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The suburban dream of a single-family house with a white picket fence no longer describes how most North Americans want to live. The dynamics that powered sprawl have all but disappeared. Instead, new forces are transforming real estate markets, reinforced by new ideas of what constitutes healthy and environmentally responsible living. Investment has flooded back to cities because dense, walkable, mixed-use urban environments offer choices that support diverse dreams. Auto-oriented, single-use suburbs have a hard time competing.
Suburban Remix brings together experts in planning, urban design, real estate development, and urban policy to demonstrate how suburbs can use growing demand for urban living to renew their appeal as places to live, work, play, and invest. The case studies and analyses show how compact new urban places are already being created in suburbs to produce health, economic, and environmental benefits, and contribute to solving a growing equity crisis.
Above all, Suburban Remix shows that suburbs can evolve and thrive by investing in the methods and approaches used successfully in cities. Whether next-generation suburbs grow from historic village centers (Dublin, Ohio) or emerge de novo in communities with no historic center (Tysons, Virginia), the stage is set for a new chapter of development—suburbs whose proudest feature is not a new mall but a more human-scale feel and form.
"Key places within the suburbs are transforming, and Suburban Remix makes a strong case that suburban retrofit is a powerful force in the American landscape—backed by local political will and significant capital....Suburban Remix updates the story in a way that will be easy for nonprofessional public officials in suburban cities and towns to understand."
"Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places is a thoughtful tribute to the much neglected subject of suburbia, as it takes the development, evolution and current state of North American suburbs under examination. In doing so, this publication offers a fresh perspective on the changing image of suburbs—their challenges and advantages—across time."
"Interspersed throughout a compendium of articles by some 16 contributing authors are facts, observations, and speculations that, on occasion, are eye-opening, jarring, and truly worthy of regard and concern...Individuals who have a new found interest in urbanism and the plight of the contemporary city and suburb will find Suburban Remix a useful read and good tool for recall and reference. It was delightful to see the topic presented in such a thoughtful and accessible way."
Nature of Cities
"Suburban Remix brings together leading experts to describe the dramatic market shifts away from drivable sub-urban development patterns toward walkable urban places, while its detailed redevelopment case studies provide priceless lessons in planning and implementation. Planners, developers, and citizen activists eager to position their suburbs for the next generation will deem this a precious resource."
Ellen Dunham-Jones, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology and coauthor of "Retrofitting Suburbia"
"In North America, most of our land and our people remain suburban, and their future is our future. Happily, the same principles and techniques that have been re-humanizing our city centers are now at work on sprawl, with some remarkable results. The suburban remix is on, and this wise and useful book tells how you can bring it home to your community."
Jeff Speck, City Planner and author of "Walkable City"
"Beske, Dixon, and the contributors to Suburban Remix have beautifully mapped a clear, inclusive, and exciting way forward for us all."
Mike Lydon, Principal, Street Plans and coauthor of "Tactical Urbanism"
"Dixon and Beske have put together a real-world guide to introducing walkable development in suburbs. I recommend Suburban Remix to anyone who lives, works, or invests in a suburb. It shows how lively, walkable urban places can thrive in suburbs. More to the point, it argues that suburbs no longer can thrive without walkable urban places."
