Reburbia: Sanctimonious Cankles

reburbia

This has popped up in a few places already, but Dwell and Inhabitat have been sponsoring this series called “Reburbia” that’s targeted at coming up with ideas to “fix” America’s broken suburban landscapes.

It’s pretty neat, because the finalists are full of really kooky sanctimonious ideas like “suburban people need AIRSHIPS to commute into the culture-rich city centre without creating a huge carbon footprint.” Seriously. With no shred of irony, these supposed ‘thought leaders’ think some sort of futuristic idea from “The Navigator” twenty-some years ago is actually going to solve the problem of suburban sprawl?

Concepts like these come off as preachy to the people who have consciously chosen a suburban lifestyle–they don’t need to be exposed to the wonders of farm-share in the husk of an abandoned Wal-Mart, they want a nice house and a patch of lawn and a place to raise a family and perhaps a convenient commute. So if we want to create a sustainable future for suburbia, what are we really offering *these* people with a plan like the ones outlined in the Reburbia competition? Nothing, actually.

We’ve espoused our love for Victor Gruen, the grandfather of the shopping mall, plenty of times on Labelscar. The reason why isn’t just because he birthed the development style we hold dear, but also because of Gruen’s original concept behind the mall.

Gruen was an Austrian who immigrated to the United States during the Nazi regime. Several years after his arrival, Gruen (then a successful architect and store designer) was horrified by the sprawl of post-1920s vintage “strips” in America’s burgeoning suburbs, and wanted to transplant the feel of a European town square to America’s rather placeless suburbs. He fancied himself more of an urban planner than a mall builder, and even his malls–which included impractically large courts and civic spaces like fountains and conversation pits–were designed more as places for socializing than commerce.

I realize that the American suburb is fading into its winter, that “one person, one automobile” will likely become impractically expensive soon and that trends are favoring urban living for more educated and affluent young people (exhibit A: I’m a suburb lover who lives in San Francisco). I do not, however, think that the solution for these spaces is to make them mirror the (increasingly faux-) bohemian utopia of the inner city affluent elite. Again, people did not move to the suburbs for backyard water treatment plants (in swimming pools!) or farm share from the shells of dead big box stores. They moved there for a certain quality of life and a certain style of living, and they’re likely going to keep doing it until it becomes impractically expensive to do so.

The death of malls and some ill-fated big box centers presents an almost unprecedented opportunity to have large parcels of land, ripe for redevelopment in mature, established areas. So what *do* these suburbanites want in these places? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Take a page from cities and malls. Build a sense of “place” in these communities, whether its indoor or outdoor. Personally I’d like to see more mall-type structures include civic space (parks or park-like spaces, fountains, libraries, galleries, museums, event space) as well as different types of commercial activity (bars, entertainment, dining, food stores/supermarkets, farmer’s markets). Encourage (potentially via tax credits) a blend of local and national chain retail. Also, make sure big block development is surrounded by smaller parcels that can be more free form and develop organically to create a true neighborhood, not an overly planned mega-development. Whoever manages the development should try and leverage social media to pull in the community and create a sense of identification with the center.
  • As part of the above, try and zone less for stand-alone big box, which is a terrible idea developmentally and economically. If the demographics are appropriate, most big box retailers will happily settle in a denser, more mixed development.
  • Create effective, convenient, affordable, and comfortable mass transit. Transit oriented development around denser nodes isn’t a new idea, but it could be a great way to work in tandem with the above concept for a civic “center” (or mall) and give each suburb a unique identity, encouraging people to visit the communities around them.
  • Eschew NIMBY-friendly planning ordinances disguised as preservation or environmentalism. Suburbs of major cities should not have minimum buidable lot sizes of an acre or more, for example. Instead, zone for dense nodes and preserve legitimate open space for the enjoyment of all.
  • When focusing on infill for older (pre-1980s) suburbs, zone more densely and focus on trying to enhance existing walkability. Many of the suburbs of this area were built on grids rather than loops and lollipops, meaning that revitalized neighborhoods along arteries and mass transit corridors are more feasible.
  • Build a mixture of housing styles targeted at different income and age levels. Again, not a new concept, but it’s shocking how frequently its implemented. Most new housing built in the United States is targeted at high earners, whether its urban condos or suburban McMansions. Create a way for people of all ages and incomes stay in their communities if they choose to do so, and use the civic space mentioned in the first bullet as a means of providing things to satisfy each group (i.e., bars and entertainment for people from their teens to thirties, family-friendly entertainment for people with kids, and dining and socializing options ideal for seniors. Don’t block anyone out).

34 Responses to “Reburbia: Sanctimonious Cankles”

  1. The answer to the “suburban problem” is actually pretty simple: demolish the derelict parts of the suburbs. This would be an act of local governance, and with the city/county owning the property, they would be able to decide the best use for it in lieu of a private entity (e.g. sprawlmaster builder or stubborn slumlord). The property could go either way in that case, either kept as much-needed park land or sold to a developer with rules in place of how the property must be re-developed.

    The view I have is that the major factors of suburban decline rest on two factors more than anything: old, deteriorating apartment complexes and derelict retail development. While those like us absolutely love to go down memory lane going into an abandoned or semi-abandoned mall or strip mall, the fact is that these two things are what drag down on an older suburb and create the sprawl more than anything. As you saw with my post on “The Mall”, these places actually get pretty frightening at the end of their life, and leaving them unfortunately only leads to a truckload of plywood attempting to shield the place from vandalism and vagrants. While for many, our memories are strong and wonderful, seeing some of these places today makes you want to pop an antidepressant and lock the doors instead of going shopping.

    Sprawl is more about fleeing ugly, dangerous, undesirable, overregulated or overly expensive areas. People don’t move to the edge of the sticks just because they’re chasing cows…they’re looking for something safe and affordable that is clean and relatively new. It seems to be lost on socialist planners that maybe the majority of people don’t want to be stacked together in high rise apartment buildings, live in an area that looks like their childhood when they’re 45 year old or lay their head in “sustainable” houses so close together that you can hear your neighbors doing things you don’t want to know about. Both places offer no sense of place for many people, and both are enormous fire hazards. Many would live in a small town, but small towns are very difficult to make money in. Many come from small towns for that same reason.

    I tend to think that the best course for fixing the suburbs is eliminating what causes this migration, but then you of course have the problem of what to do with the low rent types. However, the fact is that while I have issue with private homes being demolished for progress, I see less of an issue with 30 year old apartment complexes full of bugs, filth and deterioration from age alone being simply demolished. If an entire run-down crime ridden area is full of apartments, that is likely the culprit and their removal and replacement with new housing is enough to eliminate that problem virtually overnight. This is why old government housing projects have been replaced with Section 8 vouchers in Atlanta, allowing better housing to be built by private investors that is for everyone, not just the destitute.

    What also really kills an area is a plethora of shitty retail. I’m talking title pawn shops in old fast food joints, businesses in old run-down houses and decrepit shopping centers sitting empty and beyond repair or quality modernization. Instead of the cheap-looking stucco renovation and “luring” a decent store into the area, it just seems to me a big buyout and bulldozer derby on these places over a neighborhood or incorporated city would give the place a fresh start.

