The Future of Suburbia Lies in Retrofit

MattBerggren's picture

Richard Florida recently wrote an article published in the Wall Street Journal titled "How SoHo Can Save the Suburbs." His point is two-fold: that hip places attract people, and that dense, mixed-use environments is what is hip. Even though sprawl continues to define the American landscape, many people are fleeing sprawling suburbs for more walkable areas. Some are getting fed up with their cars. They are tired of the costs in both time and money.

Although many people are moving to these denser areas, the question of what to do with all the places we've already built remains. One answer is suburban retrofit. As Florida argues:

Today the challenge is to remake our suburbs, to turn them into more vibrant, livable, people-friendly communities and, in doing so, to make them engines of innovation and productivity.

The idea is to find innovative ways to restructure sprawl so that it is denser and more walkable. Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson argue for this in their 2008 book Retrofitting Suburbia. In a book released last month titled Sprawl Repair Manual, Galina Tachieva offers more specific solutions to repair what is broken in suburbia.

If places are going to survive, they are going to have to change to meet the demands of their residents.


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