Kaid Benfield, Senior Counsel, PlaceMakers, LLC and author of "People Habitat"
Table of Contents
Introduction by David Dixon
Part I: Setting the Stage
Chapter 1 – Urbanizing the Suburbs: The Major Development Trend of the Next Generation by Christopher Leinberger
Chapter 2 – From the Rise of Suburbs to the Great Reset by David Dixon
Part II: Suburban Markets
Chapter 3 – Housing by Laurie Volk, Todd Zimmerman, and Christopher Volk-Zimmerman
Chapter 4 – Office by Sarah Woodworth
Chapter 5 – Retail by Michael J. Berne
Part III Case Studies for Walkable Urban Places
Chapter 6 – Blueprint for a Better Region: Washington, DC by Stewart Schwartz
Chapter 7 – Tysons, Virginia by Linda Hollis and Sterling Wheeler
Chapter 8 – From Dayton Mall to Miami Crossing, Ohio by Chris Snyder
Chapter 9 – Shanghai’s Journey in Urbanizing Suburbia by Tianyao Sun
Chapter 10 – North York Center: An Example of Canada’s Urbanizing Suburbs by Harold Madi and Simon O’Byrne
Chapter 11 – Dublin, Ohio: Bridge Street Corridor by Terry Foegler
Chapter 12 – The Arlington Experiment in Urbanizing Suburbia by Christopher Zimmerman
Chapter 13 – From Village to City: Bellevue,Washington by Mark Hinshaw
Part IV: Bringing it All Together
Chapter 14 – Planning by David Dixon
Chapter 15 – Placemaking by Jason Beske
Conclusion by Jason Beske and David Dixon
About the Contributors
Date: Thursday, February 15, 2018
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Walk-in registration will begin at 11:30 am.
Hear Jason Beske, planner, and David Dixon, planner and urban designer, discuss ways that suburbs can evolve and thrive by investing in the design methods and approaches focused on a more human-scale, feel, and form. talk Following the talk, the authors sign copies of their book, Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places.
Free Museum Member & Student | $10 Non-member
Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places
Monday, March 26, 2018 12:00PM – 1:00PM EST
Join the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association and Island Press for a webinar conversation with the editors of Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places. Jason Beske and David Dixon will discuss planning for placemaking in suburban communities, and will examine Tysons, Virginia as a case study for implementing urban, walkable development.
The formulas that guided suburban growth for more than 60 years no longer work. How can suburbs adapt to increasingly complex social, economic, fiscal, and environmental demands? What new approaches can help them secure their futures?
In part one of this three-part webinar series on Saving Our Suburbs (S.O.S.), panelists will unpack data and share case studies that show how suburbs are preparing for—and succeeding in—a new demographic, cultural, and economic landscape. They’ll give perspective on how public officials and community leaders can rethink their approach to development and growth in response to changing tastes and markets. This webinar series is based off of the book Suburban Remix, Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places.
Join the conversation! After presentations, we’ll have a Q&A period.
Earn 1.5 AICP CM credits for attending.
In the first of three webinars, urbanist Chris Leinberger joined us to discuss how suburbs are building walkable urban places to become more Successful in response to dramatically shifting demographics, a growing knowledge economy, and disruptive technologies.
On January 29, join us to learn about how suburbs can cover the costs of creating walkable urbanism by being Opportunistic and developing innovative public/private partnerships to pay for streets, public spaces, art and culture, and, yes, even parking—in other words, the infrastructure that turns density into a tool for creating community. Sarah Woodworth of W-ZHA and Chris Zimmerman of Smart Growth America will join us. Both are nationally known for their success in helping suburbs create innovative financing strategies.
We conclude the series in March with a conversation on how suburbs can become "Smart" by harnessing rapidly emerging and disruptive technologies to make their communities more livable, equitable and resilient for everyone.
This conversation will be moderated by Jason Beske, AICP, Consultant and Adjunct Professor at Virginia Tech College of Architecture & Urban Studies.
- Sarah Woodworth, Managing Member/Owner, W-ZHA, LLC
- Chris Zimmerman, Vice President, Economic Development, Smart Growth America
- David Dixon, FAIA, Vice President, Stantec’s Urban Places
Your questions are welcomed!
The formula that drove suburban growth for 60 years has run out of gas. Now what? From driverless cars to the internet of things, emerging technology can help suburbs deliver services more efficiently, reduce environmental impacts, and build community. Our expert panel discusses “future-proofing” to help suburbs surf the wave of new tech, not drown in it.
The Coronavirus has caused us to rethink many things across our society, including how and where we live and work. Our changing demographics and economy were affecting how we view cities and suburbs before the pandemic. These changes present growing challenges to our suburbs.
Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 9, as Jason Beske and David Dixon, editors of Suburban Remix: Creating the Next Generation of Urban Places, will be joined by Eric Anthony Johnson, Chief of Economic Development, Housing and Neighborhood Services for the City of Dallas, Texas to examine how suburbs can begin to prepare themselves to become communities where the demographic mix presents the opportunity for everyone to thrive.
Participants of the live webinar are eligible for 1.5 AICP CM credits.
The considerable social, economic, and environmental costs of suburban sprawl have been widely reported, but suburbs hold new potential for the 21st century. As ground zero for some of the most disruptive changes stemming from accelerating wealth inequities, a rapidly aging population, and growing racial and ethnic diversity, suburbs today face an era of unparalleled opportunity. Without damaging a blade of grass on a single lawn, suburbs across North America can transform tired strip malls and office parks into a new generation of compact, walkable places that support the dreams of an increasingly diverse population.
Suburban Remix shows an optimistic future for suburbia and explains how to get there, with case studies from a variety of suburban settings. Edited by Jason Beske and David Dixon, both highly seasoned thought leaders in urban planning and design, this contributed volume brings together experts in planning, urban design, real estate development, and urban policy. Their insights demonstrate how suburbs can renew their appeal as places to live, work, play, and invest by adopting methods used successfully in cities.
Check out Chapter 2 from the book below.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
A Changing Climate Means A Changing Society. The Island Press Urban Resilience Project, Supported By The Kresge Foundation And The JPB Foundation, Is Committed To A Greener, Fairer Future. This Excerpt Was Originally Published March 16, 2018 in Urban Land.
North America is in the midst of “suburban remix.” A perfect storm of challenges has broken apart a 70-year-old suburban growth model shaped around car-focused, relatively affluent, and dispersed development. But as this model falls apart, another far more resilient model is taking shape: walkable, dense, diverse, compact — and urban.
The storm’s disruptive power is real. The core market for suburban single-family houses — families with kids — represents roughly half the share of North America’s population that it did in 1970. This share will continue to shrink through the 2030s, just as the share represented by households over 65 — net sellers of single-family houses — grows rapidly. Meanwhile, younger, educated workers are moving into urban cores, and knowledge industry office demand and investment are following. (Downtowns and dense, walkable suburbs fill Amazon’s list of finalists for HQ2.)
Unsurprisingly, suburban housing and office values have lagged their urban counterparts since 2000. And, in a dramatic reversal, more people living in poverty now call suburbs home, while affluent households are relocating to cities. This has slowed tax-base growth, battering local budgets. Demographic and economic trends suggest that these dynamics will grow more disruptive over the next two decades — reinforced by the arrival of shared autonomous mobility (see sidebar below).
On the green fringes of Washington, D.C., Fairfax County, Virginia — long an archetype of affluent, prosperous suburbia dominated by single-family subdivisions — demonstrates the stresses these trends have unleashed. Since the Great Recession, poverty across the county has grown by more than 50 percent; county revenues have not kept pace with the accompanying costs; and residents have watched as housing values have risen 300 percent faster in nearby Washington.
Yet Fairfax County is anything but broken. Spurred by the region’s Metrorail transit system, Fairfax has emerged as an early leader in replacing sprawl with a new urban growth model. Over the past decade, the county has approved more than $20 billion in higher-density, walkable, mixed-use centers that replace millions of square feet of malls, strip retail centers, and office parks. More important, places like Tysons, Reston Town Center, and the Mosaic District aren’t emerging as “developments” but as lively new suburban downtowns and Main Streets that function as the heart of their increasingly diverse communities. Similar transformations are underway in other D.C. suburbs, such as Arlington County, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland.
Jason Beske, AICP, is an urban planner and urban designer with public and private experience and a frequent speaker and instructor at planning conferences.
