In urban century, whither suburbia? – CharlotteObserver.com
Feb. 18: by Mary Newsom
Last year the global population crested a major ridge. More than half the world’s people now live in urban areas. It’s the Century of the City.
But in America, the 21st century should also be the Century of the Suburb – the re-imagined suburb.
That’s particularly true in Sun Belt cities like Charlotte. They saw huge growth during a time when low-density, suburban development was admired, even required.
Now, the suburbia-dominated Sun Belt has a vast challenge. How we meet it may well determine whether our cities thrive or fade.
First, let’s be clear what I mean by “suburbia” – a fuzzy term. Some use it for any growth at the urban edge. Some use it to mean only separate municipalities outside a city, regardless of age or form. I’m using it to mean development with a specific pattern, typically built after 1945: single-use zones (stores separated from offices and housing, single-family houses apart from apartments); lots a quarter-acre or more; car dependent.
Millions of people aspire to live in suburbia and love it when they do. The U.S. real estate industry has sold the nation on the idea that a house with a lawn in the ‘burbs is the “American Dream.”
Nevertheless, suburbia will pose a growing problem due to a number of converging factors. Among them are…