CNU Will Take Over Stewardship of Build a Better Burb

Sam Warlick, Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Big news: this week, we're proud to announce that Build a Better Burb, a leading national authority on suburban design and sprawl retrofit strategies, will become an in-house program of CNU. The New York–based Rauch Foundation, through its Long Island Index, created Build a Better Burb in 2011 as a vehicle for highlighting and discussing innovative suburban design. The Foundation conceived of Build a Better Burb with the hope that its stewardship would one day be assumed by a larger organization that could incorporate it into a broader set of complementary initiatives. That day has now arrived.

As a program of CNU, Build a Better Burb will maintain its brand and the outstanding suite of case studies, strategies, and resources for which it is known, bolstered by the expertise and energy of CNU’s diverse global membership.

“This partnership between CNU and the Rauch Foundation will elevate and accelerate the amazing work done through Build a Better Burb and bring its accomplishments to a national audience,” said Lynn Richards, President and CEO of CNU. “By integrating Build a Better Burb into CNU’s existing infrastructure of innovation and debate, we can not only better support the exchange of ideas and best practices but significantly increase the number of retrofit projects being built across America.” 

“We couldn’t be more proud to have CNU taking over the stewardship of this program,” said Nancy Rauch Douzinas, President of the Rauch Foundation. “We created Build a Better Burb as a bold statement for Long Island—to try what we hadn’t tried before, to learn from what others had gotten right, and to demand beauty and thoughtful design in our community. Now, it’s time to present that challenge to an international audience.”

Since its founding as a civic planning design competition, Build a Better Burb has grown into a comprehensive platform for understanding and implementing cutting-edge suburban design and sprawl retrofit strategies. The program’s offerings are built to empower all users, from forward-thinking elected officials to passionate citizen advocates, to help create change in their own community.

Build a Better Burb was created by the Long Island Index, a source of unbiased reliable data for businesses, nonprofits, civic organizations, educators, and townships throughout the region. The Rauch Foundation, which funds the Long Island Index, will work with CNU to transition Build a Better Burb to its new program home.

At CNU, Build a Better Burb will join a network of existing programs and member-led efforts that strongly complement its work and mission. The program’s offerings of content and resources will expand to cover cutting-edge suburban retrofit strategies and offer a range of implementation tools for municipalities, professionals, and citizen advocates.

CNU members have defined and promoted suburban design and retrofit strategies in North America for decades, from June Williamson supporting the Long Island Index’s efforts on suburban retrofit from which Build a Better Burb has evolved, to former CNU board chair and Georgia Tech professor Ellen Dunham-Jones’s research and advocacy. Seminal books Retrofitting Suburbia, The Sprawl Repair Manual, Suburban Nation, and Urban Sprawl and Public Health, along with the forthcoming Retrofitting Sprawl: Addressing Seventy Years of Failed Urban Form, were all written or edited by CNU members.

“With communities across the U.S. contemplating how their 20th Century suburbs will age,” said June Williamson, a CNU member and national expert on suburban design, “sprawl retrofit and better suburban design are at a watershed moment. Integrating Build a Better Burb into CNU will unlock countless resources and open up an accessible powerful platform for leaders, designers, developers, and advocates for better suburban placemaking.” 

The Rauch Foundation is a Long Island–based family foundation that invests in ideas and organizations that spark and sustain systemic change in our communities. They focus on areas where they can have the greatest impact: children and families, the environment, and regional leadership. The Foundation believes in taking a comprehensive approach to problem solving, and their activities extend beyond traditional grantmaking to include significant research and communications efforts. For more information, visit