Articles, Events, Thoughts and Resources on Sprawl Repair
Cataloged by Galina Tachieva


Suburbanism reversed in a generation?

According to Laurie Volk and Todd Zimmerman, “Since the turn of century, the demographic convergence of the two largest generations in the nation’s history, Baby Boomers and Millennials, both at life stages favoring community-oriented neighborhoods has formed the foundation for a nationwide urban resurgence.

The impact has been felt in neighborhoods at every scale, from the nation’s greatest cities to small, walkable 19th century downtowns that have become the de facto urban centers for surrounding auto-oriented subdivisions.”

However, there are other distinctions among households that can be more meaningful than age cohort, including preferences for urban scale and taste for new versus old.

In addition, Millennials’ life stage, financial circumstances and attitude toward ownership housing threatens to clog the whole system of ownership housing.

Millennial families’ continued embrace of walkable urbanism will depend on the success and quality of re-urbanization, particularly in smaller-scale urban centers, and whether a range of housing types can be developed, redeveloped, restored or maintained within these walkable neighborhoods. And, perhaps more importantly, it will depend on whether these dwellings, whether for-rent or for-sale, will be affordable to a wide spectrum of households.

Six highlights of a walkable center

King of Prussia Town Center Source: Build a Better Burb

“King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, a major suburban “edge city” outside of Philadelphia, is building a walkable town center. Until recently, King of Prussia included nothing but massive parking lots and car-oriented shopping centers—including the second largest mall in the US—office buildings, and wide, busy thoroughfares.

King of Prussia still has all of that, but this suburban retrofit brings human-scale placemaking to the heart of this census-designated place in Upper Merion Township.

Key highlights of this suburban retrofit include: lots of outdoor dining; architecture that is eclectic and modern-looking—not traditional like many new town centers; a plaza with comfortable places to sit, programming such as live music and events, and a really fun fountain for the kids; and about 1,250 housing units will surround the shops and restaurants when the project is complete. Once fully occupied, this housing could bump up Upper Merion Township’s population 10 to 15 percent.

The project utilizes diverse sprawl repair techniques to create a livable community offering live, work and play options that broaden the tax base, and increase viability for the surrounding businesses.

Six reasons for the resurgence of car-free shopping streets

It’s all about the experience.
Source: Bethesda Magazine. Bethesda Lane. Bethesda, MD

Lee Sobel writes that car-free shopping streets are witnessing a resurgence with the return to traditional neighborhood design.

“Walkable places have become more desirable and people are looking for additional retail options in the places where they already live, work, and play. Car-free shopping streets offer just that.”

Sprawl repair techniques offer flexibility of design, scale and ownership options, allowing a range of stakeholders to partake in the success of car-free shopping streets.

 

 

The Geography of Innovation

Richard Florida writes:

recent study by economists Enrico Berkes of Northwestern University and Ruben Gaetani of the University of Toronto Rotman School cracks the proverbial code on the geography of innovation. They find that while there is actually a greater amount of innovation (as measured by patents) in suburbs, cities produce far more “unconventional innovations,” which require a greater diversity of contributors and have a more disruptive economic impact.

Unconventional patents are more likely to come from smaller companies, university labs, or independent inventors than large, publicly-traded companies. And they are often the harbingers of revolutionary new technologies.

In other words, density plays a much bigger and more important role in the type of innovation than in the rate of innovation.

Large cities not only have deep pools of talent and a critical mass of specialists, they also have the density to forge connections between people and firms with diverse bases of knowledge.

Ultimately, the better way to think about the geography of innovation is not city versus suburb but city and suburb. If cities are the centers for more cutting-edge innovation, the suburbs remain home to the big established companies that require large campuses to house their activities and people, and which tend to engage in a lot of patenting.

It will be interesting to track these trends in the coming years, as big companies seek to urbanize their suburban campuses.

Jarvis: Mostly vacant Windsor plazas seen as an opportunity for ‘sprawl repair’

According to Anne Jarvis of the Windsor Star in Windsor, Ontario,

“Strip malls like Dorwin and Dougall plazas litter North America. They were built for cars, not people. They’re not inviting, and that’s why they’re dying. One of the biggest challenges for cities is how to fix them. It’s called “sprawl repair,” and it’s about retrofitting half-empty malls, strip malls and office parks.”