David Dixon, FAIA, leads planning and urban design for Stantec's Urban Places, an interdisciplinary team that helps cities and suburbs alike thrive by harnessing the growing demand for urban life. His work has won national awards from the AIA, CNU, International Downtown Association, and ASLA. He is co-author of Urban Design for an Urban Century: Placemaking for People, which was first published by Wiley in 2009.
Recent climate marches have captured our collective attention. Students and young people around the world have taken to the streets to demand action on climate change now, in order to protect the environment for a better future. The impacts that we can already see are not the only climate impacts that will affect quality of life for future generations. Some climate dangers have yet to materialize. We turned to some of our authors to find out—What do they think will be the most pressing climate change issue in the next 50 years? Why?
The most pressing climate change issue will be our capacity to provide adequate nutrition and water to every person on Earth. This is a challenge we already struggle with and climate change will increasingly cause droughts and extreme weather events. Both our water sources and agricultural production are sensitive to these climatic shifts. Potential future food and water shortages will lead to increased global unrest and political tensions. However, we can take steps today to prevent these future shortages by developing sustainable adaptation strategies. Our greatest strength as humans is our capacity to innovate, and if we do so carefully and responsibly we'll be able to prevent many of these future crises.
-Jessica Eise, author of How to Feed the World
Clearly, the most pressing climate issue is figuring out how to get the global economy to carbon neutrality, and then developing the technologies for economically taking large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. But another critical issue that is not yet really being addressed is how we get in place national and international regimes to manage massive human migrations that will be driven by climate change. Regardless of the success that the global community has in implementing deep greenhouse gas reductions over the coming decades, we already know that anticipated future climate impacts will eventually cause large-scale migration of populations away from areas that are threatened by climate risks such as sea level rise, extreme heat, extreme storms, drought and wildfires, and towards areas of lower risk. The timing and geographic distribution of these movements is highly uncertain. They will, however, have a large impact on both the areas that lose population and the areas that gain population. And they will cause substantial economic, social, and political turbulence. As one commentator noted: "You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million." How will we manage this climate migration? What legal status will the migrants have? How do we prepare the areas that are losing population, as well as those that are likely to find themselves with large unplanned in-migrations? It is time to start digging into these questions.
-John Cleveland, author of Life After Carbon
In my view, the largest threat to Earth in the decades to come will be unsustainable human population growth. This will trigger all kinds of irreversible environmental change. A smaller human footprint means first of all fewer feet.
-Michiel Roscam Abbing, author of Plastic Soup
Most scientists agree that climate change will increase the occurrence, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events, including flooding, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. If we don’t do anything about this, most cities will become less comfortable—some by a lot. Depending on their location, cities and their inhabitants could suffer from the following possible scenarios: too wet, too dry, or too warm. Homes could be flooded on a regular basis, water faucets could stop flowing, or people’s lives could be confined to air-conditioned interiors because outside will be too hot. Fortunately, architects and city planners can help increase urban resilience—the ability of urban communities to bounce back from shock. If we do it right, we can even think of this as an opportunity to improve our cities and buildings. Dikes could double as flood protection and functional buildings, native species and drought tolerant plants can save water used for landscaping, and trees and plants can help cool down urban spaces. The future has always been uncertain, but our future may be even more uncertain. With climate change impacting our cities in unpredictable ways, the big question is: how do we design with these new risks?
-Stefan Al, author of Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise
Climate change, as western U.S. water scholar Brad Udall frequently points out, is water change. What Udall means is that, even as we work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we need to focus on reducing our vulnerability to changes even now being felt in the planet's hydrologic cycles. That can mean more water where we don't want it—think for example the flooding felt in the central United States from a freak storm in March 2019, or the creeping rise of sea level confronting our coastal cities. It often means less water where we've come to depend on it, like the shrinking reservoirs of the Colorado River Basin. Preparing for a future of water change is essential regardless of how successful we are in reducing our greenhouse gas footprint.
