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NorthCoast

Aging Urban/Suburban Subdivisions and Cul-de-sacs

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I grew up in a typical post war boom suburb of Grand Rapids. I know that the basis of premise for all of these boards are urban in nature, I think we must consider the suburbs when discussing urban issues. Their existence and role that they play in land use, community, and the metropolitan region cannot be ignored. I am all for revitalizing downtowns and bringing back the urban lifestyle but as a realist I can admit that some people, no matter what will never leave the suburbs. But I digress...

Many post-war first ring urban suburbs are now at a critical juncture in their history. They are being surpassed by suburbs and exurbs of their own. Houses are aging, the business core is changing, and the traditional culture of many are shifting.

With all that said, the question is rather simple, what can be done or what is being done to save these aging suburban districts? I supose I'm really interested in the techniques in managing older subdivisions and cul-de-sacs which sprung up in the 60's and 70's with your basic ranch house, winding streets, and dead ends. Are we stuck with them, or is something that can be done?

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I think there will always be a segment of the population that will occupy these suburbs. Probably some of the new immigrants to this country will begin to move from the cities to these suburbs as they assimilate, just like the Italians and Jewish immigrants moved out of the cities after the war. For many, a house in the suburbs is still the symbol of the American Dream being accomplished. I know many Hispanic families that have recently moved out of the central city into smaller homes in the 1950's subdivisions. A lot of people desire change, and a change for those growing up in the city is of course the suburbs. At the same time, a lot of my generation that grew up in these suburbs can't stand them anymore and will be moving back into the city.

If gas prices continue to climb, however, then I think we could see some drastic changes taking place. I wouldn't be surprised if thirty years from now we had deserted cul-de-sacs being leveled to build condos, apartments, or denser single family and multi-family homes.

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If gas prices continue to climb, however, then I think we could see some drastic changes taking place. I wouldn't be surprised if thirty years from now we had deserted cul-de-sacs being leveled to build condos, apartments, or denser single family and multi-family homes.

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Or, another possibility-living in the suburbs becomes so unpopular that prices drop drastically, while at the same time cities become totally gentrified. Then we could have a flip-flop-all the wealth and middle class would be in the city while the poor would be forced out into the suburbs, far flung from good jobs and unable to access them because gas is so expensive they can't afford automobile travel.

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That will never happen, there will be no flip between the suburbs and the inner cities. The suburbs are popular because of safety, space, and privacy. Well paying jobs will be more delivered by telecommuting in the future. Telecommuting will further accelerate the spread of suburbs.

As for oil and the price of, Oil futures are still falling, global warming may have made heating for the Winters less oil-intensive, and cars are becoming more efficient.

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But with anti-sprawl sentiments gaining in popularity and the first generation post-war suburbs not getting younger, these communities will eventually have to confront the problem of being outdated in terms of architecture and street layout, falling property values, and the already change of taste in house architecture and layout. So if you are traditional suburb with enough vision to see this coming, what do you do?

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That will never happen, there will be no flip between the suburbs and the inner cities. The suburbs are popular because of safety, space, and privacy. Well paying jobs will be more delivered by telecommuting in the future. Telecommuting will further accelerate the spread of suburbs.

As for oil and the price of, Oil futures are still falling, global warming may have made heating for the Winters less oil-intensive, and cars are becoming more efficient.

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But with anti-sprawl sentiments gaining in popularity and the first generation post-war suburbs not getting younger, these communities will eventually have to confront the problem of being outdated in terms of architecture and street layout, falling property values, and the already change of taste in house architecture and layout. So if you are traditional suburb with enough vision to see this coming, what do you do?

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My mom grew up in Bloomington, MN, an old farmtown that boomed during the 50s and 60s. The city originally faced major problems in the 1980s because school enrollment fell from 20,000 to about 12,000 in 10 years. They closed many many schools including all of the schools my mom ever attended.

The city got a large breath of fresh air in the late 1980s with the proposal for the Mall of America to be built on the former Metropolitan Stadium site which had closed for good in 1984. With the Mall of America came many hotels and other commercial developments. Many areas of Bloomington have been cleared out of traditional housing to be replaced with apartment and condo complexes and property values are skyrocketing. So many mid-rise buildings have gone up along Interstate 494 that it is now known as the Bloomington Strip with Best Buy HQ and a large Wells Fargo center there.

Demographically, it was very homogenous in the 1960s with almost 100% white, young families occupying the city. Now the city has become much more diverse with many black and asian families moving in from Minneapolis as their economic situation improves. The city is now age-diverse as well.

But yes, that is how inner-ring suburbs are growing: Improved public transit and urban-style pedestrian friendly developments. Bloomington is not a typical example, but it is a good example of how older suburbs can thrive.