    The question is, how could something be done like this in a Constitutional manner? No matter how much we hate to look at the slums, the fact is that it is really infringing on private property rights to just say “hey dude in the dirty little store in that 50 year old house, we’ve decided that this doesn’t fit our area and you’ll have to go”. Indeed, the only way this could truly happen is an enormous fusion of capital from the state and local governments to entice people to sell their property for redevelopment, something we don’t have right now. Of course, this would result in patchwork redevelopment, but then the remaining businesses might then get an offer from a builder to build a completely new drug store where their goofy little shop stands.

    That’s basically my thought…kill the slums at the root of the problem instead of going off in this nonsensical direction. Save what can be saved, demolish what is hopeless and do whatever is possible to bring people together to take pride in their community again.

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  2. Hmm…imagine converting a Wal-Mart, instead of some “new urbanism” shtick, turning it into a small mall/community center. This would be focused on locally-owned shops and services. Maybe one department store, and a small grocery store.

    I’d like to see more suburbs for a mix of incomes, but if we’ve learned anything from malls mixing incomes (South Bay Galleria, NW Plaza, CHM), it just won’t work.

    Some inner-city can still have yards and no crime. For example, just east of The Galleria (Houston), there’s some homes, but because its older, there’s no cul-de-sacs and lots of built-up trees. There’s also good highway access.

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=29.734598,-95.45807&spn=0.004258,0.0081&t=h&z=17

    Heading to south to Pearland, subdivisions sit in small “trees” and plug into a small collector road. A true highway is needed to get to I-45, but that would require demolition to make it work.

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=29.564844,-95.229954&spn=0.004265,0.0081&t=h&z=17

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    Gary Reply:

    @Jonah Norason (Pseudo3D), a 200,000 square foot Walmart Supercenter could actually be converted into a small mall like you mentioned. The food center can easily be converted into a full-line supermarket anchor and about 50 shops and restaurants.

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  3. The truth is most suburbs are going to die & for many it is going to be paneful. In many places your taxes are paying for the very projects that cause the sprawl problem.

    Lets not forget about the morggage crisis because most of those homes were in the burbs & those prices may never return. People were brainwashed into beleaving that cities were bad & burbs were good, but now that may not be true anymore. People are becomeing tired of driving long distances to & from work or any place else they need to be. Here in the New York City area people were moving to places like Poughkeepsie because it was cheepper than White Plains but you need to drive to go anywhere wich became a hardship for many when gas prices rocketed in 2008 & are rising again this year. Add to this the fact that home prices are dropping like a rock & may never recover.

    If any suburbs do survive they will be very close to the city center & will need frequent transit services. People will live within walking distance to town & the transit stop. Places such as Summit NJ, Norristown PA & Scarsdale NY are a few examples, but the truly wealthy will be moving back into the city because that is where the future value of real estate will be. At the same time the urban poor will be moving to those fringe communities that were saught after in the past 20-years as a way to get away from the city & all it’s problems.

    There was a film made a few years ago called “The end of Suburbia?” that discusses this very subject. There are also two other books worth taking a gander at “The Long Emergency” by James Howard Kunstler http://www.kunstler.com & “$20 per Gallon”. The author of the latter escapes me at the moment, but it just came out within the past month & was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. Both books are on the same subjut matter oil & what happens when it becomes expencive to consume.

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    Gary Reply:

    @SEAN, the truth is suburbs are not what they used to be. Gone are the days where you can go to your local mall and buy everything you could think of under one roof. Also the gas and home prices of the past are history. But I think that suburbs are here to stay. You’ve stated some excellent points and therefore, I shall add some of mine. For one, most people who live in the suburbs tend to work in the same area that they live in. Another reason is because some people just don’t like the hustle and bustle of the city. Other people prefer the benefits of living in the country even though they’re still near a major metropolitan area.

    Lots of suburbs, especially along the East Coast, also happen to be smaller cities that surround much larger cities, some of which have been around for as long as the larger city. In California, specifically Los Angeles, it’s a little different in that the outer suburbs were developed much later than the city center was. These areas are the ones that are probably going to experience the most problems since these places just sprawl on and on.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Gary, I try to compare suburbs by the time of development or tears.

    Tear 1. developed prior to either WWI or II depending on the metro area. These suburbs tended to have rail or other transit lines to & from the city center. Examples include Bronxville NY & Stamford CT wich were centers of manufacturing & education.

    Tear 2. These suburbs were developed post WWII & were built along the new interstate system. Towns like Dearborn MI, Paramus NJ, King of Prussia PA & Passadina CA are good examples of this pattern. This is when mall construction really began.

    tear 3. This started somewhere around the late 1970s give or take & was when the uncontroled sprawl really first gained traction. Look at Atlanta & Miami as examples, but this was not limited to the sun belt.

    Tear 4. Started around the Clinton years & was based on what land wasn’t already developed, was going to be built on reguardless of enviornmental issues. Las Vegas & Phoenix come to mind.

    Tear 5. Based on new urbanism & Transit oriented development principles as a mean to combat sprawl & reintreduce the use of public transit & reverse car dependence. Arlington VA fits that profile, yet they started this back in the 1960s believe it or not. To this day Arlington As well as Portland OR are champions in this movement. There’s more information on the Arlington County & Portland development Comission web sites.

    A few notes

    No community fits a tear exactly & may cross several tears based on ecconomic forces. In several Metro areas you will find a tear 1 community such as Ridgewood NJ next to a tear 2 Paramus for example, creating a snapshot but may not be an exact science. Also as community redevelop you will find tear 5 projects in tear 2 communities. This muddies the water for this post, but makes for a better place for all.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @SEAN, I should add that when I spoke about dieing suburbs I was refering to tears 3 & 4 & not nessessarily refering to tears 1 & 2, although possible.

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    mallguy Reply:

    @SEAN,

    That’s a good way of looking at it and ties in with the trends of suburbanization that began in the 1950s as a result of the GI Bill, rising population, abandonment of the cities, the automobile and the Eisenhower Interstate Act.

    The idea of the shopping mall came out of the 1950s (remember Garden State Plaza was the first major “mall” in NJ) and began popping up around NJ at the major highway intersections in following decades.

    Another way to look at is by picturing a circle. Adding a ring to expand the circumference represents the new communities being built and the businesses surrounding them (Freehold Raceway Mall and Bridgewater Commons in NJ; Mission Viejo in CA and Dulles Town Center in VA and most of the malls around in Atlanta come to mind) came about as the new rings came about. As those outer communities are built, the inner communities begin to become abandoned. The DC Metro Area and the NY Metro area are prime examples (e.g. Silver Spring, MD, East Orange, NJ, etc). The gentrification efforts you mentioned (Tier 5) have occurred, but are not as widespread as they should be. In NJ, Hoboken and Red Bank come to mind as gentrified “inner ring suburbs.” I agree with your categorization of Arlington in this classification.

    The idea of the expanding circle can be applied to malls as well. We see that many malls in the inner circles try to stay current by updating (Tysons Corner, King of Prussia, Garden State Plaza, Houston’s Galleria) and to compete and those that don’t (Landover Mall, Monmouth Mall, Seaview Square, Irondequoit Mall) have died or will eventually die out.

    The big question is how do we increase tier 5 to occur? How can/should government be involved? What can they learn from private industry? I would also include “edge cities” in your tier 5 (White Plains, Morristown, Tysons Corner)

    Your tier 4 categorization also applies in NJ and DC. This is part of the reason for the out of control traffic in NoVA (which is also a reason that the Silver Line is being built).

    In NJ, the biggest political contributors since 2000: developers!

