Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Retrofitting Suburban Sprawl...

Below is a recent post from the Pro-Urb email list by Galina Tahchieva, Director of Town Planning for DPZ (reposted with permission from her).

We think its one of the more well-stated descriptions of the state of fixing existing sprawl:
There are two types of suburban retrofit: post-factum, retroactive retrofit
and visionary, pro-active retrofit. The former kind deals with the second
generation, post-war suburbs, of the Levittown's vintage that were organized
entirely around the car use, and have already been blighted by traffic,
obsolete and monotonous housing stock and inadequate amenities. At this
time, together with the scores of dieing malls, paling strip shopping
centers and outdated office parks, they are the urgent contenders for
retrofit, on account of their segregation of uses and building types, lack
of connectivity and public transportation and nondescript civic
environments. (from our firm's work an example of this type of retrofit is
Mashpee Commons)

The pro-active retrofit covers the third generation of suburbs, built as
Steve mentioned, in the '80s and '90s in the exurban edge, beyond the second
ring. These suburbs are highly competitive, very well-managed and in good
physical shape, and incorporate potent Homeowners Associations that enforce
special standards and bylaws as assurance of the quality of living within
these developments. They are gated, single-use residential enclaves or
commercial agglomerations of the latest fashion, reachable after long
commutes. The retrofit of these suburbs will be challenging and cannot
happen right away. Some time will pass before property values begin dropping
and Kunstler's "devaluation" starts. That is why we call this retrofit
"visionary." New Urbanists have to think ahead, to predict the "fall from
grace" and ultimate demise of these seemingly healthy developments.
(Downtown Kendall designed by Dover Kohl and DPZ is a good model of a
farsighted retrofit of a still successful mall and its surroundings; we also
just did a visionary retrofit of a recently built shopping center in
Dardenne Prairie, Missouri)

However challenging, many New Urbanists have been working in recent years on
a range of design and finance techniques for suburban retrofit. At the
regional level, they have master-planned suburbanized counties and
municipalities to rationalize a new system of urban growth patterns and
connected multi-modal transportation networks.

At the community scale, the New Urbanism has been repairing the worn
suburban fabric by introducing neighborhood structure and dense, mixed-use
land utilization. This will not necessarily transform suburbia into a denser
environment, but will initiate foci of urbanity that will serve the suburban
surroundings and balance the often dysfunctional nature of suburbia.

Lastly, at the scale of the block, street, and building, new typologies have
been introduced, and existing structures (such as malls, shopping centers,
suburban houses, townhouse and apartment enclaves, and office parks) have
been retrofitted or reused, and ultimately included into a coherent
neighborhood fabric.