Articles, Events, Thoughts and Resources on Sprawl Repair
Cataloged by Galina Tachieva
Drivable suburbia, or sprawl, also is not just one, big, lumpy “thing.” It’s fine to use the basic term as a starting point, but it’s important to also see the nuance that is found in the typical suburban environment.
Sprawl Repair can be defined as transforming fragmented, isolated, and car-dependent development into “complete communities.
Sprawl remains the prevailing growth pattern across the United States even though experts in planning, economics and environmental issues have long denounced it as wasteful, inefficient, and unsustainable. Sprawl is a principal cause of lost open space and natural habitat as well as increases in air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, infrastructure costs, and even obesity. It also plays a primary role in the housing meltdown plaguing the nation. This begs the question: is it possible to repair our sprawling suburbs and create more livable, robust, and eco-sensitive communities where they do not exist?
Galina Tachieva is an expert on sustainable planning, urban redevelopment, sprawl repair, and form-based codes. As a partner and Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Architects and Town Planners (DPZ), Tachieva directs and manages the design and implementation of projects in the US and around the world. Galina is also the author of the Sprawl Repair Manual, an award-winning publication and the first of its kind to focus on the retrofit of auto-centric suburban places into complete, walkable communities. Hailing from Bulgaria, where she received her degree in architecture, Galina later completed her master’s in urban design at the University of Miami, Florida. She is certified AICP, LEED-AP, and is a CNU Fellow.
Once New Jersey’s model of economic development, large office and retail suburban centers are increasingly underutilized and causing a drain on the local economies. Local leaders find it difficult to create consensus and a shared vision for development, in part due to antiquated land use practices. PlanSmart NJ’s 4th Annual Regional Planning Summit, Stranded Real Estate Assets: Changing Economy, Changing Land Use will bring together experts in planning, redevelopment, and infrastructure to reveal the magnitude of the problem and explore methods to break through common barriers to transform New Jersey’s suburbs into resilient and livable communities where people can live, work, and play.
11:50 – 12:50 pm: Keynote Speaker: Galina Tachieva, AICP – PRESENTATION
Galina Tachieva, author of Sprawl Repair Manual will describe how suburban corporate office parks and retail centers can be repurposed and redesigned to function better in the regional context. She will demonstrate how bold actions can lead to more resilient and equitable communities.
Planned Densification is a process for implementation of locally-appropriate levels of density over time, in key locations, allowing market supply and demand to coevolve. Density is increasingly desired by municipalities and urban betterment programs–but it is becoming harder to accomplish. Does density belong everywhere? No. It is best designed into key locations, such as near large transportation investments and other infrastructure investments wherein density increases ROA and ROI. Indeed, density in these key locations can sustain lower density elsewhere in a municipality.
With more people gravitating toward cities than ever before, new urban morphologies are proliferating throughout the developed and developing worlds. Roger Keil, a professor at Toronto’s York University, has spent his career thinking about the implications of this process. I spoke with him about Suburban Governance: A Global View, a newly released book he co-edited with University of Montreal professor Pierre Hamel.
RPA’s community design work focuses on promoting sustainable and equitable development patterns by directing as much of the region’s growth as possible to established villages, towns and cities.
RPA works with individual communities throughout the region to demonstrate how both public investment and private development can help them achieve their local objectives for community development and quality of life. The community design program engages this challenge in several ways: by creating vision plans and land use regulations for individual communities, through training programs that build local capacity and by providing resources such as model codes and guidelines. In addition, we have developed an extensive Community Design Manual that aids civic groups and residents in shaping their communities in the absence of professional planning staff.
In recent years, RPA has developed growth and sustainability plans for Bridgeport, Conn., Somerville N.J., and Orange County, N.Y.
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.
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…