Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What does Sprawl have to do with it?

I came across this article at MBL. Steve Berg makes the connection between land use and the recent financial problems the country is facing.
The economic meltdown is generally blamed on lax regulation of the financial sector's real-estate dealings. Christopher Leinberger lays further blame on the real-estate industry itself, especially on his fellow developers.

"We built too much of the wrong product in the wrong place," the author and Brookings Institution scholar told me last week before addressing an overflow crowd of developers and local government officials in downtown Minneapolis. What he meant was that the industry kept doing the easiest thing – building single-family homes on the suburban fringe – despite evidence that the market was shifting toward smaller homes in denser neighborhoods closer to the metropolitan core.

And what can we do:
• Built transit, especially rail transit.
• Change zoning laws to allow a walkable, compact and mixed-use form of development to proceed, once the market comes back.
• Institute business improvement districts (BIDs) to manage downtowns and other town centers as a way to ensure their proper maintenance and long-term success.

I agree with the three points but are we going to bulldoze failed suburbs like many cities did to neighborhoods under urban renewal? Instead we need to find solutions to retrofit the suburbs and most cities. It will not be enough to build new communities under the new urbanist guidelines and principles. I believe that planning is still missing this key area of restoration, rebuilding, and revitalization.

So how do we create livable communities with our current built environment? I don't have the answers, but we had better start real soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i have an answer - road diets. take away asphalt from cars, give it to pedestrians and bikes, and watch the world become a better place.