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    Gary Reply:

    @SEAN, you’re correct in that a lot of communities don’t necessarily fit into a single tear and may overlap between two or more tears. In the Pittsburgh area, specifically Allegheny County, a lot of the communities can also fall under this scenario. Inner ring communities such as Homestead, Wilkinsburg and Braddock, all in the eastern and southeastern part of the city, fall under tear 1, but nearby, there’s certain areas within the same inner ring that would fall under tear 2 and tear 3. The latter two tears have also been the more affluent parts whereas the tear 1 communities are suffering the effects of the decline of the steel industry. The further out you go, you run into towns such as Bethel Park, Mount Lebanon, West Mifflin, Monroeville, Verona, etc. Bethel Park, West Mifflin and Monroeville would fall under the tier 2 criteria, even though nearby towns of Mount Lebanon and Verona are tier 1 towns.

    As you continue on into the neighboring counties, you run into the same scenario that I’ve discussed with the towns above, some tier 1 which are located near newer tier 2 and 3’s. Perhaps the geography of the region plays a role in how these areas are developed, but for some metro areas, it is a lot worse than others, in which DC comes to mind. Areas such as Tysons Corner and Silver Spring began to undergo development in the 1960s and from that point on, it just exploded with high-rise buildings and large shopping malls. These inner ring suburbs are essentially their own cities and may become officially so in the not-too-distant future with the improved transportation in those communities.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Gary, Mallguy, & Rich, We seme to be on the same page wich is good. Now the question is what do we do next?

    1. Change zoning codes from single use to more mixed use like Portland OR & arlington VA. Infact A suburb of Portland, Hillsboro along with Coasta Pasific a local home builder, Metro the regional government & Trimet worked together on Orenco Station using a formbased code. This allows for best use of the land & a quicker responce to housing demands.

    2. Highway funding on some level must be diverted to public transit. Please don’t tell me the money isn’t there, it is there waiting to be spent. If you want to remove cars off the road durring rush hour pay mall opperators to rent some spaces as a park & ride. Even if you have to charge the parker a few dollars to use it. Part of Willowbrook Mall’s parking lot in Wayne NJ is a P & R. Could you imagine if more followed that trend like GSP & Roosevelt Field? Traffic jams would almost drop to nothing overnight.

    3. Grants for building reabilitation in downtown cores with housing above businesses. There are plenty of towns & cities on existing transit lines that are in need of assistance. Tax breaks to bring local & national retailers in along with various choices in housing from apartments to townhouses could spark a resurgence in older neighborhoods. NJT is atempting this with it’s transit village program. The town of Secaucus is working with NJT near it’s transfer station where a large apartment complex called “Ferturnity Meddows” recently opened. Although the property is closer to the Turnpike then the train, however there are other projects in the works there.

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    Gary Reply:

    @SEAN, the town center concept in the suburbs is what I’ve been for all along. After all, this is what many suburbs are missing, a sense of community. This is where the public and private sector comes in. Of course, this does not go without significant planning and funding. As for number 3, I definitely agree. We need more people living in the downtown core. In Pittsburgh, people complain that a lot of buildings are rundown and that there’s not enough retail shops and restaurants, well that wouldn’t be the case if there were more people living downtown and spending money.

    A lot of malls that already have bus service from the suburbs to the city can also be used for park and ride, even though it may not always be marketed as such. Usually outlying towns in the metro area will have direct bus service to a major city, which may run 3 or 4 times a day.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Gary, Are you a Pittsburgh resident? I saw an article reguarding the high number of abandend houses in the city. The problem was Pittsburgh wanted something done butMBIA owned the properties & wasn’t able to or willing to take care of them. So as a result the houses rot instead of being used for lower income residents.

    As for your earlier post, the town center format is the future for retail & residential construction. This can take many forms such as Easton in Columbus OH wwweastontowncenter.com or more of a village concept like Arverne by the sea in Queens wwwarvernebythesea.com. They come in all shapes & sizes making it nessessary to plan ahead for every neighborhood & community to make sure that the town center is scaled correctly for the given town or city. Transit & walking routes must be part of any plan to make it successful.

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    Gary Reply:

    @SEAN, I don’t live in the City of Pittsburgh, but in neighboring Westmoreland County. Greensburg, which is the town that I live in, is considered a suburb of Pittsburgh even though it’s a city and has the amenities of one. A lot of the abandoned houses in the city is the result of a number of factors, eg older people dying, the general decline of the neighborhoods, the high property taxes which is a BIG problem and contributes to the declining population, etc. The MBIA’s lack of attention to the houses is probably due to the fact that they simply don’t want to invest any money in them because of the blighted neighborhood. It would likely be more cost-effective to demolish an entire block and rebuild rather than to rehab the older homes which likely aren’t within city code to begin with.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Gary, I’m going to expand this discussion by intreducing a related pair of concepts. Transit oriented development & transit villages.

    The former began in the early 1900s & is as streight foward as it sounds, building neighborhoods on transit lines. After WWII development patterns went via the interstate highway system, hence the unatractive clusters of subdevisions that got built again & again creating the sprawl problem.

    The transit village tries to creat compact walkable neighborhoods similar to what was built prire to WWII.

    A great example can be found in Queens of all places. In Forest Hills, beginning two blocks south of Queens Boulevard streching for about a mile to Metropolitan Avenue is the Gardens. I’m posting part of the wiki article here.

    Forest Hills Gardens, QueensForest Hills Gardens is a community located in Forest Hills, in the New York City borough of Queens. Its streets are privately owned but open to traffic. The Northern Border runs along the L.I.R.R. tracks and Burns Street, the western along Dartmouth Street and Herrick Street, the eastern along Union Turnpike, and the southern border along Kessel Street, Roman Street and Harrow Street.

    [edit] Plan
    The area consists of a 142-acre (0.57 km2) development, fashioned after a traditional English Village, that is one of the country’s oldest planned communities and the most prominent American example of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden city movement. The community, founded in 1908, consists of about 800 homes, townhouses, and apartment buildings, mostly in Tudor, Brick Tudor or Georgian style, in a parklike setting designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and partner in the Olmsted Brothers firm. Designed with transportation access in mind, the community’s central square is adjacent to the Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road station. The largest apartment buildings stand closest to the station, while more distant buildings are smaller and have larger yards. Although most buildings are single-family homes, the development also includes garden apartment buildings and retail space. Today, the area contains some of the most expensive housing in the borough of Queens.

    Architect Grosvenor Atterbury proposed an innovative construction method: each house was built from approximately 170 standardized precast concrete panels, fabricated off-site and positioned by crane. The system was sophisticated even by modern standards: for example, panels were cast with integral hollow insulation chambers.

    The streets were fully laid-out in 1910, many of them winding specifically to discourage through-traffic (see Street hierarchy). Though Forest Hills Gardens is private property, it is not a gated community and through traffic, both automotive and pedestrian, is permitted. Street parking, however, is restricted to community residents; visitors must know a resident or face fine and car booting. The project was completed, in the mid-1960s when the last remaining lots were developed.

    In 1913, the West Side Tennis Club moved from Manhattan to Forest Hills Gardens. The U.S. Open and its predecessor national championships were held there until 1978, making the name “Forest Hills” synonymous with tennis for generations.

    The restrictive covenants for Forest Hills Gardens contain no explicit economic, social, or racial restrictions.

