A return to the suburbs – compact walkability for all

A return to the suburbs – compact walkability for all

All this talk about maximizing density, mixed-use infill development, walkability, centralization of services and thoughtful placement of green spaces when it comes to urban development – it’s all about reworking cities to better fit the needs of people. New urbanism (old urbanism?) has become a major buzzword that’s often really about fixing past mistakes. Done well, the approach has community and sustainability built in. But what about people who don’t live in the cities?

If you want to talk about a lack of forethought, one need only look to the suburbs of any major city. And contrary to a popular image of a hipster-driven emphasis on urban redevelopment, we see more and more millennials heading to the ‘burbs. It’s all about price and having space to raise young families. With this generation making up about a third of homebuyers today, it’s time to start applying smart planning and design principles to better accommodate the needs of people who live outside the city center.

Interestingly, the needs of the suburbs will be the focus of this weekend’s Congress for the New Urbanism’s (CNU) council meeting in Miami. Ben Brown over at Placemakers wrote this week that, “While it’s not tough to find folks willing to go full snark on a half century of suburban wrongheadedness, there has always been a core group of urban-focused professionals fretting about where sprawl might be headed and how its impacts might be mitigated to enhance community and connectedness.” At EnSite, we’re proud to be part of that group’s ranks.

With the dedication and perseverance of that core group, and with more municipalities and community stakeholders embracing the concept of compact walkability, it can now be time, as CNU CEO Lynn Richard said “to leverage the momentum from the revival of the city.”

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