Sprawl retrofit

On making sprawl walkable

Five steps to a complete community

Here are changes needed to make a small apartment complex in Chico truly walkable.

A better way to build in the suburbs

Here are 10 reasons why a new, small, apartment complex in Chico, California, creates a "place" in the suburbs.

Multifamily: from 'train wreck' to urban

In a comprehensive piece called "What's New in New Urbanism," Multi-Housing News reports that new urban ideas have "swept the industry over the past 20 years."

How I learned to stop worrying and love major streets

While I dislike noisy suburban arterials just as much as the next guy, I realized that retail will work better on busy streets and that we can make them nice places. 

Pleasant Valley Revisited, a video by Rob Steuteville

See video

The suburbs need to be updated and improved so that millions of Americans can achieve their dreams of living in a connected community. Many of the best opportunities can be found in the areas built during the Postwar Housing Boom, a 20-year period after World War II. For more details on this subject, check out our report in the June issue of Better! Cities & Towns.

For more in-depth coverage: 

Designing Suburban Futures: New Models from Build a Better Burb

A book by by June Williamson
Island Press, 2013, 138 pp., $35 paperback, $70 hardcover

Postwar neighborhoods are key to suburban revitalization

The nation has a huge quantity of “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhoods from the postwar housing boom that are ripe for changes that will make them more walkable and appealing to new generations of residents.

Petition could powerfully promote ‘complete streets’

US Department of Transportation (DOT) officials would consider a change in the way they classify thoroughfares — to the benefit of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users — but they need political support.

US commercial buildings are redevelopment assets

According to the book Reshaping Metropolitan America, about half of all nonresidential structures in the US will be “ripe for redevelopment” in 2030. Many of these are commercial strip retail buildings with large parking lots or dated office buildings on suburban sites, according to an article in the current issue of Better! Cities & Towns. The annual report Emerging Trends in Real Estate notes that many suburban retail and office properties across the US are languishing in value and may not be worth refurbishing. All in all, 50 billion square feet of commercial space in the US will need redeveloping by 2030, says Reshaping Metropolitan America author Arthur C. Nelson. One of the challenges to redeveloping such sites, however, is that they are often located on commercial strip corridors that are not appealing for mixed-use development. That challenge could be addressed by “complete streets” projects on major thoroughfares that need to be rebuilt anyway, setting the stage for redevelopment.

Suburban infill adds small-lot housing, connects to nature

Prior to the crash, New Urban Builders specialized in nicely designed and constructed production housing in a traditional neighborhood development (TND) format. The firm was about to embark on a 1,500-unit new town — but now this 4-acre infill development called Park Forest in Chico, California, seems like a better increment. The project is adjacent to a nature center and Bidwell Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the US. The single new street meanders around existing live oaks. The project is about two miles from downtown in a part of town that was developed in the latter half of the 20th Century. It has a Walk Score of 48. But it does have potential for densification and mixed-use, which would make it more of a complete community. See the entire report in the current issue of Better! Cities & Towns.

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