    In adition the Forest Hills 71st Contenental Avenue subway station is very close to the development & almost all shopping for daily needs is within 10 minutes walking distance. Transit frequency is among the highest outside midtown Manhattan with Q 23 & Q60 busses every 6 minutes & E, F,G, R & V TRAINS AS FREQUENT AS 3 minutes apart.

    Notes

    Q23 is a N/S line skurting the Gardens, while the Q60 opperates along Queens Boulevard E/W. E & F trains run express to Manhattan, while R & V run local. The G runs to Brooklyn & doesn’t serve Manhattan.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @SEAN, Not to far away From Forest Hills is Jackson Heights, another planed community/ Here’s some info.

    Geography and transportation

    Jackson HeightsJackson Heights is also where the IRT Flushing Line#7 train meets the IND Queens Boulevard Line (E, F, G, R, V) and numerous bus routes at the 74th Street-Broadway transportation hub, which has recently received a $100+ million renovation by the MTA. It includes one of the first green buildings by the MTA, the Victor A. Moore Bus Terminal, which is partially powered by solar panels built into the roof. It is the largest subway stop in Queens with six lines (E, F, G, R, V and 7) and six buses (Q32, Q33, Q45, Q47, Q49 and Q53). The Q33 bus goes to LaGuardia Airport’s main terminals and operates 24 hours a day. The Q47 bus goes to the Marine Air Terminal. The Q53 bus goes to Rockaway Beach, Queens. The Long Island Rail Road Woodside station is nearby on 61st Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which is two stops on the #7 train.

    The community is bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the west, Roosevelt Avenue to the south, and Junction Boulevard to the east.[citation needed] East Elmhurst, the area immediately to the north, from Northern Boulevard to the Grand Central Parkway, though not part of the original development, is sometimes regarded as a northward extension of the neighborhood. The Jackson Heights name comes from Jackson Avenue, the former name for Northern Boulevard. The Jackson Avenue name is retained by this major road in a short stretch between Queensboro Plaza and the Queens Midtown Tunnel approaches, in the Long Island City neighborhood.

    History

    Most of the neighborhood is a National Register Historic District and about half has been designated as a New York City Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It comprises large garden apartment buildings (the term was invented for buildings in Jackson Heights and many groupings of private homes. It was a planned development laid out by Edward A. MacDougall’s Queensboro Corporation beginning about 1916, and following the arrival of the #7 elevated line between Manhattan and Flushing. The community was initially planned as a place for middle- to upper-middle income workers from Manhattan to raise their families. The Jackson Heights New York State and National Register Districts range from 93rd Street through 69th Street between Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. Some property fronting on Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue, as well as some “cut-outs”, are not inside the Register Districts. A former golf course located between 76th and 78th Streets and 34th and 37th Avenues was built upon during the 1940s.

    Jackson Heights is believed to be the first garden city community built in the United States, as part of the international garden city movement at the turn of the last century. There are many private parks (historically called gardens by the residents) within walking distance of each other. They are tucked in the mid-blocks, mostly hidden from view by the buildings surrounding them. Several approach the size of Gramercy Park in Manhattan,[citation needed] and one is slightly larger. Unless given an invitation, entry is restricted to those who own a co-op around its perimeter. The basis for the private ownership of the parks of Jackson Heights is derived from its founding principle as a privately owned neighborhood built largely under the oversight of one person. The historic section of Jackson Heights is the more affluent part of the neighborhood.

    Primarily during the 1930s, Holmes Airport operated on 220 acres in the community. The area later became the Bulova watch factory site.

    Community

    Many residents commute to nearby Manhattan, ten to fifteen minutes to 53RD Street and Lexington Avenue via the express E train or 63rd Street and Lexington via the F train. The main retail thoroughfare is located on 37th Avenue from 72nd Street to Junction Boulevard, with more retail on 82nd, 73rd and 74th Streets on the blocks between 37th and Roosevelt Avenues. Roosevelt Avenue is also lined with various mainly Hispanic retail stores. The majority of 35th and 34th Avenues and most side streets between 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard are residential.

    The community is home to various houses of worship from a wide array of religions but mainly Catholic. Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church is located between 82nd and 83rd Street on 35th Avenue. The Jackson Heights Jewish Center is located on the corner of 77th Street and 37th Avenue. The Community United Methodist Church is on 82nd Street.

    Jackson Heights is mainly composed of private homes, co-op buildings, and rentals, with a small number of condominiums.

    There is a greenmarket every Sunday morning during summer at Travers Park, as well as various family-oriented spring & summer concerts.

    Colombian broadcaster RCN TV has its US-American headquarters in the neighborhood, reflecting the sizable Colombian population in the area.

    The Jackson Heights Garden City Society is a historical society, whose founders include local historians, the Queens Borough Historian and local activists. They created and oversee the Jackson Heights Garden City Trail and publish a walking guidebook to Jackson Heights. They also collect artifacts of the community. Periodically the Society testifies before the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on issues of concern to the community.

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  4. Like many of the urban renewal plans of the 1970s, I can imagine a few horrific “suburban renewal” plans going into effect before people realize they cause more problems than ever imagined.

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  5. The first tier of suburbs started long ago on streetcar lines–the outercity areas of most big cities include areas like this, as well as early burbs like Oak Park & Evanston, IL, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights & Lakewood near Cleveland, etc. Pasadena actually belongs in this era, as reflected in “Old Town”. These places were built to accommodate walking, public transport, and cars. They have density without seeming like classic inner city neighborhoods or ugly collections of McMansions. Some early post-WWII suburbs often had similar densities and often had decent access to bus and sometimes streetcar services. These are the kinds of places that Kunstler views as ideal. These are the kinds of places that continue to support a mix of neighborhood businesses and larger forms like modern supermarkets. Many of the communities that have come back in the last few decades are exactly these communities–they have proximity, but also lots of private homes. Clearly, they remain attractive to a wide range of buyers.

    The post 1950s suburbs are much less sustainable. They are car dependent, horrible places for teenagers (and often have a lot of juvenile problems), and the kind of localities that often are tied to the fortunes of malls. Classic dead malls often were killed off when these or older suburbs built on the post-50s model changed economically or demographically. When malls die it’s difficult to repurpose them–that’s probably why developers have all but stopped building them (i.e., thet have become risky investments, long-term). The sprawlburgs aren’t going to die–cheap land means that they will always be with us, but some of them may change from being the leading edge to being a more marginal edge, like one finds in many European cities. The crash of prices in non-fancy places like the Inland Empire is likely to set this up, along with the investment in these places by outside consolidators (rather than local buyers or even slumlords).

    [Reply]

  6. This comes from vtpi.org The Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
    Online TDM Encyclopedia
    Updated May 2009

    Transportation Demand Management (TDM, also called Mobility Management) is a general term for strategies that result in more efficient use of transportation resources. This Encyclopedia is a comprehensive source of information about innovative management solutions to transportation problems. It provides detailed information on dozens of demand management strategies, plus general information on TDM planning and evaluation techniques. It is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to increase understanding and implementation of TDM.

    Contents
    Overview
    Strategies To Achieve Specific Objectives
    Best Strategies For Various Organizations and Stakeholder Groups
    TDM Strategies
    Improved Transport Options
    Incentives To Use Alternative Modes and Reduce Driving
    Parking and Land Use Management
    Policy And Institutional Reforms
    TDM Programs and Program Support
    TDM Planning and Evaluation
    Reference Information

    Overview
    These chapters describe this Encyclopedia and TDM.

