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Aging in Place on a Cul-de-Sac

This is the second installment on the topic of cul-de-sacs, the quintessential elements of sprawl. The first installment proposed a Micro Sprawl Repair using the Complete-the-Neighborhood Module. The Complete-the-Neighborhood Module could be applied to any two or three lots on a cul-de-sac in any subdivision where blighted or foreclosed properties exist, or where the community has decided to upgrade their quality of life by introducing new amenities. This post discusses the use of the Supportive Living Module to create opportunities for senior living within a single-family subdivision. Aging in place – growing old and retiring in the community where a…

Sprawling is Tough for Strolling

My mother recently reminded me of an interesting phenomenon happening in many Bulgarian towns in the 1950s and ‘60. It was called “dvizhenie,” which literally translates into “movement,” but means strolling or walking back and forth along a street or other public space. She remembers the main street in the small town she was born in, and how during “dvizhenie” traffic always gave way to the movement of pedestrians. There’s nothing complicated about people strolling in a leisurely fashion, but what is impressive is that “dvizhenie” was a community ritual of special importance. This was the occasion for socializing; everyone…

The High Line: Does Magic Happen Only in New York?

Even when a topic has been extensively analyzed and evaluated, it is always tempting to add one’s own perspective. The High Line in New York is such a topic. Praised by design critics and most of the media, the High Line has not been favored by many of my New Urbanist friends, which made my inclination to comment on it even stronger. Having visited the High Line for the first time last weekend, I couldn’t resist, and so yielded to the temptation, as Oscar Wilde once wisely recommended. Influenced by enthusiastic media and not-so-enthusiastic friends’ opinions, I expected an over-designed,…

Occupy the Cul-de-Sac: Micro Sprawl Repair for a Better Day

As a quintessential element of sprawl, the cul-de-sac has become a predictable target for critique and attack. Loved by suburbanites for its presumed safety, privacy, and even exclusivity, the cul-de-sac has been blamed, deservingly, for many of the ills of sprawl: disconnected street networks, over-loading of suburban thoroughfares, lack of walkable block structure, residual open space, only a single building type and only a single use, to name a few. Prevalent within single-family subdivisions, of which we have hundreds of thousands in the US, the cul-de-sac has become in the past 60 years one of the most widely spread planning…

Occupy Sprawl: Easier, Faster and More Productive

Inspired by the recent popular discontent expressed so colorfully on Wall Street, I offer this proposal: Occupy Sprawl! People are not happy with the economy, with politics, with the government. Consider the physical surrounding of the protesters: the streets and squares in lower Manhattan where there are plenty of places to gather. Good urbanism provides good spaces for assembling and protesting. Our sprawling suburbs are devoid of such places. Where can people get together to show frustration (or to celebrate)? Are people happy with their physical environment in sprawl? Why not revolt against the system of sprawl, which is responsible…

It Is a Matter of Scale or What is the Connection between Brain Size and Sprawl

Scale is fundamental to urban design. If you get it right, and achieve a well-proportioned space between buildings, you have a sound basis to build upon. Even if the architecture is far from perfect, the public realm you create can be decent and comfortable. If you get the scale wrong and your master plan is built, even the most lustrous architecture won’t remediate the failure of space-making; people might still use it for utilitarian reasons (think the parking lot of a Wal-Mart), but will not enjoy it. Getting the urban scale right has been the mantra of planners and architects…

Reduced or Not, the Mortgage Interest Deduction Can Help Fix Sprawl

As of late, the mortgage interest deduction (MID), a tax break many Americans have become accustomed to, has become the focus of much debate and controversy. It first became the subject of heated discussion when President Obama’s debt commission suggested its reduction. They argued that in addition to reducing deficits, such reform could also help slow the growth of sprawl. The claim was that the deduction encourages people to buy larger homes on larger, exurban lots, and that reducing this subsidy would slow the growth of sprawl. In a previous post, I argued that the MID is only one of…

Not This Time – Why the new Apple campus doesn’t work

It is disheartening to see that one of the most innovative companies in the world has wasted a great opportunity and is choosing for its new corporate campus the most conventional stereotype of suburban sprawl: a free-standing, single-use, mega-structure in the form of a glass doughnut. We are not talking about architecture here; no doubt the architecture could be spectacular. It will be Foster + Partners designing the building, so we can expect the architecture to be the state of the art. What is hugely disappointing and substandard for Apple is that their place-making concept is wrong. They will create…

Sprawl Tongue Twister: Say That Three Times Fast

The mortgage interest deduction (MID) has been the subject of much discussion after President Obama’s debt commission suggested its reduction. It has been argued that in addition to reducing deficits, such reform could also help slow the growth of sprawl. The argument is that the deduction encourages people to buy larger homes on larger, exurban lots, and that reducing the subsidy will slow the growth of sprawl. That may be correct, but how important is it?