The University of Utah estimates that 2.8 million acres of parking lots and other greyfield areas are ripe for redevelopment, and 1.1 million acres are available in underutilized shopping areas, such as strip malls and vacant storefronts (Dunham Jones and Williamson 2009). Transforming these landscapes will be a 21st-century planning and development priority in the United States.
Articles, Events, Thoughts and Resources on Sprawl Repair
Cataloged by Galina Tachieva
In June, 2014, ARC, joined by community and tactical urbanism partners, created a temporary Lifelong Community on two-blocks of Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn Avenue. Over a period of three days, The “Sweet Auburn Living Beyond Expectations” project demonstrated many of the elements that help create a Lifelong Community.
The city that had long been the poster child of sprawl is putting its gears in reverse. With a new light rail line and a plan to make the city’s core denser and more desirable, it’s on the path to success.
As a comprehensive method for transforming car-dependent environments into walkable, diverse communities, Sprawl Repair includes small-scale and inexpensive interventions. Sprawl Repair works at multiple scales, from the region to the neighborhood and the building, and utilizes a variety of tools that are cost-effective, incremental, and can be quickly implemented. This paper will demonstrate how a mall, the most promising contender for Sprawl Repair, can be retrofitted in small, efficient steps, creating much-needed, cheap space for incubating new businesses and artisan uses, as well as providing affordable student housing.
Galina Tachieva, AICP, is delivering the keynote speech at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission’s 2014 Annual Dinner. In her speech, she will detail her work in planning, urban design and new urbanism, and she will reference information contained in her book, “The Sprawl Repair Manual.” The book is a veritable toolkit for planners explaining practices for creating more livable communities. This event offers planners a chance to hear about strategies for tackling sprawl with examples that are proven to work. Galina Tachieva brings more than two decades of planning knowhow and practical experience to the event. The presentation offers information that will enhance a planner’s ability to do his or her job by relaying best practices and professional advice. Attendees will learn what works and what doesn’t when they’re facing projects in areas with dispersed development. They’ll hear how to turn these sprawl-filled areas into livable, vibrant communities that contain residential, commercial and recreation areas accessible for transit, bicycling and walking. The keynote speech is scheduled to be an hour in duration.
Imported, Exported and Perhaps Repaired – American Sprawl Around The Globe
When encountering American-style sprawl around the World, I’m often compelled to ask the question, “Why are you repeating our mistakes?”. The explanation I most frequently hear is, “If it worked for America, it will work for us”. As the photographs in this book suggest, it is questionable for anyone, whether in the US or any other country, to choose a form of development that ignores local climate, local culture, and local building traditions to create places that have no identifiable character and don’t even present real places in the US, much less other countries. Galina Tachieva p. 104
Is your local grocery store within walking distance…and is there a sidewalk for you to trek there safely? Does your neighborhood boast high-performing green buildings, parks and green space? Do bikes, pedestrians and vehicles play nicely together on the road? LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) was engineered to inspire and help create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods. It looks beyond the scale of buildings to consider entire communities. Why? Because sprawl is a scary thing. Here’s the antidote.
Cities and towns across the country are embracing smart growth as a better solution to meet the needs of their growing populations. Smart growth principles accommodate growth and development while saving open space, revitalizing neighborhoods and helping cool the planet. Just look at this vision of how smart growth concepts could help give a lifeless street new vitality in the town of Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Speck, coauthor of Suburban Nation (2000), believes America has a problem—actually, lots of problems—that can be solved by improving walkability in our cities. Public health, sustainability, and even the lagging economy, he argues, can be boosted by making cities more friendly for pedestrians. Drawing on his background as a city planner and architectural designer, Speck lays out a 10-step plan for changing the way we build and think about our public spaces. The steps are wide-ranging, from planting more trees and narrowing roads to investing in well-planned public transit systems and designing visually interesting buildings. Speck is at times blunt and doesn’t mince words about the roadblocks to walkability: “Traffic studies are bullshit.” But he makes a clear and convincing case for the benefits of revitalizing our public spaces in favor of foot traffic. Walkable City, in addition to being full of information about city planning and progress, is a remarkably readable book and moves along quickly because of Speck’s spirited writing and no-holds-barred attitude. An engaging book with a powerful message and achievable goals. –Sarah Hunter –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In a span of 50 years, the city morphed from a sleepy burg with fewer than 34,000 residents to a rambling string of trailer parks, subdivisions and strip malls with 13 times the 1960 population.
