demise of the suburbs skipped right over analysis to concoct theories not supported by the data. The mythology was further enhanced by the notion – never proved – that high gas prices were forcing home buyers closer to the urban core.  read more »

Green Wash: The Church of Sustainability

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The term green-wash is used to describe something that has been promoted as 'green', but is not. Has the term 'sustainability' worn out its welcome as well?  read more »

Suburban Design: Square Peg In A Round Hole

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Remember that Fisher Price toy – “Baby's First Blocks”? It was supposed to teach us one of life's first lessons: Place a square shape in a square hole, and a round shape in a round hole. We're supposed to understand this idea before we learn to say our first words, or to walk. Yet in the development of our neighborhoods, we have put that square shape into every hole, no matter what the shape of that hole.  read more »

Decentralize The Government

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From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has--from the beginning--sought to expand the power of the central state. The president's newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party--as well as the very nature of our federal system--in jeopardy.  read more »

What is the Answer to the Suburban Question?

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We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!).  read more »