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Saving the Suburbs

Do you live in the suburbs? Are they suffering where you live?

How to Save the Suburbs: Solutions from the Man Who Saw the Whole Thing Coming » INFRASTRUCTURIST

The suburbs are really suffering. What’s the short-form diagnosis?
Americans are undergoing a fundamental shift in where they want live, work, and play. So this is not just a normal cyclical downturn. We’ve structurally overbuilt retail, office, and housing, and we’ve done so in the wrong places….

So rather than asking about a bottom, the better question might be: How long will it take for supply and demand to get back into equilibrium?
Upwards of 30 years. In a good year we only add 2 percent to the built environment. So even if we only produced walkable urban product for the next 20 years, it would take that long to get caught up.

The new form of suburbs were built up in a mere 50 years, and society has suffered as a result through these times. It is impossible to reverse the decisions of previous generations without a large scale effort, and at great expense.

The future of these forms of development is unknown. Pockets might be saved by willing communities through town centres and good transit oriented development, but many areas will fall into disrepair as the cost of providing transport and services to these areas becomes unpalatable.

Empty Florida homes may return to nature – Los Angeles Times

The Georgetown apartment complex was one of this city’s most coveted properties back in 2005. Now Greg Chelius and Alex Size were touring it as if examining an exotic ruin.

They walked past the unmanned guardhouse and its broken windows. Size snapped photos with a digital camera. Chelius lifted the green fabric on a fence tacked with No Trespassing signs.

Building after building loomed in the near distance, all of them quiet and vacant. From Chelius’ vantage, it was difficult to judge their condition.

“We heard they were in such bad shape they’d have to be taken down,” he said.

“It depends on the drywall,” Size replied. “And the rot. And the mold.”

They walked the eastern edge of the property, stopping at a place where they could glimpse — through a thicket of weeds and Brazilian pepper trees — the blue water of Old Tampa Bay, lapping at the property’s edge.

It is interesting to see the lead edge of the rot and disrepair that will plague the suburban sprawl right across North America.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.