-John Fleck, author of Water is for Fighting Over
The transportation sector remains one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and thus represents the lowest-hanging fruit for governments looking to meet difficult carbon-reduction targets. Through our research, we've found that the Netherlands provides the best example of a clear path forward. A 2014 World Bank report ranked it in the bottom 25 nations for transport-related carbon dioxide emissions (as a percentage of total national production). In fact, Dutch transportation contributes just a fifth of their overall emissions, compared to a third in the United States, which—with 1.9 billion tons of CO2 emissions in 2016—overtook power generation as the most-polluting sector in the country for the first time in 40 years. Rather than wait for the electric car to save us, we should be looking to the humble bicycle, which—with the right infrastructure and policies in place—could immediately replace a significant number of trips we take by car, and begin moving us in a more sustainable direction for the future of our planet and our children.
-Chris and Melissa Bruntlett, co-authors of Building the Cycling City
The most pressing issue in relation to climate change is almost certainly the preservation and, if possible, extension of forest cover. Obviously, we must work toward reducing carbon emissions and increasing the adoption of renewable energy, but even the most optimistic scenarios around that would not solve the problem. Forests, and the oceans, provide the greatest sinks for CO2; we can fight to maintain oceanic biosphere and health, but we could—at least conceptually—increase the area of forests. And we MUST try to halt forest destruction.
-Joe Landsberg, co-author of Forests in Our Changing World
Society will not only need to prepare for current and impending changes due to climate change, we will need to do this while taking drastic action to avoid catastrophic consequences in the future. Many cities are vulnerable and dealing with the effects of climate change already. Forty percent of the United States’ population lives on 10% of its land mass—along coastlines. While cities have the power to make a greater impact on how we prepare for climate change, future planning and growth needs to be coordinated, thoughtful, and innovative. To start, policymakers should embrace and champion policies that encourage walkable, urban places and associated density—particularly in suburbs. Walkable, urban places create the opportunity for a lower carbon footprint, while contributing to a better quality of life for residents.
-Jason Beske, co-author of Suburban Remix
While the costs of adapting to climate change will be historic—in the US exceeding in real dollar terms the costs of fighting World War II and building the interstate highway system combined—the costs of inaction will be catastrophic. The UK’s National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) estimates annual global costs of climate-driven flooding, only one of multiple climate change impacts, at more than US$14 trillion. The NOC also projects that more than six hundred million people could be displaced by rising seas alone by 2100. In the US, seven of the ten most economically productive metros—representing roughly one-quarter of the entire economy and growing 50% faster than the US as a whole—face serious risks from rising sea levels.
Yet a blinders-on, single-issue focus on resiliency can mean falling into an all-too-familiar priority trap that pulls resources away from other compelling challenges. For example, the developed world is rapidly aging. People over the age of 65 will represent more than half of America’s (and the developed world’s) net growth for at least the next two decades—placing extraordinary stresses on healthcare costs that are projected to eat up all discretionary US federal spending by 2050. Growing income disparities in the US and across the developed world, accelerated by the shift to a knowledge economy that delivers most of its economic benefits to the better-educated top 20% of the workforce, are generating growing social as well as economic strains. Rapidly evolving technology means that within two decades the US and rest of the developed world will need to retool trillions of dollars in transportation infrastructure to adapt to autonomous mobility while at the same time responding to automation’s projected evisceration of the jobs of tens of millions of workers in the US alone. Nor can government stop funding transit, parks, and education—without facing grave social unrest and economic decline. And already today the developed world faces an enormous bill for fixing existing infrastructure—a figure that in the US will reach US$2 trillion, or almost 10% of the entire US economy, by the late 2020s.
