How the Green New Deal Could Retrofit Suburbs

Schools and amenities within walking distance of homes, Greenbelt, Maryland, 1942. Photo Credit: Marjory Collins/Library of Congress

Offering an alternative to wasteful suburban sprawl, the Greenbelt-Towns Program was a Government-led urban planning approach that began in the late 30’s. Although short-lived, lessons can be drawn from the goals, scope and reaction to the suburban demonstration towns that embodied a mix of housing, walkability, and a traditional downtown.

Why walkable cities are good for the economy

Legacy’s vibrant Main Street offers residents and employees a multitude of day to night destinations and traditional urban features such as treelined sidewalks and outdoor cafes.

Much of suburban sprawl is vehicle-oriented, served by inadequate sidewalks, and inaccessible without a car. Highlighting Jeff Speck’s new book, Walkability City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Place, the article discusses how investing in walkability can enhance the appeal of places to a range of ages, increase home values and jobs numbers, and promote local expenditure on goods and services. 

A Hub for New Local Businesses and New Places to Live

Alongside unsustainable sprawl, unsightly strip malls are too often a feature of our suburban landscape. This article draws ideas from DeSoto Marketplace in DeSoto, Texas. The approach here was incremental and adaptive, introducing small cost-effective changes that, over time, transformed the underutilized shopping center into a pocket of walkability and a vibrant local business.

Further case studies can be found in a paper prepared by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Congress for the New Urbanism, Reclaiming the Strip Mall: A Common Suburban Form, Transformed, by Christopher Kuschel. 

DeSoto Market in DeSoto, Texas – an incubator space for authentic local retail. (Photo Credit: Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)

Bike to the Future: Portland uses bikes to rethink 70 years of strip malls

Halsey’s sidewalk-facing business strip on a winter morning.
The parking lot at Gateway’s shopping center, just off Halsey, is zoned for skyscrapers.

At the cutting edge of sprawl retrofit, Portland is working to making biking desirable in a neighborhood originally built for cars, where the 1920s-style commercial lots to the north face unbroken sidewalks, and the 1950s-style lots to the south face a two-row parking lot.

“Portland’s leaders [are] thinking these two blocks are the perfect place to begin what many of them see as the great work of the 21st century: undoing the errors of car-dependent design that began in the 1940s.

If this row of buildings successfully leads Gateway’s transition to a more walkable, bikeable neighborhood, it’d put the street at the forefront of a national movement to redevelop close-in suburban neighborhoods.

The city’s plan is to preserve parking on both sides of the street, but flip the parking and bike lanes so a combination of curbs and parked cars would separate bike and auto traffic.

That’s why Halsey and its couplet street, Weidler, are slated for $20 million in public investmentin 2018, including a major new city plaza, shorter crosswalks and parking-protected bike lanes at the hub of a new 39-mile low-stress biking network through the area.”

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.