“I see opportunity for places like Dorwin,” said Shane Mitchell, a project manager at Glos Associates architectural and engineering consultants in Windsor.

“It’s about converting these monstrosities into neighbourhood hubs with a mix of uses. Monolithic buildings are carved into smaller buildings. Small streets and public squares are added. Parking is reduced. It’s creating a traditional city centre and main street. All of a sudden you … end up with an interesting place,” said Mitchell.

The first thing municipalities, including Windsor, have to do is change regulations that require buildings to be too far from the street and have too much parking. Cities can also stop offering tax rebates for some vacant properties, as Windsor is considering. But they also need to offer incentives for developers to do these types of developments, like Windsor already provides for other types of development.

According to Dorian Moore, a partner in Archive Design Studio in Detroit, “they have to encourage developers to “see the value in doing that kind of development. Show them what can be done,” he said, citing Mashpee Commons in Massachusetts, a 1960s strip mall with a huge parking lot converted into a renowned and award-winning mixed use town centre.

“You have to encourage the type of development you want to see,” said Mitchell.

Learn more about DPZ CoDesign’s Urbanism Code for Mashpee Commons here.

Grocery Stores Move In On Suburban Locations

The interior of Natick Mall, MA, the upcoming location of a new Wegmans store

Laura Hillen writes that grocery retailers are finding new homes as mall anchors in suburbia.

Due to declining foot traffic, many retailers are now preparing to close a large number of their stores. These closures are leaving empty mall spaces in their wake.

Food retail is one thing helping struggling malls survive,” June Williamson, an architecture professor at the City College of New York, and Co-Author of Retrofitting Suburbia.

Williamson also stated that losing an anchor store and its lease payment can make it difficult for a mall’s survival. However, malls are starting to focus on answering consumer needs apart from just clothing. As the consumer shopping experience continues to change, malls could prove a successful financial hub by offering food-related business.

Retrofits of existing malls can capitalize on proximity to infrastructure, housing, parking and public transportation. Grocers and other non-traditional mall uses, such as offices and health care, can benefit the entire region without the need to build from the ground up.

New Jersey Has a Millennials Problem

According to a report by CBRE, New Jersey’s struggling office market is facing another big challenge: the exodus of millennials. This is in addition to numerous hurdles over the past decade, resulting from the recession and vacant corporate campuses left behind after company consolidations. The latest is an “alarming” outflow of young workers from the state.

A number of landlords have been investing heavily to renovate older buildings, adding lobbies with Wi-Fi, baristas and wine bars, lounge seating and cafeterias offering a variety of food options. Others are subsidizing beefed-up transportation to and from train stations and hip downtowns using vans or ride-sharing apps.

Many millennials are coming from a few years of living on college campuses with recreational areas, academic buildings and collaborative spaces. Savvy corporate complexes, like the Warren Corporate Center in Warren, N.J., are being redeveloped with amenities designed to attract millennials, such as a stand-alone amenity building in the center of the 820,000 square-foot complex, featuring an indoor basketball court, conference-room facilities, a food court with a coffee bar, fitness center and a green roof with event space.

Sprawl repair techniques can revitalize suburban campuses and communities to make it more attractive for the millennials, and all residents of the Garden State.

Brainard wants to transform office building parking lots along U.S. 31 into ‘little villages’

Chris Sikich discusses plans to insert mixed uses, including, residential and retail development similar to Carmel’s downtown, into the state’s second largest commercial hub along US 31.

When Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard looks at the 5-mile stretch of highway, he doesn’t just see multistory corporate headquarters and health care complexes that have been so instrumental in building the city’s financial base. He says there are hundreds of acres of underused land, not just the few tracts of green space on the market, but also the seas of parking lots that serve the buildings.

“It’s such a waste of space, these big suburban parking lots, which don’t look very nice,” Brainard said. “I anticipate some day there will be little villages around those office towers.”