Despite doubts expressed by US political leaders, the real question is not should we react to climate change, but how? The sheer enormity of the threat compels action. But how do we avoid the priority trap? My own experience planning for New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina suggests three strategies: public private partnerships that unleash the innovation potential of the private sector, institutions and government working together; adopting the principles the Dutch originated following World War II—any resources spent on protection from rising seas or other climate forces need to also address livability, economic competitiveness, and wellness; and the time
-David Dixon, co-author of Suburban Remix
I just returned from Sweden where it’s all about climate change. The government is planting trees around the world, as well as working hard to reduce Sweden’s carbon footprint. Recycling options are everywhere. At the university where I spoke there are only washable dishes, cups, silverware in the cafeteria and break rooms. Everyone over four years old rides a bike, and those under four are in contraptions attached to an adult’s bike. Greta, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, is inspiring us all with her courage and passion. For me the key question in tackling climate change is: Will we be willing and able to follow and support the youthful leadership taking on the challenge? It’s easy to write off the younger generation as inexperienced, whimsical, lost in their devices. That is old-fashioned and destructive thinking. These young activists are on the frontline of climate change, and we need to put our faith—as well as our money, influence and energy—in their leadership.
-Lucy Moore, author of Common Ground on Hostile Turf
Creating extensive ecological networks consisting of well-connected, large protected areas is most pressing priority because it is our best option to limit the extent of the sixth mass extinction. Climate change is adding to and exacerbating other threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, over-exploitation of natural resources, and environmental degradation. Ecological networks can reduce the impact of all stressors, promote population persistence, and allow species to adapt to climate change by moving to climatically suitable areas.
-Dr. Annika Keeley, co-author of Corridor Ecology, Second Edition
Earlier this year, Island Press hosted a series of webinars featuring the authors of Suburban Remix, David Dixon and Jason Beske. The Saving Our Suburbs series explored how suburbs can adapt to increasing social, economic, fiscal, environmental, and technological demands.
The series finale on Smart Suburbs included Lisa Nisenson, Vice President of New Mobility and Connected Communities for the Wantman Group. Lisa spoke about retrofitting suburbia with smart city and mobility technology. Following the webinar, many audience members had questions for her, which we have aggregated below.
The webinar and the panelists’ presentations are available here.
Are you familiar with any funding sources or resources for poorer suburbs and communities that are trying to update or repurpose their spaces? The changes presented here are very exciting for wealthier places, but daunting for declining communities.
For Opportunity Zones, we are looking at incentives and a marketing around "Mobility as an Amenity." This would be an aggregation of multiple modes, a designated low speed electric network (for e-bikes and golf carts - then shuttles). It also appears that funders (e.g., AARP) are interested in helping communities with shared-used and autonomous options. You are correct - we will need to see funding pools to help with pilots and eventual service integration.
For us old-style people who prefer driving our cars, do you predict that there will still be room in this automated car world for us?
Of course. At WGI we are paying close attention to how autonomous car, shuttle and bus trials are evolving. Just last week, the American Automobile Association (AAA) produced a report on automated braking and pedestrian detection. The results were alarming: test vehicles struck the robotic dummy pedestrians that were crossing the road 60 percent of the time. For smaller dummies representing children the results were worse. A collision occurred almost 90% of the time. We have a long way to go, suggesting that transit models with on-board operators will still be needed.
Can you tell me more about how the needs of disabled citizens and those who are wheelchair bound are being accommodated?
In the low-speed electric, autonomous vehicle world, wheelchair accessibility is a prominent goal for all vehicles. Likewise, any mobility hub would need to be designed for travelers of all ages and abilities. The National Federation for the Blind is working closely with autonomous vehicle manufacturers and ride-hail companies to ensure services and vehicles extend mobility as promised.
Where will low income people end up livening if suburbs and urban cores are becoming more popular? Will there be successful city/suburban metro areas vs. undesirable metro areas? How will that play out across America, e.g. East Coast, West Coast, Midwest?
This is a legitimate concern given the wealth gap between cities and suburbs (which interestingly was flipped not that long ago). Mobility options seem to be one of the reasons, so I think this is why there is so much attention on these new modes. Likewise, if smaller, shared-use vehicles can mimic transit, then can we also begin to create more transit-oriented development and the potential lower costs of housing and transportation? There is so much unproductive land in the suburbs along corridors where people are craving neighborhood centers. The real question is how to make it possible.
Erica is the Digital Content Manager at Island Press.