Can Curbing Urban Sprawl Also Help The Suburbs?

Can Curbing Urban Sprawl Also Help The Suburbs?The following is taken from an opinion piece published in the Kansas City Star

In recent years, some suburban officials have vigorously opposed bids to curb sprawl in the Kansas City region. Johnson County’s political and economic development leaders in particular have criticized “smart growth strategies,” then moved forward with plans to annex more territory and woo additional residents to newer, far-flung subdivisions . . . .

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Suburban Growth Focused On Inner And Outer Communities

Inner And Outer CommunitiesIf population growth is a contest, suburbia wins — hands down.

Almost 85% of the nation’s 308.7 million people live in metropolitan areas, and more than half are in ever-expanding suburban rings that encircle major cities.

A new pattern is emerging this century. Most of the growth is happening on opposite ends of the suburban expanse: in older communities closest to the city and in the newer ones that are the farthest out.

“A few decades ago, all the growth was on the edge,” says Robert Lang, an urban sociologist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas who analyzed 2010 Census data. “Now, there are citylike suburbs doing well on one side of the metropolis while conventional suburbs still flourish on the fringe.”


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New Opportunities For New Urbanism?

New UrbanismFor decades, devotees of New Urbanism have railed against urban sprawl and all that goes with it: 2-acre housing lots, cul-de-sacs, gas-guzzling SUVs and neighbors who glimpse each other only when the garage door goes up or down.

As an alternative, they proposed making new neighborhoods just like the old ones. Think smaller homes, narrower and tree-lined streets, commuters on bikes and a corner grocery store.

Some of these developments have earned national acclaim, including Middleton Hills, a 150-acre project off Century Boulevard designed by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the husband-wife team often credited with launching the New Urbanism movement.

Yet while New Urbanism has been all the rage in planning and architectural circles since the 1980s, American homebuyers weren’t such an easy sell. Most were still going for as much square footage as they could afford and lenders were more than happy to oblige with huge mortgages they quickly sold off to someone else.

Then the housing crisis hit.

Where all the well-intentioned planning in the world couldn’t slow urban sprawl, the economic collapse stopped it dead. Housing starts have slumped to their lowest level on record and nearly two million existing homes are in foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

via The Cap Times.

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Despite Increasing Number Of Seniors In Urban Areas, Experts Say Cities Doing Little To Be Age-Friendly

Seniors-In-The-CityBy Tod Newcombe, GOVERNING

Have you ever thought the walk signs at street corners weren’t long enough? Probably not. But if you’re over 65 years old, it may be a different matter. What seems like a reasonable amount of time to cross a street is more like an Olympic sprint for the elderly. It’s one of numerous issues that have grown in importance as our population not only ages but becomes increasingly concentrated in cities.

In 2006, just 11 percent of the global population was over the age of 60, but the number is expected to double by 2050, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the number of people living in cities continues to rise. In North America, 81 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and is expected to reach 87 percent by 2030.

Despite the clear trend toward an older, more urban population, most experts agree little is being done to make cities more age-friendly . . . .

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Solving Climate Crisis In The Hands Of World’s Cities



By Sarah Goodyear, Grist

The world’s cities are going to have to move aggressively to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions, or the whole planet is going to pay for it.

That’s the word in a new report from the United Nations Human Settlement Program, or UN-HABITAT. The report is called “Hot Cities: Battle-Ground for Climate Change,’ and it paints a dire picture of how an increasingly urban and wealthy global population could mean “potentially devastating effects of climate change on urban populations” . . . .

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Inner-Ring Suburbs Are The New ‘Sweet Spot’ For Post-Recession Development And Investment, Says ULI CEO

An aerial view of housing developments near Ma...
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by Urban Land Institute on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 7:51am

Once bypassed in the stream of investments being funneled into downtown cores and outlying suburbs, first-tier neighborhoods are emerging in the post-recession era as major magnets for urban growth, according to Urban Land Institute Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips.

“It’s clear that the disconnect between housing and jobs, long daily commutes, and time wasted in traffic is causing more and more people to rethink how and where they are living,” Phillips said. “This bodes well for first-tier suburbs. Not so well for the exurbs.”

Phillips pointed to several “forces of change” related to population and demographic shifts that will likely redefine living and working environments in the U.S. for decades ahead . . . .

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What Makes A City Great? An American Perspective

by H.V. Savitch, Planetizen

Any effort to explain the meaning of a great city is bound to elicit a multiplicity of responses. Journalists often equate a great city with a “hot city” (an influx of people and capital) or with a “cool city” (the presence of jazz clubs, art festivals, etc). More serious accounts tie the “great city” to desirable outcomes, like the ability to effectively govern or bring about sustainable development. Scholars of the subject sometimes infer that a great city is also a “global city.” The concept of a great city has been treated as a further step a “world city” can take toward greatness. Despite the available literature on the “great city” the concept suffers from ambiguity and loose meaning. . . . .

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Should We Focus On Retrofitting The Suburbs Rather Than City Centers?

by Alex Becker, Huffington Post

America has an overconsumption problem. We use too much oil purchased from countries which hate us to haul ourselves from point A to point B. We use too much coal to light homes which are too big and filled with too much stuff which we took out too much credit to buy. Though Americans make up just 5% of the world’s population, the US alone accounts for 25% of the world’s annual resource use. According to the Global Footprint Network, the consumptive lifestyle to which most Americans are accustomed would require at least four planet Earths to sustain indefinitely.

The issue of overconsumption is not new. For decades, environmentalists and sustainability activists have proposed a very simple solution, “Use less!” America, they say, will be able to make itself cleaner, greener, cooler, prettier, more equitable and more globally competitive if it can only find the common inspiration to turn off the lights, drive a little less, buy local food and develop energy sources which do not require million year old decayed plant and animal matter. All this is possible they say, if only we could all just tap into a sense of environmental enlightenment, join hands and in one clear gesture turn off the water while brushing our teeth.

Calls to be greener and use less energy are all well and good, but ultimately mean nothing unless we can fundamentally restructure the suburban environment in which a large swath of the American public lives . . . .

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Is There A War Between Cities And Suburbs? Does There Have To Be One?

By Sarah Goodyear, Grist

Congested, dirty, dangerous cities.

Soulless, dull, alienating suburbs.

This old pair of stereotypes has fueled countless debates, not to mention movies. And the sides have become increasingly entrenched over the years. (Does Escape from New York validate your world view? Or American Beauty?)

But as the rate of suburban poverty increases in the United States and those suburbs become more racially diverse, and as the nation’s most prosperous cities become more expensive to live in and more dominated by typically suburban fixtures like chain stores, it may be time to ask whether the dichotomy needs to be revisited.

This is especially true because the environmental stakes involved are so high. The built environment — how much land we take up, how much fuel we use to get around, how our homes are constructed and powered — is emerging as a crucial factor in the battle to reduce carbon emissions. Maybe the crucial factor . . . .

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