I find reading and thinking about the future of suburbs endlessly fascinating, particularly when it involves suburbs turning into medium or high-density urban environments. This interview with Christopher Leinberger brings up two of my three favorite talking points on the subject: how suburbs can transform themselves and what is happening in Tyson’s Corner (the third is Downtown Bellevue, which I think most people get way wrong).
A couple of quotes below the fold, though I recommend reading the whole thing.
Here’s a quote about TOD:
Look at Tyson’s Corner outside DC. It has that giant suburban mall – 40 million square feet of retail and the largest suburban downtown in the country. It’s a traffic nightmare. They’ve been trying to get a Metro link that the Bush administration finally allowed to go through after years of trying to kill it. (The Bush people despised public transit.) The head of the neighborhood group that was involved in with this torturous three year planning process told me, “I’ve seen Arlington.” Arlington is one of the great models in the entire country of a redeveloped suburban commercial strip. Arlington has tripled its square footage and traffic has gone down ten percent. The people in Tyson see that and they want it too. They want that kind of urban excitement.
Another about walkability:
You mentioned 40 miles outside town. Last year people were talking about high energy prices as the one of the prime causes of suburban collapse. But gas is back under $2 a gallon.
Energy prices have nothing to do with it. I said that at the time. They can accelerate the process, but what drives it is the shift in consumer preferences. Gen Xers and Millennials want a lifestyle closer to Friends and Seinfeld (that is, walkable and urban) than to Tony Soprano (low density and suburban). It’s not that nobody wants Tony Soprano. About 50 percent of Americans actually do want that configuration. But if we’ve built 80 percent of our housing that way, that’s the definition of oversupply. The other 50 percent of Americans want walkable urban arrangements and yet that’s just 20 percent of the housing stock. That’s called pent-up demand. So the market is just responding.
There’s more on the real estate market and walkability, demand for urban lifestyles, and where the ex-burbs go next. Good stuff.