Galina Tachieva wrote an essay for Robert Harding Pittman’s book Anonymization, just published in Europe and in the US. With a forward by Bill McKibben, the book is a photographic critique of the globalization of sprawl. Galina’s essay presents some optimistic ideas on how to deal with this phenomenon by reusing and repairing the already built.
What meaning are we to take from Christoph Gielen’s photographs of sprawl? Tract homes and supporting infrastructure are visually enticing from his 10,000-foot view, appearing as intricate, maze like patters. But on the ground, the relentless schemata of wide streets and lawns produce a host of problems. Galina Tachieva p. 49
While I greatly respect the views of the city officials who think otherwise, their position in favor of a more traditional, inward-facing mall are not in sync with well established community development best-practices.
James Howard Kunstler, writer and expert, and Galina Tachieva, partner and Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, discussed “A short history of the future” in Stockholm.
Human settlements are resilient and successional in nature. They change, going through cycles of regression, deterioration and advancement. Even the most cosmopolitan cities started as meager hamlets on crossroads, but then grew and matured, while regenerating their physical environment multiple times throughout their histories. Today’s image of American urbanism is inseparable from the image of sprawl: endless, soulless, wasteful, but most importantly, malfunctioning. This predicament may signal a pivotal point, as has happened in previous civilizations, when quantitative and qualitative changes converge and the paradigm shifts towards better human habitats.
In 1963 Constantinos Doxiadis published the book Architecture in Transition. No mere contemplation on architecture, the book boldly called for a transition from traditional urbanism to new settlement patterns that would accommodate the car, its movement, and its speed. Doxiadis recognized the contrast between human-scaled and automobile-scaled development.
Can we heal our sprawling communities through retrofit, repair and redevelopment? This working group will review new ideas in sprawl retrofit design, regulation, and implementation to achieve healthier communities. Attendees will discuss approaches to incremental sprawl repair, corridor retrofits, regional strategies and financial approaches building on work completed during the March Retreat in Miami. The session will start with four speed presentations selected through a competition process. Following the speed presentations, initiative members will report on a series of practical Toolkits, newly formed partnerships and an overall strategic plan and next steps for the upcoming year.
The Sprawl Retrofit Initiative invites the public to participate in a video competition for the best speed presentation of a sprawl retrofit project.
No Other Choice But Repair
The reconstruction of sprawl is inevitable. To continue building greenfield sprawl will be disastrous. To abandon existing sprawl will not be possible either, as the expanse of sprawl represents a vast investment of money, infrastructure, time, human energy, and dreams. The only valid option is to repair sprawl by finding ways to reuse and reorganize as much of it as possible into complete, livable, robust communities. However, sprawl repair will not be the instant and total overhaul of communities as promoted so destructively in American cities half a century ago. Sprawl repair will be the incremental and opportunistic improvement of our suburban landscapes and will happen first in places where economic potential, political will, and community vision converge.
I never intended to become so knowledgeable about Apple, Inc.’s new “spaceship” headquarters being developed in Cupertino, California. Really, I didn’t. But the design seemed to me to be way overscaled for humans and particularly wrong for a classic slice of California sprawl that is begging to be retrofitted into a more walkable and people-oriented environment. Apple is already a world leader in consumer technology; this was its chance to be a world leader also for community-oriented sustainability.
There’s a movement afoot to make America’s neighborhoods healthier. Help yours with these five tips.