The mayor is proposing to provide millions in taxpayer incentives for property owners and developers to build restaurants, shops, apartments and condos with parking garages along U.S. 31

As Carmel has developed its urban core, several high-profile corporations have fled the U.S. 31 corridor for the more walkable environment being created in the city’s downtown area.

“The market is changing,” Brainard said. “People don’t want to get in their cars to drive to lunch anymore. They want to walk someplace close to their office.” 

He thinks the highest quality development comes from public-private partnerships. He wants to guide development as he has in Carmel’s urban core. He hopes to offer incentives to encourage the development of shops, restaurants, homes and public spaces. That most likely means using TIF districts to pay back city bonds for parking garages, which in the past have cost from $10 million to $20 million each.

Busting 4 Common Myths About the Suburbs

Rachel Quednau busts four common myths about suburban sprawl, and makes the case for hard choices that can lead to sensible sprawl repair. 

Myth #1: The suburbs exist because that’s the way people want to live.

Busted: The suburbs exist because that’s the style of development that has been regulated into existence and funded by governments across the nation.

Myth #2: Sprawl is the biggest problem with the suburbs.

Busted: The problem is a development pattern that is financially insolvent.

Myth #3: Suburban residents are paying for the cost of their lifestyle.

Busted: Across the country, we see that urban areas subsidize suburban living to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Myth #4: We can turn the suburbs into financially productive places if we just try our hardest.

Busted: No. There’s too much suburban development for this to ever happen.

 

With the painfully limited amount of resources we all have right now, we must make the hard choices about where to focus our efforts. We can take small steps to help older neighborhoods with a solid foundation to be more successful, or we can take herculean steps to push a few suburban neighborhoods in a slightly better direction, in spite of aggressive cultural opposition.

The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva offers numerous techniques to determine the most promising locations where targeted, incremental investment is likely to be successful.

Historic Sprawl: A Future for Post-War Suburbia

Solitary drive-through retail site is retrofitted with liner buildings to incrementally begin the transition to walkable, livable communities.
Image Credit: Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva of DPZ CoDesign
Deficiency: Sprawl-type Solitary drive-through retail. Remedial Techniques: Step 1: liner building retrofit. Step 2: Dense redevelopment where viable. Image Credit: Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva of DPZ CoDesign

Jonathan Hopkins of Urbanismo makes a compelling case that the NPS’s evaluation criteria for nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places should be revised to address concerns that preservation funding will become increasingly available for use by sprawling Post-War suburban subdivisions like Levittown, New York as they reach their 50 year eligibility mark.

“It becomes necessary to make clear criteria-based distinctions between sprawl and other development patterns like neighborhoods and small towns in order to prevent the preservation of obesity, social dysfunction, and environmental degradation.”

“By taking a proactive approach sooner rather than later, the prevention of preserving sprawl in its current state can be realized. The preservation movement – in coordination with environmentalists, developers, medical physicians, and others – can encourage law-makers to pass legislation to amend the Secretary of the Interior’s standards to include suburban retrofitting guidelines that outline appropriate initiatives to be funded by tax credits and planning grants at both the State and Federal level. In coordination with land-use, zoning, tax, and development policy reforms that discourage new suburban sprawl developments, historic preservation funding sources can encourage the retrofitting of sprawl into a more sustainable, accessible, affordable, and attractive living arrangement.

 

 

Why the Death of Malls Is About More Than Shopping

Josh Sanburn offers an historic perspective on American malls, and a glimpse into the future for malls and communities willing to invest in sprawl repair and place-making. Learn more about Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva.

Local jobs are a major casualty of what analysts are calling, with only a hint of hyperbole, the retail apocalypse. By 2022, analysts estimate that 1 out of every 4 malls in the U.S. could be out of business, victims of changing tastes, a widening wealth gap and the embrace of online shopping for everything from socks to swing sets.

Local jobs are a major casualty of what analysts are calling, with only a hint of hyperbole, the retail apocalypse.

In the 61 years since the first enclosed one opened in suburban Minneapolis, the shopping mall has been where a huge swath of middle-class America went for far more than shopping. But for better or worse, the mall has been America’s public square for the last 60 years.