    About This Encyclopedia Describes the Encyclopedia and how to use it.
    Why Manage Transportation? Discusses reasons to apply transportation demand management.
    Success Stories Describes successful TDM programs.
    Win-Win Transportation Solutions Describes TDM strategies that provide multiple economic, social and environmental benefits.

    Strategies To Achieve Specific Objectives
    These chapters describe the best strategies for achieving specific objectives.

    Congestion Reduction Strategies for reducing traffic congestion.
    Energy Conservation and Emission Reductions Strategies for reducing vehicle energy consumption and pollution emissions.
    Health and Fitness Strategies that improve public fitness and health through physical activity.
    Improving Equity Strategies that help achieve equity objectives.
    Livability Strategies Strategies that improve local environmental quality as experiened by people who live, work and visit in a community.
    Parking Solutions Solutions to parking problems.
    Rural Community TDM Strategies that can help improve transportation in lower-density, rural areas.
    Safety Strategies Strategies for improving traffic safety and public health.
    Transportation Affordability Describes TDM strategies that increase transportation affordability.

    Organizations and Stakeholder Groups
    These chapters identify the best TDM strategies for implementation by various organizations and stakeholder groups.

    Individual Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that people can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Business Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that businesses can take to increase transport system efficiency in their roles as employers, developers, building operators and service providers.
    Business Association Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that organizations such as chambers of commerce and transportation management associations, can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Community Organization Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that community and non-profit organizations can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Campus Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that campus managers can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Municipal Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that municipal governments can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Regional Government Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that regional governments can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    State/Provincial Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that state and provincial governments can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Federal Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that federal governments can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Transportation Agency Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that transportation agencies can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    TDM Summary Table This table rates all TDM strategies based on their appropriateness for implementation by various organizations and stakeholder groups.

    TDM Strategies
    These chapters describe specific TDM strategies. They are divided into major categories according to how they affect travel.

    Improved Transport Options
    Address Security Concerns Strategies for improving personal security.
    Alternative Work Schedules Flextime, Compressed Work Week (CWW), and staggered shifts.
    Bus Rapid Transit Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems provide high quality bus service on busy urban corridors.
    Cycling Improvements Strategies for improving bicycle transport.
    Bike/Transit Integration Ways to integrate bicycling and public transit.
    Carsharing Vehicle rental services that substitute for private vehicle ownership.
    Flextime Flexible daily work schedules.
    Guaranteed Ride Home An occasional subsidized ride home for commuters who use alternative modes.
    Individual Actions for Efficient Transport Actions that individuals can take to increase transport system efficiency.
    Light Rail Transit Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems provide convenient local transit service on busy urban corridors.
    Nonmotorized Planning Planning for walking, cycling, and their variants.
    Nonmotorized Facility Management Best practices for managing nonmotorized facilities such as walkways, sidewalks and paths.
    Park & Ride Providing convenient parking at transit and rideshare stations.
    Pedestrian Improvements Strategies for improving walking conditions.
    Pedways Indoor urban walking networks that connect buildings and transportation terminals.
    Public Bike Systems Automated bicycle rental systems designed to provide efficient mobility for short, utilitarian urban trips.
    Ridesharing Encouraging carpooling and vanpooling.
    Shuttle Services Shuttle buses, jitneys and free transit zones.
    Small Wheeled Transport Accommodating wheeled luggage, skates, scooters and handcarts.
    Transit Station Improvements Describes ways to improve public transit stop and station waiting conditions.
    Taxi Service Improvements Strategies for improving taxi services.
    Telework (Telecommuting, Distance-Learning, etc.) Use of telecommunications as a substitute for physical travel.
    Traffic Calming Roadway designs that reduce vehicle traffic speeds and volumes.
    Transit Improvements Strategies for improving public transit services.
    Transit Examples Describes successful transit programs.
    Universal Design (Barrier Free Planning) Transport systems that accommodate all users, including people with disabilities and other special needs

    Incentives To Use Alternative Modes and Reduce Driving
    Carbon Taxes Special taxes based on fuel carbon content intended to encourage energy conservation and climate change emission reductions.
    Commuter Financial Incentives Parking cash out, travel allowance, transit and rideshare benefits.
    Congestion Pricing Variable road pricing used to reduce peak-period vehicle trips.
    Distance-Based Pricing Vehicle fees and taxes based on a vehicle’s mileage.
    Fuel Taxes Increasing fuel taxes to achieve TDM objectives.
    HOV (High Occupant Vehicle) Priority Strategies that give transit and rideshare vehicles priority over other traffic.
    Multi-Modal Navigation Tools Describes wayfinding resources and other multi-modal navigation tools.
    Parking Pricing Charging motorists directly for parking.
    Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance Converting vehicle insurance premiums into distance-based fees.
    Road Pricing Congestion pricing, value pricing, road tolls and HOT lanes.
    Road Space Reallocation Roadway design and management practices that favor efficient modes.
    Speed Reductions Strategies to reduce traffic speeds.
    Transit Encouragement Strategies for encouraging public transit use.
    Vehicle Use Restrictions Limiting vehicle traffic at a particular time and place.
    Walking And Cycling Encouragement Strategies for encouraging nonmotorized transportation.

    Parking and Land Use Management
    Bicycle Parking Bicycle racks, lockers and changing facilities.
    Car-Free Planning Strategies to reduce automobile travel at particular times and places, and create pedestrian oriented streets.
    Strong Commercial Centers Creating vibrant downtowns, business districts, urban villages, and other mixed-use activity centers.
    Connectivity Creating more connected roadway and path networks.
    Land Use Density and Clustering Locating common destinations close together to increase accessibility and transport diversity.
    Location Efficient Development Development that maximizes accessibility and affordability.
    New Urbanism Accessible, livable community design.
    Parking Cost, Pricing and Revenue Calculator Excel spreadsheet calculates parking facility costs, prices and revenue.
    Parking Management Strategies for more efficient use of parking.
    Parking Management: Strategies, Evaluation and Planning – Comprehensive This report provides comprehensive guidance on parking management (PDF format).
    Parking Pricing Charging motorists directly for using parking facilities.
    Parking Solutions Comprehensive menu of solutions to parking problems.
    Parking Evaluation Guidelines for evaluating parking problems and solutions.
    Shared Parking Sharing parking facilities among multiple users.
    Smart Growth Land use practices to create more accessibile, efficient and livable communities.
    Smart Growth Reforms Policy and planning reforms that encourage more accessible land use development.
    Smart Growth Reforms – Comprehensive This report provides detailed information on Smart Growth policy and planning reforms. (PDF Format)
    Streetscape Improvements Various ways to improve urban street design.
    Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Using transit stations as a catalyst to create more livable communities.
    Land Use Impacts on Transport Describes how land use factors such as density, mix and regional accessibility affect travel behavior.
    Land Use Impacts on Transport – Comprehensive This comprehensive report provides detailed information on how land use factors affect travel behavior. (PDF Format)

    Policy And Institutional Reforms
    Asset Management Policies and programs to preserve the value of assets such as roadways and parking facilities.
    Car-Free Planning Strategies to reduce driving at particular times and places.
    Change Management Ways to build support for institutional change.
    Comprehensive Market Reforms Policy changes that result in more efficient transport pricing.
    Context Sensitive Design Flexible design requirements to reflect community values.
    Contingency-Based Planning Planning that deals with uncertainly by identifying solutions to potential future problems.
    Institutional Reforms Creating organizations that support efficient transport.
    Least Cost Planning Creating an unbiased framework for transport planning.
    Operations and Management Programs Programs that encourage more efficient use of existing roadway systems.
    Prioritizing Transportation Principles for prioritizing transportation activities and investments.
    Regulatory Reform Policy changes to encourage transport service competition, innovation and efficiency.

