New Urbanism: The Suburbs of the Future

New Urbanism

Image by Number Six (bill lapp) via Flickr

Our perception of the American Dream is changing – for the first time in almost a century, suburban growth is declining while millenials and baby boomers are choosing an urban lifestyle. This transformation is an issue that Leigh Gallagher explains thoroughly in her new book, The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving. While there’s a lot to be said for the space and privacy the suburbs offer, the US census shows that post-recession Americans are no longer flocking to the suburbs when they’re looking for a new home. Convenience and walkability are winning out over long commutes, tree-lined streets, and white picket fences. Out of this new trend has grown the concept of New Urbanism.

Demand for suburban construction is slowing while cities focus on urban development. While not all Americans are moving into urban areas, the features they look for in a suburban home are changing – accessibility is beating out isolation as the most important factor. Developers are no longer stressing large homes, lawns, and car-centric communities; instead, New Urbanism focuses on mixed-use neighborhoods that are pedestrian and transit friendly, offer accessible public spaces, and support a diverse population.

Here are some qualities that define New-Urbanism neighborhoods:

  • The community is centered around a square, green, or street corner. A transit center is likely located here.
  • The neighborhood is made up of a variety of housing types to encourage a diverse socio-economic population.
  • Residential areas are within walking distance to the center of the neighborhood.
  • Parks and elementary schools are walkable from most residential areas.
  • Narrow, tree-shaded streets create more pedestrian and bike-friendly communities while slowing traffic.
  • Garages and parking lots are in a building’s rear, accessed by alleys and not visible from the street.

New Urbanism focuses on lessening the difference between urban and suburban areas. Accessibility-centric city planning is building a new type of suburbia that meets the demands of modern living. While city living isn’t the answer for everyone, New Urbanism is creating more housing options to fit the present-day interpretation of the American Dream.