Some of the great mall die-off is what economists refer to as a market correction. “We are over-retailed,” says Ronald Friedman, a partner at Marcum LLP, which researches consumer trends. There is an estimated 26 sq. ft. of retail for every person in the U.S., compared with about 2.5 sq. ft. per capita in Europe. Roughly 60% of Macy’s stores slated to close are within 10 miles of another Macy’s.

Some ailing malls have already moved on to a second life. Austin Community College in Texas purchased Highland Mall in 2012 and converted part of it into a tech-driven learning lab and library. In Nashville, Vanderbilt University Medical Center moved into the second floor of the 100 Oaks Mall a few miles from downtown. The Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Ky., bought their nearby mall and transformed part of it into an auditorium.

It also turns out that not everyone wants to spend their leisure time inside. Many of the new, millennial-focused malls are indoor/outdoor complexes designed as one cog of a suburban town center that includes apartments and office space … a magnet for millennials who are leaving downtowns for the suburbs but still want to live in a dense, walkable community.

There are still about 1,100 malls in the U.S. today, but a quarter of them are at risk of closing over the next five years, according to estimates from Credit Suisse.

 

 

One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix

The new Apple headquarters under construction in Cupertino, Calif.
JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES

Alison Arieff spent the last year researching the future of the corporate campus through the lens of urbanism.

“The project has explored how the Bay Area’s workplaces might become more socially, economically and sustainably efficient, but also how applying new ways of thinking about the design, form and location of these buildings could help create a sense of place.

Solving this isn’t rocket science; it’s common sense. Don’t design buildings that function only as pristine objects with no relationship to their surroundings. Don’t put workplaces in locations inaccessible to transit. Do consider the broader context.

Learn more about Sprawl and Sprawl Repair from Galina Tachieva, and check out the Sprawl Repair Manual.

Check out Galina’s Blog on Apple’s new campus: Not This Time – Why the new Apple campus doesn’t work

MACY’S LOOKING TO MONETIZE UNUSED PARKING LOTS

The 11.4 acre Macy’s-owned portion of Landmark Mall. Howard Hughes Corporation acquired the Macy’s parcel and has begun to transform the enclosed mall and the Macy’s parcel into a vibrant open-air, mixed-use community with retail, residential and entertainment components designed to create a dynamic urban village. Image: Howard Hughes Corp

“Struggling retailer sees opportunities to improve shopping experience by activating empty parking lots.

As the images of empty parking lots during Black Friday have demonstrated, commercial real estate professionals are slowly warming to the idea that we have far too much parking than is needed- diminishing municipal tax bases and taking away the ability to lease space within struggling shopping centers. Big box retailer Macy’s has announced their intention to create new revenue streams by reimagining acres of unused parking lots- a strategy used by tactical urbanists in places like Nashville, Indianapolis and Miami.”

Sears to close 43 more stores to cut costs

A Sears department store is pictured in La Jolla, California, U.S., March 22, 2017.
REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

“Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) is closing eight of its namesake department stores and 35 Kmart locations to cut costs and square footage in an effort to return to profitability, Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert said on Friday. The store closings are in addition to 150 the company announced in January.

“This is part of a strategy both to address losses from unprofitable stores and to reduce the square footage of other stores because many of them are simply too big for our current needs.”

As anchor tenants like Sears retreat, smaller adjacent retailers will suffer from reduced foot traffic. Where possible, increasing density utilizing Sprawl Repair techniques can return jobs and tax revenue to communities.

Brick and Mortar Reborn – The Future of Retail in the Era of Urbanization

The trend toward urbanization is inspiring retailers to focus on the holistic customer
experience.

An August 2016 White Paper by Synchrony Financial in collaboration with Quartz creative services discusses Urbanization and the Consumer, as well as strategies for competing with growing E-commerce.

“EXPERIENCE-DRIVEN RETAIL: THE RISE OF FLAGSHIPS, CURATED SATELLITES, POP-UPS, AND CONCEPT SHOPS

Urban consumers strongly favor the in-store shopping experience—with an emphasis on the experience. Eighteen percent of urban millennials expect to shop more in stores in the coming year than they did the last. When they do, they expect more than just a transaction. They want a unique experience that differentiates their spending and are willing to pay, on average, 31.6% more for it.