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…
The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) – probably the most significant urban design movement in North America since Levittown and the rise of suburbia – turned 20 in West Palm Beach last week. CNU20 was my first congress, and it was by turns amazing, amusing and a bit dull, and overall it’s probably the most important conference I’ve attended since this convergence-of-climate-change-and-energy-scarcity thing I went to in 2006. Let me explain why.
Urbanism has been engaged by most municipalities as an apologetic or alternative form of development, to the perceived “market driven” sprawl that most communities face. Yet innovative financial and policy analysis has demonstrated that mixed-use development is not only more beneficial for the environment, but also the fiscally responsible form of growth. This session explores analytic tools, property policy, as well as design strategies that can repair the larger urban fabric. The panel will explain and de-mystify tax policy, as well as a walk through of the communication tools that will help planners and decision makers understand urban design alternatives. We not only focus on solutions to repair our built environment, but to steal a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, we are going to “Show you the money!”
The First Suburbs Coalition has formed a partnership with KC Communities for All Ages, a regional initiative to help communities prepare for the large increase in older adults that will occur over the next two decades achat 10 viagra. The partnership hosted a kickoff for the regional initiative with a focus on what local governments can do to start preparing for the aging boom. News media around town has been reporting on the initiative:
Mission preparing for surge of aging citizens
Gladstone, other suburbs examine what’s needed to be a community for all ages
Suburban retrofitting (also known as sprawl repair) is the retrofitting of abandoned chain stores, dead malls, disconnected apartment complexes, and segregated housing pods. The endgame of suburban retrofitting— walkable, mixed use, sustainable neighborhoods — is not substantially different from what planners have been trying to do for decades. The problem is the development pattern that has defined so much of our built environment: wide arterials, separation of uses, huge parking lots, and complete car dependency.
The push for repair goes beyond the need to stimulate new forms of investment. Sprawl repair aims to reduce energy use, reuse existing infrastructure rather than building anew, and provide denser, more walkable housing options in response to demographic change. Unlike green building or technological approaches to sustainability, however, sprawl repair can require substantial behavioral change — the prioritization of walking, an acceptance of more compact living, and tolerance for social diversity and land use heterogeneity. This transformation is going to require big thinking and political moxy.
This Initiative will provide an opportunity to fully explore how planners and designers might use their skills to transform “a thousand-square-mile oasis of ranch homes, back yards, shopping centers, and dispersed employment based on personal mobility” — as sprawl in Phoenix was recently described (Gammage, 2008) — into something more sustainable. In suburban retrofit, failed malls are converted to main streets, McMansions become apartment buildings, and big box stores are re-envisioned as agricultural land. The projects can be small, like “pulse development” along a corridor, or they can be much larger. The Phoenix Urban Research Lab Initiative will explore these possibilities for the Phoenix region from multiple perspectives.
Among Florida cities, Sanford has a remarkable amount of green space. As WMFE reporter Matthew Peddie noted for WNYC’s Transportation Nation blog, Sanford has spent more than $20 million in the last two decades creating more than 30 parks and green spaces. However, Sanford is also notable for being home to numerous gated communities — like The Retreat at Twin Lakes, the neighborhood where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked back from 7-Eleven.
One of the questions that Trayvon’s death has raised is the issue of who or what makes a community or a neighborhood seem “safe” or “unsafe.” Elijah Anderson, professor of sociology at Yale and the author of “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life” writes about the kind of spaces where civil, harmonious interactions between people can emerge. Galina Tachieva, an expert in sustainable planning and community development, is the author of the “Sprawl Repair Manual.”
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…
If you care about cities, about walkable communities, about healing the crappy environment thrust upon us for the last four decades in the form of suburban sprawl, then get a refund on that new iPad 3. Take your iPhone back, too. Because its manufacturer, oh-so-hip Apple, Inc., is betting that the company is cool enough to get away with violating even the most basic tenets of smart growth and walkability in the sprawling, car-dependent design of its new headquarters. Don’t let them collect on that bet.