Build a Better Burb becomes part of CNU
From its founding in 1993, The Congress for the New Urbanism has focused on the entire built environment in America—including suburbs and cities.
CNU was criticized for its work in suburbs. In its first decade, CNU was sometimes tagged as "new suburbanism." In addition to suburban retrofit and new towns, CNU members also worked on downtown plans, HOPE VI public housing, and transit-oriented development. That earned the enmity of the anti-urban crowd.
But cities and suburbs are not pitted against one another in a zero-sum tug of war. On the contrary, the health of suburbs and cities are bound together. The physical layout of place is critical to the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of both cities and their suburbs. The Charter of the New Urbanism speaks to entire regions. It reads:
We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.
Urban cores have come roaring back since the housing crash of 2008, but the future of suburbs are just as important. Build a Better Burb, a creation of the Rauch Foundation, is a website that recognizes how important suburbs are to America. That's why it is good news that Build a Better Burb will become an in-house program of CNU, Rauch and CNU announced today.
“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.
Build a Better Burb was originally created to bring more thoughtful design to the sprawling suburbs of Long Island, New York. Build a Better Burb, as a brand and a concept, applies nationwide and even worldwide. Its easy-to-remember name encapsulates a positive idea of constant improvement and therefore creating suburbs for the future. No organization has provided more useful ideas for transforming suburbs than CNU.
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.
CNU brings that expertise to Build a Better Burb. The suburbs have vast potential and a strong future in America. But suburbs won't thrive at the expense of cities. A sustainable future can only be achieve if suburbs and cities move forward together. That's the vision that CNU brings to Build a Better Burb.
Robert Steuteville is editor of Better Cities & Towns and senior communications advisor to CNU.