From flagship stores to short-lived, curated experiences, the future of retail involves meeting shoppers on their own terms—in the physical spaces they prefer.

The spread of city culture and denser living means customers are willing to pay more for brands that sell experiences—that sell a lifestyle—as well as provide on-demand convenience.”

These same strategies can be aimed at all ages and populations, and should be applied to Mall Retrofits in suburban settings where the decline of aging malls continues to drive down surrounding property values.

Brick & mortar vs. Amazon: Mall stores getting Amazonned into deep doo-doo

Horton Plaza. Important retailers started deserting it not long after it opened. A huge part of it has been ripped down.

The need to retrofit failing malls is becoming ever more urgent:

“On May 31, the big bank Credit Suisse predicted that 25 percent of malls would be gone in the next five years. Earlier forecasts had also been dire, and results prove them to have been accurate. Malls used to be anchored by big department stores — Sears, JCPenney, Macy’s, and the like.

All are now in deep doo-doo and closing stores, upsetting the malls that relied upon them as consumer draws and sources of revenue. The smaller mall stores, which pay higher rent per square foot than the anchors, are having trouble, further biting into mall revenue and traffic.”

Southern California’s dead malls could be places to live

Carousel Mall Photo by Will Lester-SCNG-Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
The Carousel Mall, built in 1972, has very few tenants as seen Tuesday June 6, 2017 in San Bernardino.

Larry Wilson of the Pasadena Star News suggests converting malls to multifamily housing with commercial uses as a way to provide affordable housing and inject new life into failing malls.

“Merchants and shopping-center developers are wondering what to do with these huge pieces of real estate that seemingly have outlived their usefulness.

For once, there is an unusually easy answer: If you can’t shop in ’em, live in ’em.

“… the factor that most aggravates Southern California’s housing crisis is the lack of supply for the demand. Developers aren’t building nearly enough new multi-family to meet the need because of a combination of lack of open land and zoning codes and NIMBYism that make it hard to expand on existing sites.

Just as ground-floor retail, grocery stores, restaurants and bars still thrive in eastern cities more accustomed to density, there will still be room for some commercial in these repurposed places — especially when more people live right next door.

And, yes, that answer includes providing subsidized former-mall housing for those now living in cardboard-tent cities in our riverbeds and on our sidewalks.”

Commentary: The mall is dead — long live the mall

Jun 20, 2017:  Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board spoke to Joshua Harris, director of the Dr. P. Phillips Institute for Research and Education in Real Estate at the University of Central Florida, to ask about malls:

“Q: Did shopping malls ever serve a purpose in society, beyond retailing? What changed, if anything?

A: Shopping malls became the de facto “town square” during the suburban development boom of the ’70s and ’80s. They were the place to go, hang out and be seen. Thus, the urban resurgence that began in the late ’90s, and really intensified in the past 10 years, has taken the “town square” back to the more natural walkable, urban environment. Places like Winter Park, Winter Garden, Thornton Park and now even Baldwin Park (close to 95 percent leased after suffering massive problems during the recession) are all the “hot” places to go on a Friday or Saturday. In reality, history will show that the suburban mall was the aberration, driven by urban decay and rising crime. With urban renewal and major declines in crime, the mall does not fit as well as it did for those few decades. There will be life for existing malls, but likely after being repurposed and designed to feel more like town centers.”

 

Where logical transportation and community infrastructure already exists, sprawl repair techniques can be used to add residential, office, entertainment, and public open space to spur an entire region with new, walkable Town Centers.

 

The Mall of the Future Will Have No Stores

PHOTO: FORD LAND At Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Mich., Starwood Capital brought in Ford, which converted a former department store into a workspace for its engineering and purchasing staff.

Shopping-center landlords are rethinking the traditional mall model—and shops aren’t necessarily part of the equation

As retailers close bricks-and-mortar stores at an accelerating pace, shopping-center landlords like Starwood Capital are facing a vexing question: What to do with all this empty space?