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Change is really the only constant. I don't think there is one answer - I don't think there will be one path all of these communities take. If you look at many of the neighborhoods lying on the outskirts of our cities, those were once the suburbs. In some cases they filled in with density, in some cases they gentrified and became wealthy neighborhoods, and in some cases became the slums, or at least depressed areas. It all depends upon what other, well for lack of a better term resources, exist in the neighborhood. How good is access? Is it scenic, are the houses desirable?

The other issue is that we are already stating that growth will continue unabated. Already we are seeing parts of the country where growth is slowing down. Those suburbs may simply continue to be suburbs. Some houses will be renovated, some get leveled to create new places. But the overall character may simply stay the same, and development passes it by.

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Change is really the only constant. I don't think there is one answer - I don't think there will be one path all of these communities take. If you look at many of the neighborhoods lying on the outskirts of our cities, those were once the suburbs. In some cases they filled in with density, in some cases they gentrified and became wealthy neighborhoods, and in some cases became the slums, or at least depressed areas. It all depends upon what other, well for lack of a better term resources, exist in the neighborhood. How good is access? Is it scenic, are the houses desirable?

The other issue is that we are already stating that growth will continue unabated. Already we are seeing parts of the country where growth is slowing down. Those suburbs may simply continue to be suburbs. Some houses will be renovated, some get leveled to create new places. But the overall character may simply stay the same, and development passes it by.

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In some cases, yes. But I don't necessarily think that it's as simple a thing as affluent people moving back and forth, I think it's more about different groups of people being attracted to an area at different times, each one at a different level of affluence and interest.

So I don't think you are going to see everyone moving back into the cities, as I don't believe that that is even happening now. What I do believe is happening is that a new group has formed of people who are affluent, more interested in an active social lifestyle, and who aren't as tied down with tradition and family life who are finding that city life is more appealing to them than suburban life. That's what is driving the city.

I don't see a huge decrease in the suburban lifestyle, however. But I do see a huge change in the cost of building and maintaining that lifestyle - in a downward direction. Therefor I see more people migrating to newer housing than rebuilding older housing. What is to be seen is how this affects the older suburbs. Will developers start buying up large blocks, tearing down the old homes and building new ones in their place? Will the economics change and older suburbs become more attractive for a different group? Or will something like infill and natural change start creating a different type of community in those suburbs that becomes attractive to a different group of people?

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Or, another possibility-living in the suburbs becomes so unpopular that prices drop drastically, while at the same time cities become totally gentrified. Then we could have a flip-flop-all the wealth and middle class would be in the city while the poor would be forced out into the suburbs, far flung from good jobs and unable to access them because gas is so expensive they can't afford automobile travel.

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Much of the folks with money tend to move either into the trendy core of the city, or out to the newest suburb.

More effort needs to be put into planning and organizing America's suburbs, because most were laid it with economy and space in mind instead of community welfare and flow of traffic.

Maybe these older suburbs will resurge in a unique way we haven't thought of yet. They will always be demand for personal space and privacy...so as long as these older suburbs are safe and clean property values will stay high.

America's housing needs are changing gradually over time. With that change, some of these older homes will need an extensive renovation. Owners may choose to simply sell and build farther out than pay to rebuild something they don't see as historical or finacially worthwhile. I am not even worried about the post war cottages or turn of the century homes as much as the 1970s and 1980s ranch homes in the future.

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Suppose we try redeveloping existing suburbs by opening up the roads for traffic a bit better? Some cul-de-sacs deep within cities could be easily opened up to nearby roads. A lot of the funkier road patterns that sprawling developers used could actually become pretty interesting urban thoroughfares with a bit of work.

Some places are completely lost though. Look at this:

post-14912-1186164741_thumb.jpg

They pretty much density-proofed this area. It is forever a barrier to transportation, a chain of McMansions in random configurations, with absolutely no potential at all for improvement.

post-14912-1186164741_thumb.jpg

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Improvement? for a lot of people, that type of neighborhood is vastly better than any more dense grid pattern of houses one on top of another. I am beginning to wonder if we need to rethink what the problems are with what we describe as sprawl. Instead of simply thinking that any place where a single family home stands with room around it in an non-urban area, we need to identify why that type of situation is bad, and identify how to fix those situations. People wouldn't be in such a rush to move to these neighborhoods if they didn't want to live in that kind of an environment.

I think the issues we need to address aren't that they are cul-de-sacs or developments, but that the area has an identity outside of the name on the gate. That there is neighborhood diversity, that their is efficient transportation, and that there is recognition of the environment. I would love to see more focus on how to keep that kind of private, uncrowded, "safe" neighborhood feel and still provide good public transportation, diversity and variety, and to improve environmental impacts.

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