    TDM Programs and Program Support
    Access Management Improved coordination between roadway design and land use.
    Aviation Transport Management Applying TDM to air transport.
    Campus Transport Management Transport management for colleges, universities and other large facilities.
    Data Collection and Surveys Data collection for TDM program planning and evaluation.
    Commute Trip Reduction Programs that encourage more efficient commuting.
    Emergency Response Transport Management Discusses transport management under emergency and disaster conditions.
    Freight Transport Management Strategies to improve the efficiency of freight and commercial transport.
    Funding Options Describes various ways to fund transport programs that support TDM objectives.
    Intelligent Transportation Describes the use of new information technologies to improve transportation system performance and efficiency.
    School Transport Management Transport management for schools.
    Special Event Transport Management Transportation management for major events, construction projects and emergencies.
    Developing Country TDM Implementing transportation demand management in developing regions.
    TDM Marketing Information and encouragement programs to promote TDM.
    TDM Programs Developing an institutional framework for implementing TDM.
    Tourist Transport Management Transportation management for tourist and leisure travel.
    Transportation Management Associations (TMA) Member-controlled organizations that provide transportation services in a particular area.

    TDM Planning and Evaluation
    These chapters provide information on TDM planning and evaluation techniques.

    Accessibility Describes the concept of “accessibility,” how it is evaluated, and ways to improve it.
    Evaluating Accessibility – Comprehensive This report discusses the concept of “accessibility,” how it can be evaluated and improved, and ways to apply these concepts in transport and land use planning. (PDF Format).
    Automobile Dependency Describes transport and land use patterns that increase automobile use and reduce transport options.
    Basic Access Describes the concepts of “Basic Access” and “Basic Mobility” and how they can be evaluated.
    Comprehensive Transport Planning Planning reforms for more comprehensive and accurate transportation decision-making.
    Transportation Demand Discusses Transport Demand, which refers to the amount and type of travel people would choose under specific price and service quality conditions.
    Economic Development Impacts Examines how TDM affects economic productivity, employment, business activity and wealth.
    Equity Evaluation Discusses concepts of equity and how to evaluate TDM equity impacts.
    Equity Evaluation – Comprehensive This comprehensive report discusses concepts of transportation equity and how to evaluate the equity impacts of specific transport planning decisions. (PDF Format)
    Evaluating TDM Criticism Evaluates various criticisms of TDM.
    Evaluating TDM Describes methods for evaluating the costs and benefits of TDM policies and programs.
    Evaluating Transport Options Describes the benefits of having a diverse transportation system, and methods for evaluating the value of specific options.
    Health and Fitness Discusses ways to improve public fitness and health by more active transport.
    Land Use Evaluation Discusses ways to evaluate the land use impacts of transport planning decisions.
    Land Use Evaluation – Comprehensive This comprehensive report examines how transportation decisions affect land use patterns, and the economic, social and environmental impacts that result. (PDF Format)
    Multi-Modal Level-Of-Service Indicators Describes Level-of-Service (LOS) rating systems suitable for evaluating the quality of various modes from users’ perspective.
    Market Principles Discusses market principles and the degree to which TDM strategies reflect these principles.
    Measuring Transportation Discusses various ways to measure transport performance.
    Modeling Improvements Discusses ways to improve transport models.
    Nonmotorized Transport Evaluation Describes techniques for evaluating walking and cycling for planning purposes.
    Performance Evaluation Discusses specific performance indicators for measuring progress toward specific objectives.
    Planning and Implementation Discusses various issues to consider when planning and implementing Transportation Demand Management programs.
    Pricing Evaluation Factors to consider when evaluating TDM strategies that change transport prices.
    Pricing Methods Describes and compares methods of collecting road tolls, parking fees and mileage charges.
    Rebound Effects Discusses “rebound effects” and their implications for transport planning.
    Resilience and Security Explores the concepts of resilience and security and their implications for transport planning.
    Safety Impact Evaluation Evaluates how TDM strategies impact traffic safety, security and public health.
    Transit Evaluation Describes how to evaluate public transit services.
    Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs – Comprehensive This comprehensive report describes how to evaluate the full benefits and costs of public transit services for planning purposes. (PDF Format)
    Sustainable Transport and TDM Discusses how TDM can help achieve sustainable transport planning objectives.

    Reference Information
    These chapters provide additional technical information about TDM.

    Costs of Driving Summarizes estimates of the costs of driving and savings from reduced vehicle travel.
    Glossary Defines special words used in TDM planning.
    Mobility Management Evaluation Spreadsheet This spreadsheet can be used to evaluate the individual and cumulative impacts of various mobility management strategies on vehicle travel, energy consumption and emissions.
    Prestige and Pleasure Discusses the implications of mobility being a prestige good and a pleasurable activity.
    TDM Summary Table This table lists the various TDM strategies and rates them for implementation by various stakeholder groups.
    Resources Publications and websites for more information on TDM.
    Transportation Statistics Describes sources of transportation data throughout the world.
    Transportation Costs & Benefits Describes and estimates various transportation costs and benefits.
    Transportation Costs and Benefit Analysis – Comprehensive This comprehensive guide, updated in 2009, provides detailed information for quantifying the full costs and benefits of different transport modes.
    Transportation Elasticities Describes how changes in transportation prices (fares, fuel, parking fees, tolls, etc.) affect travel behavior.
    Transportation Elasticities – Comprehensive This comprehensive report provides detailed information on how transportation price changes affect travel behavior. (PDF Format)
    Trip Reduction Tables These tables indicate how parking prices and commuter benefits affect commute travel patterns.
    Wit and Humor To add a little fun, jokes and quotes are scattered through the Encyclopedia. This chapter has the beginning of each one. Follow the links to the punchlines.

    This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement

    [Reply]

  7. Now THAT is a headline, BTW!

    When I was in Portland, OR recently, we went to a place that made me think of kind of a Mall 2.0 – McMenamin’s Edgefield Lodge. In the old days it was a “poor farm,” where the indigent lived. The place fell into disrepair and it was turned into an inn. The outbuildings were turned into nifty restaurants, bars, spa, brewery, winery, shops, (it might have had a theater also – their other venues do). The grounds had a small putting course, scads of ornamental and food gardens and a place to have outdoor concerts, weddings, etc. The place was packed with people from kids to seniors. I could imagine if there was housing around such a place so people could walk or bike to it, it would be the town center so many people say they want.

    The problem is, especially here in Texas with our crazy liquor laws, is that it is necessary to have the high margin alcohol sales pay for the lower margin things like food and open space for concerts. The cost to run this place seems staggering and food and lodging prices are very reasonable, so it they could not be in business without the alcohol. I believe Oregon also has the lowest taxes in the country for microbreweries also.

    I could see them trying to put up something like this in a suburb where I live – The concerts would be TOO LOUD! There would be TOO MANY CARS! There might be undesirables coming! THE CHILDREN MIGHT SEE PEOPLE DRINKING! There might be NOISE after 9PM! It’s the end of the world! Yet, folks have no problem with one ugly chain big box store after another so long as it’s not open at night and does not sell booze.