Some landlords plug empty spaces with churches, for-profit schools and random enterprises while they figure out a long-term plan. Others see a future in mixed-use real estate, converting malls into streetscapes with restaurants, offices and housing. And some are razing properties altogether and turning them into entertainment or industrial parks.

Many mall owners are trying to liven up the experience, bringing more dining and entertainment tenants and eschewing the traditional mix.

Can Australia avoid the death of local malls?

Abandoned Malls by Seph Lawless-Source-Supplied

As Amazon nears offering service to Australia, Economist Jason Murphy hopes Australian malls can avoid the current American syndrome of dying malls. He offers the following suggestions that can also offer hope for our American malls through Sprawl Repair and Retrofit:

“Number one is probably to reduce their reliance on risky “anchor tenants”. Coles, Woolies, Target and Big W are shopping centre stalwarts, but none of them is certain to still be succeeding in a decade’s time. One or all of them could find the going a lot tougher in a world where Amazon is trying to win over our wallets.

The next big idea for shopping centres is to offer experiences not just goods. Amazon sells stuff you can get delivered to your door. But experiences — haircuts, manicures and massages; meals, coffees and movies — are still things people want to meet in person for.”

By increasing density and diversifying uses, dying malls can become innovative employment and social hubs that enrich the surrounding neighborhoods.

Time to think about taxes for the Bristol Mall

Bristol Mall Image by Zack Irby:BHC

The Editorial Staff of the Bristol Herald in Bristol, VA is seeking to raise public pressure on local officials to find a solution to the dying Bristol Mall in their midst:

“We’ve previously discussed ideas and the need for action for our “skeletal mall.”

“This might all imply prevention of the mall’s slow death is a civic issue, but it’s not. All of us citizens who share a hope to see the mall, built in 1976, thrive for another 40 years also have an applicable duty. We should collaboratively raise awareness and a sense of urgency to move on this.

Let’s try an experiment: Let’s all call and write the city’s leaders within the next two weeks, asking what’s being done to fill the mall and to explore these kinds of options.

If each reader makes the effort to simply ask questions, the strength-in-numbers concept would make the topic too relevant for our local government to ignore.”

Read more about their investigations into retrofitting their mall, and the success Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., experienced in Richmond during his time as mayor there.

Malls are doomed: 25% will be gone in 5 years

Single purpose mall surrounded by a sea of asphalt

Chris Isidore of CNN Money writes, “Store closings and even dead malls are nothing new, but things might be about to get a whole lot worse.

Between 20% and 25% of American malls will close within five years, according to a new report out this week from Credit Suisse. That kind of plunge would be unprecedented in the nation’s history.

In 1970 there were only 300 enclosed malls in the U.S., and now there are 1,211 of them. In fact, despite the recent turbulence in the retail industry, the number of malls open has actually edged

Repaired mall with vibrant 24/7 mixed-uses, increased density to support retail and entertainment, and beautiful, functional stormwater and local agricultural systems

higher every year.

If the analysts at Credit Suisse are right, that trend line about to turn — sharply — in the other direction.

According to Galina Tachieva, “Each store closing, and every mall mall that dies,  increases the urgency to return jobs and halt declining real estate values. Sprawl Repair through repurposing of dying malls offers a logical solution to create vibrant live-work communities where infrastructure is already in place.”

Learn more here:  http://www.dpz.com/Initiatives/SprawlRepair

Happy 70th to True American Suburbia – Levittown was once finishing a new house every 16 minutes.

Levittown, N.Y. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Jerry Cianciolo of the Wall Street Journal wrote:

“At one point in the 1940s, a house was completed every 16 minutes in Levittown, N.Y., the first mass-produced suburb in America.

Until William Levitt broke ground on what was formerly a potato patch on Long Island, inefficient small operators dominated the housing sector. Levitt—who had been introduced to the efficiencies of mass production during World War II—knew his competitors couldn’t meet the increasing demand for new housing as more soldiers came home. He wanted to be the one who did.

The entrepreneur analyzed the home-construction process and segmented it into 27 steps. He then adopted an inverse of the assembly-line method popularized by Henry Ford —his workers moved as the objects remained stationary.”

