Sunday, May 1, 2011

Types of Suburbia...

This USA Today article does an interesting job of using Professor Robert Lang's (UNLV, Urban Sociology) research to address the different "types" of American suburban development:

•Inner suburbs. Many developed in the 1920s and 1930s along streetcar lines. Because they're close to cities and usually have extensive public transportation, they have gained in appeal as gas prices have soared. They're most attractive to the young, the childless and immigrant families. Many buildings are old, so there is less reluctance to rebuild and fill in vacant space. Key examples are Arlington and Alexandria, Va., suburbs of Washington, D.C., and sections of Tampa's Hillsborough County and San Antonio's Bexar County — all double-digit gainers since 2000.

Bill Rubin, executive director of the St. Croix Economic Development Corp., is pushing the Wisconsin county to create jobs, not just housing for residents commuting to nearby Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota.

"There's been a growing sentiment towards moving closer (to cities) in the past decade," says John McIlwain, a housing expert at the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit group that promotes sustainable development.

•Mature suburbs. The next ring out from inner suburbs, these communities began their growth in the 1970s and 1980s and are filling out: Jefferson County in the Denver metropolitan area or Chicago's DuPage. On the whole, these suburbs grew the slowest from 2000 to 2010 , adding 3.5 million people, a 7.8% increase.

"These are suburbs that are finished being built — were finished in the '80s and '90s — and are not old enough to be rebuilt,'' Lang says. As rail lines begin to extend into these suburbs, denser development may follow and growth may pick up again, he says.

•Emerging suburbs and exurbs. Despite the housing bust and foreclosures that hit new subdivisions the hardest, these communities along the outer ring of suburbia ended the decade with phenomenal growth.

Contrary to some suggestions, not all forms of suburban development are unsustainable.  Indeed, some of the "Inner Suburbs" actually date back to pre-automobile years when they were founded along trolley car routes. 

This "type" of suburb is most prone to sustainable revitalization as they essentially represent the earliest form of transit-oriented development.

Chad Emerson

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