    Believe me I don’t want to put nightclubs and tons of bars right up against housing (I have seen that too and it’s not nice) but the NIMBY attitude is going to give us more of the same old thing.

    All kinds of “lifestyle centers” are being built around here but they all have the same stuff so who cares. The shops are way too expensive for a small business person like myself to rent. They are trying to charge $1400/mo for a 1-bedroom apartment in the exurbs! Are you kidding me? What are all these high-income professional people going to do for fun – go shopping at Best Buy?

    [Reply]

    SEAN Reply:

    @Laura, So so true. How many lifestyle centers can be built in a single metro area? The Dallas Fort Worth metroplex has centers of all shapes & sizes, but how are most of them going to be successful if they have the same stores? I garentee a fare percentage of these lifestyle centers will be in forclosure before long.

    [Reply]

    M.C. Reply:

    @SEAN, There are a lot of shopping centers in DFW because there are a lot of people. When the centers are located in an area that can serve multiple communities, or a lot of families in one area, then why is it a problem that there are many of them? If there were fewer centers, there would be more people commuting further just to get to them. Many suburbs are fairly self sufficient, employing residents of the area, and having all of the commerce necessary to suit the needs of the community. If Target, for example, doesn’t find it profitable to be in an area, they’re not going to move in. If enough empty space is out there, somebody may get the message eventually,

    I do question why they’re still building so many new centers when a community is well served with what’s already available, and when there are many centers in some areas that are almost completely empty (Lewisville, TX comes to mind). Not to mention when there are empty stores in areas now where some of the big nationals have gone belly up. For example, there is a new center in my community that just got built for an Academy sports store, when right across the street there is an empty Linens n’ Things of similar size. I think part of it is on the city and their zoning committes and chambers of commerce. Coppell, TX at one time (and may still, not sure) would require existing retail space be full to a certain percentage before allowing more to be built, and they were really strict about what stores were allowed to be in their city. If more cities would make such requirements, then they wouldn’t be stuck with a bunch of useless retail space.

    In general, I find myself and my neighbors to enjoy the ‘burbs for what they are. I don’t live in a “McMansion”, I have a very modest home in a quiet community with friendly neighbors. I have a couple of dogs, and a yard for them to play in, there is a walking/biking trail through the community, parks and schools for the kids in the area ( I have none), and there is retail of every kind within a 5 minute drive. I don’t want to live in a tower, packed like a sardine in with thousands of others, fighting for elbow room on a crowded street. I like to be able to hear the silence on a Saturday morning in my front yard. I’m not trying to impress anyone, or live an unattainable lifestyle, I just don’t like the city. I’m not the only one, either. Suburbs can, and in many cases do, serve themselves, city life isn’t the only way.

    [Reply]

  8. In searching out a better future for the suburbs, it makes sense to consider those presently existing suburbs that actually work as more pedestrian-friendly, less car dependent neighborhoods. Some obvious examples are the older suburbs in some of the eastern and midwestern metropolitan areas where fairly densely packed neighborhoods have developed around transit-oriented suburban downtowns- Forest Hills in New York, Shaker Heights near Cleveland, Evanston and Oak Park near Chicago, and other communities mentioned in the above blog.

    All of those communities are fine, but there are less obvious examples of efficient, pedestrialn friendly neighborhoods. For example, in my old neighborhood in Rocky River in suburban Cleveland, I lived on a cul-de-sac (actually a fairly long block that dead-ended into a “lollipop”) of early 1960s homes. Nearby was a shopping mall (Westgate, one of the earliest malls, dating back to 1954). All of that sounds like typical car-oriented suburbia. But, it was not.

    This neighborhood had the quiet and safety of a cul-de-sac. Newsflash to James Howard Kunstler & others who condemn suburbia: folks like cul-de-sacs. The difference- which seems minor, but is not- is that the sidewalks along this cul-de-sac did not simply loop around the circle; rather, the sidewalks continued beyond the circle into a park where it joined a paved path through the park that in turn connected with other sidewalks that extended into the park from adjacent dead-end and cul-de-sac streets.

    This end-of-the-cul-de-sacs park was not huge, but provided some needed greenery and contained the usual playground and tennis courts and could be easily cut-through to Westgate Mall across a two lane side street. So, we had the quiet and safety of a cul-de-sac within a pleasant walking distance of a shopping mall. Our weekend routine was to walk to Westgate with the kids in strollers. A car-less mall experience.

    At the mall parking lot, and at the corner where our cul-de-sac joined the main road, one could hop a bus to downtown Cleveland, with the alternative of connecting with the rapid rail line in the West Park section of Cleveland.

    Was this pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented neighborhood the result of an exhaustive urban planning effort? I don’t know. More likely, the neighborhood may have emerged as a happy fluke.

    My point is that sometimes it is the smaller not-so-intrusive and not-so-expensive things- like cul-de-sac sidewalks that don’t end but connect to parklands that provide access to walkable commercial destinations- that can make a big difference in the suburban quality of life.

    I wonder if all of the focus on “re-inventing” the suburbs is overlooking some of the more easily implemented improvements. I appreciate the advice of early Chicago city planner Daniel Burnham (“Make No Small Plans”) but I’m thinking some small plans just might be the ticket.

    [Reply]

    SEAN Reply:

    @James, Most suburbs were not designed that way. Infact no provisions were made for sidewalks in many cases because it was assumed people
    would be driving everywhere.
    In Paramus NJ several side streets lack sidewalks although the North/ South roads such as Paramus Road & Midland Avenue had them. If you knew how, you could walk to Garden State Plaza, quite a few side streets either ran along side the mall property or dead ended into it. Same could be said for both Broadway Mall in Hicksville & Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream.

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    @SEAN, I would agree that most suburbs were not designed like the Rocky River neighborhood that I described. But they should be. The suburban decision makers- village planners, regional planning agencies, housing developers, etc.- need to adopt a “sidewalk” ethic. First, install them. Second, make them go somewhere, not just loop around the cul-de-sac. Connect them to parks and business districts. It’s not a panacea for what ails the suburbs, but it is a relatively low cost step toward making the burbs more pedestrian-friendly and less car dependent.

    To the credit of the Village where I currently live- an older railroad suburb west of Chicago- the town fathers have aggressively pushed sidewalks in recent years. The downtown area near the train station has always had sidewalks but many of the neighborhoods further from the center of town were built without sidewalks. In recent years, our Village has taken a very aggressive approach installing sidewalks in these established sidewalk-free areas. The Village has met some resistance- at one public hearing, a homeowner objected to the installation of sidewalks on his lot (located across from an elementary school) because he said it would give child molesters easier access to the children in the neighborhood (!). Never mind that these schoolkids had to walk in the street due to a lack of sidewalks. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and sidewalks were installed across this gentleman’s lot….

    [Reply]

    SEAN Reply:

    @James, What was that homeowner smoking.

    Does Pace serve your neighborhood? If so can you walk to the bus stop from your residence? Same for Metra.
    If a suburb is close in & has frequent transit there is a greater likelyhood they could adapt. Having said that, how many communities & regional governments are that foward thinking. In Westchester County for example a vote on “afordavle” housing will take place sept. 25th & maybe voted down even though the penelty may total as much as $200,000,000 including court costs.