According to Galina Tachieva, “Levittown changed the pattern of building communities in the United States because William Levitt created a normative product, the auto-dependent suburban enclave, which he could repeat easily. So we have to come up with normative step-by-step tools to retrofit suburbia in the way it was built. With the Sprawl Repair Manual, we are developing methods that can duplicate the speed and energy that Levitt used, wth the intent to repair sprawling suburbs and form complete living communities.”

 

Energized by Changes in Demographics and Consumer Demand, U.S. Suburbs are Positioned to Thrive in the Decades Ahead, Says New ULI Report

A December 5, 2016 report, Housing in the Evolving American Suburbprovides a new analytic framework developed by RCLCO for the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing that describes different kinds of suburbs based on the key factors that define and determine their housing markets. The report classifies and compares suburbs in the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. – shown in a searchable online map – and assesses the key issues that will shape suburban residential demand and development in the years ahead.

Terwilliger Center Executive Director Stockton Williams says, “The capacity of American suburbs to evolve with the economic and demographic transformations the country is experiencing will be one of the central real estate and land use issues of the 21st century.” 

Retrofitting Suburbia

Mount Laurel fire station (made out of rock from Double Oak Mountain)

Note: Great article on the success of three New Urbanist developments! These particular communities are examples of new and/or infill projects in suburban locations, which can serve as inspirational models for future suburban retrofits.

Three Alabama towns are robust examples of New Urbanism — traditional communities designed to be practical rather than nostalgic. One was named the National Association of Homebuilders’ 2014 Community of the Year.

In this article, Cary Estes and Art Meripol highlight three successful Alabama communities: Hampstead in Montgomery, the Village of Providence in Huntsville, and Mount Laurel in Birmingham.

It is called New Urbanism, a design concept in which communities are compact and connected. A place where children can walk to school, families can walk to church, and many of the necessities of daily life, such as food and health care, are also just a short stroll away. Where the sidewalks are wide and the front porches deep, and neighbors actually know each other.

“The reason it’s New Urbanism and not old urbanism is that it combines elements of both,” Andres Duany [of DPZ CoDESIGN] says. “We are non-ideological. This is not a nostalgic movement. It’s a pragmatic movement about whatever works best in the long run. And it turns out that what works best tends to have a lot of the characteristics of old-town planning, but with some of the things that suburbs do well. So it’s actually ruthlessly pragmatic.

“Essentially, suburbia, as we’ve known it, is obsolete. Office parks and malls are closing. People want the main streets. So now New Urbanism is dedicated to retrofitting suburbia and repairing urban sprawl. One of the most exciting things we’re doing now is taking all this great investment in suburbia that is losing value, and we’re fixing it. We’re making it walkable and diverse. This isn’t some kind of intellectual movement. It’s driven very much by reality,”  according to Duany.

Regency’s retrofit: A model for Chesterfield?

Regency Square Mall in Richmond, Virginia is undergoing what’s called a suburban retrofit, a term used for taking aging malls, office parks and other suburban properties and transforming them into more sustainable, urban and mixed-use developments.

Both Regency Square and Chesterfield Towne Center opened in 1975 (back then the latter was the Chesterfield Mall), and the rejuvenation of Regency Square may offer a blueprint for Chesterfield Towne Center in the years to come.

Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group and author of the book “Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development,” says Regency Square’s strategy may prove successful.

“I have seen those kinds of conversions work,” Gibbs says. “It’s when they turn the mall inside out and put the internal stores on the street.”

As department stores like Macy’s and Sears continue to struggle, Gibbs says the future is grim for the majority of America’s suburban malls.

“There’s about 2,000 of them, and we estimate that about 1,500 of them will close in the next five years, and that’s because they’re depending on department stores to stay open,” Gibbs says. “Without the department stores, it’s really hard to get people to go inside the mall.”

That said, Gibbs says malls in good locations can “right-size,” reducing their retail square footage and bringing in housing, entertainment and office space to create a walkable development where people can live, work and enjoy themselves.

Dynamic Communities – The New American Suburb

Check out this story and interactive website from The Washington Post:

“… all around the country as new types of vibrant suburbs, either revived or created from scratch, are springing up outside of expensive downtown cores to meet the needs of young families who aren’t so much choosing suburban life as insisting that the suburbs change to accommodate the priorities they’ve brought with them from the city.

