Re-realizing 1st Ring Suburbs
Sun, 09/25/2011 - 9:47pm | by nmhood
1st ring suburbs can be hard to define. They’re a little bit city. They’re a little bit suburb. Here’s my teaser line:
I pose the thought that, maybe, just maybe, first-ring suburbs aren’t actually as bad as we urbanists frequently make them out to be.
On one hand, these places are comprised nearly exclusively of single-family detached homes that typically epitomize “sprawl”. Yet, they can be walkable, transit-connected and have interesting smaller homes, spaced closely together and near desirable neighborhoods within City limits.
There’s nothing particularly spectacular about these homes. They’re average – and that’s fine. But, I’ve noticed that these homes in these locations are starting to see a second life after a few decades of some divestment. This revitalization is reasonable – their more conveniently located to quality city amenities than other 2nd and 3rd ring suburban homes and more affordable than single-family homes in the city.
These places initially originally added density too. It’s not great, but it isn’t terrible. It’s auto-oriented, and the architecture is bland – but, there’s small businesses at the end of each large block and have minor arterials cutting through strategic areas.
This is an example. St. Louis Park. 1st ring suburb. Population boomed between the 1940s and 1950s. The sidewalks might be a tad close to the road [at least they have sidewalks], but the lane widths are small and traffic moves slow enough and each apartment building has 3 to 4 stories. For all of its shortfalls, some first-ring suburbs do much better than we give them credit for. They now seem to not act as suburbs, but mere transitions into the suburbs.
It also mixes some uses. It’s not uncommon to see apartment buildings, single-family homes, businesses, churches, restaurants and even pubs on the same block. I pose the thought that, maybe, just maybe, first-ring suburbs aren’t actually as bad as we urbanists make them out to be. In fact, if the 1st ring suburbs are smart – they can age gracefully by incrementally adding density and smart new developments. St. Louis Park, the suburb shown above, has tried doing this. They’ve had some successes and failures- but I credit them for trying and welcoming the 21st Century, and not fighting against it.
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