They demand higher-density housing, shorter commutes, easy access to their daily needs, plenty of opportunities to interact socially, interesting shopping, nearby green space, high-end dining options and other amenities traditionally unavailable in sprawling suburbs. It’s a new kind of convenient and tech-enabled community, with more breathing room than downtown and more street life than the ‘burbs.”

“Millennials have been slow to form households, but it’s happening now, and roughly two-thirds say they want to live and work in mixed-use urban neighborhoods where they can feel a strong sense of community and invest in interactions and experiences, rather than things,” says Jennifer Griffin, urban planner and Millennial mom.

Regency’s retrofit: A model for Chesterfield?

Regency Square Mall, which opened in 1975 in Richmond, Virginia, is undergoing what’s called a suburban retrofit, a term used for taking aging malls, office parks and other suburban properties and transforming them into more sustainable, urban and mixed-use developments.

Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group and author of the book “Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development,” says Regency Square’s strategy may prove successful.

“I have seen those kinds of conversions work,” Gibbs says. “It’s when they turn the mall inside out and put the internal stores on the street.”

As department stores like Macy’s and Sears continue to struggle, Gibbs says the future is grim for the majority of America’s suburban malls.

“There’s about 2,000 of them, and we estimate that about 1,500 of them will close in the next five years, and that’s because they’re depending on department stores to stay open,” Gibbs says. “Without the department stores, it’s really hard to get people to go inside the mall.”

That said, Gibbs says malls in good locations can “right-size,” reducing their retail square footage and bringing in housing, entertainment and office space to create a walkable development where people can live, work and enjoy themselves.

Shipping containers, oval swings and food trucks? How old Eastland Mall site could be reimagined

Jenna Martin of the Charlotte Business Journal wrote, “Think small to drive big, lasting results. That’s the current thought behind early efforts to breathe new life into the abandoned Eastland Mall property. That could range from small market-like businesses operating out of shipping containers and open, outdoor dining to a spot for food trucks or a place to hang out.”

As a sub-consultant to Jacobs Engineering’s Atlanta office, DPZ CoDesign is collaborating on the redesign of site of the former Eastland Mall, a 69-acre parcel owned by the City of Charlotte. They met with many of the key stakeholder groups in the East Charlotte area where this mall was once a major regional retail and social hub. This was also a week of re-assessing several prior design exercises.

On May 18th, 2017, the community celebrated the site’s past and explored the future during the exciting Eastland “days gone by” and Eastland “days to come” event. Neighbors gathered amid food trucks, a pop up park, cycle track, interactive murals and activities, to reminiscence and imagine new possibilities for the site as part of the evolving Eastland story.

DPZ provided a popular exhibit based on the successional evolution of an existing flea/farmer’s market. A typical public open space can be surrounded and defined by food trucks and temporary market stalls, initially, transitioning to fun and funky shipping container groupings, and ultimately to vibrant shops and restaurants in the potential climax condition for a revitalized town center.

Read more here: https://www-bizjournals-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2017/05/19/old-eastland-mall-site-draws-crowd-thursday-as.amp.html

City Building Exchange, New Orleans, Louisiana

March 8-10, 2017, Andres Duany and Galina Tachieva teamed up with a group of accomplished faculty and community leaders to discuss today’s most effective tools to enhance a community’s character, use city building as an economic development tool, and combat the specialization and professional silos that make city building a challenge.

Andres led a Three Urbanisms Walking Tour through the Garden District, Marigny and the French Quarter, and provided a keynote presentation on LEAN Urbanism: How Small Development Can Produce Big Returns for Cities.

Galina spoke on Sprawl Repair: Recycling Existing Suburban Development into Healthy Town Centers, answering questions such as why sprawl repair is important to a community, what are the common hurdles and challenges, what are the best models of sprawl repair and what potential actions a community can take for a successful implementation of sprawl repair.

Learn more here:

http://citybuildingexchange.com/uploads/5/4/7/5/54756721/cbe_brochure_sp17web.pdf