    [Reply]

  9. @James: Your Rocky River neighborhood was not unlike those you could find in Willowick, Euclid, Lyndhurst, etc., all developed at about the same time. Walking distance to useful shopping (and people used to walk more) and often well connected to public transportation. No one had to drive us to Indians and Browns games. We could walk to Shoregate. Many could walk to Euclid Square mall. My cousins used to walk to Richmond Mall. We’re talking, though, about suburbs that were scaled very closely to the earlier streetcar suburbs–parts of Lakewood are much like muchof Rocky River. Ditto Cleveland Heights and the next tier of suburbs. Cleveland Heights has cul de sacs even in pre-war neighborhoods like Forest Hills (they were called deadends–the city of Cleland has them, too in 1920s neighborhoods like those in the north end of Collinwood. It’s places like Westlake, Middleburg Heights, Mentor, Strongsville, etc. that are the classic suburbs that have long-term environmental sustainability problems, let alone the ones that have developed more recently.

    Many of the most troubled suburbs in the DC area are post-WWII areas S and E of the city, mostly in Prince George’s County, MD or Fairfax County, VA. these are areas that underwent rapid econcomic and racial/ethnic change. They are not ripe for redevelopment because they have no infrastructure to connect them easily to other places, besides roads, and their amenities often are limited. There are areas that have remained stable–often inhabited by the same racial /ethnic groups– near these places, that often are older and built on a somewhat more dense scale (though usually with fewer large apartment complexes), often with walking business districts (even some places from the 50s). The kind of density that was common before WWII and still common in the early post WWII era, combined with amenities rmains very viable. The classic sprawlburg layout is more difficult to revive once it’s hit with change and this is particulatly evident in Sunbelt cities and is likely to evident in places hit hard by overbuilding and overmortgaging..

    [Reply]

    SEAN Reply:

    @Rich, Please correct me if I’m wrong, places like Rocky River are served by RTA trains from Public Square. I do remember that towns along the lines redeveloped after WWII & the train lines followed suit. Extentions & rehabilitation of the rail system including service to Hopkins International Airport were completed in the 1980s, the first such service in the US.

    [Reply]

    SEAN Reply:

    @SEAN, Here’s some info on Cleveland’s rail system.

    The rail transit system in Cleveland today has its antecedents in real estate development of the early 20th Century. Two brothers, O. P. and M. E. Van Sweringen had acquired land southeast of downtown which they turned into the city of Shaker Heights. As their residents were likely to work in the central area of Cleveland, they sought to construct a rapid transit line, which have become the Blue and Green lines of the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority. The first section opened in 1913.

    The construction of the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line into Cleveland resulted in a right-of-way dispute with the NCC&StL Railway (Nickel Plate Road), ultimately settled when the Vans bought the railroad. This purchase in turn contributed to their later projects: building Public Square, the Terminal Tower, and the Union Terminal in downtown Cleveland. This massive project gathered most of the passenger trains into a single station, and like the Grand Central project in New York included electrification to eliminate smoke from steam engines in downtown area, as well as a department store, hotel, and office tower on the air rights. In the grand design provision was made for several rapid transit lines to enter the terminal area, but due to disputes with city politicians and the depression, only the Shaker Heights line existed until the 1950’s.

    As the Cleveland streetcar system turned into a bus system under public operation, plans again were drawn up for a city subway system. The resulting line (now known as the Red Line) opened for riders on 15 March, 1955 on the route from Union Terminal to the Windermere Station on the East Side. The initial portion of the line was 7.8 miles long including 2.6 miles of shared trackage with the Shaker Heights line, which was converted into a section of mixed high and low level platforms operated “left hand running” to accommodate PCCs.

    The route was extended to the West Side of Cleveland in stages; the 5.3 miles to West 117th opened on 15 August 1955, with 1.8 further miles to West Park on 15 November 1958. In 1968, 4 more miles opened bringing the line directly into the terminal at Hopkins Airport.

    Most of the line is either at grade, in a cut or on an embankment and directly adjacent mainline railroad rights of way (in New York terms think of the Sea Beach/Bay Ridge Branch of the New York Connecting RR). In some sections the original RR was moved laterally to accommodate the rapid transit line and in others cases, flyovers were built to facilitate continued freight access to industrial customers.

    When originally opened, the CTS or “Rapid” had an 88 car fleet of single and married pair cars built by St Louis Car Co. The entire system is overhead catenary much like the Blue Line in Boston, but with the oddity of mixed platform height on the joint use section. The early cars had two sliding door sets and were 48’6″ long. Concurrent with the Airport extension a second class of cars were delivered. These are the cars with the slanted end panels in the accompanying pictures. Both of these fleets have been retired with the 1982 delivery of 60 stainless steel cars manufactured by Sumitomo. The basic design remains two doors per car, very close to the ends of the cars, in a high platform rapid transit style. Fare collection is on board during off hours at some stations.

    The Shaker system was originally staffed with Peter Witt cars (Peter Witt was a native of Cleveland and the style of trolleycar named for him originated here), of which one is retained for occasional charter use, but for many years the system was home to a large fleet of MU equipped PCCs. These have been retired with purchase of 48 Breda-built LRVs in the 1980s. The Breda cars, which have doors on both sides, have allowed right hand running on the joint trackage, however it is still the case that in this section each station has dual platforms to accommodate both the high level and low level entry cars.

    When the Rapid opened a shops facility was built at the Windermere Terminal, but with the 1980s car purchases a new shop at East 55th Street now maintains both fleets. The previous nearby Shaker Heights Shop was then closed.

    Red Line (Rapid Transit)
    Let us begin our tour at the Hopkins Airport station. Stepping away from the baggage area, the Red Line Station is inside the terminal building, completely out of the weather. Paying one’s fare at the booth, one enters onto an island platform. From here trains leave for the east end of the line from 5AM to 1AM. During closed periods buses provide limited service. At present most trains make all stops as the system is two tracks only.

    Leaving the Airport the line comes to grade level and joins the right of way of the former New York Central heading northeasterly. On our left is a storage yard where the 2nd fleet of rapid transit cars were stored for several years. Brookpark and West 150th St.-Puritas are the next two stations, both have island platforms. Each includes bus transfer facilities and parking.

    West Park, the next station, was the terminal of the line until 1968 and some layup sidings remain adjacent to the island platform. From here toward downtown the line parallels the Nickel Plate (now Norfolk Southern) right of way, making stops at Triskett, West 117th St.-Madison, West 98th St.-Detroit (West Blvd.), and West 65th St.-Madison are each island platform stations along this right of way. West 25th St-Ohio City is next and was the location of a small maintenance of way yard to the south of the station.

    The line now crosses the the Cuyahoga River and enters the Tower City (formerly Union Terminal) area on the railroad-built bridge/embankment structure. Just as the line enters the complex it is joined by the tracks of the 1995 Waterfront Extension of the Green and Blue LRV lines (see below). Tower City-Public Square, as it is now called, is the renovated Terminal Tower development mentioned above. While the inter-city trains no longer pass through, the transit lines converge here and the former station has been turned into an urban mall with multiplex movies and the predictable Gap, chocolate chip cookies, and chain music stores. The original transit trackage and platforms have been reconfigured with the extension of the Green/Blue lines to the Waterfront.

    Leaving Tower City heading southeast we are on the 1920 Shaker Heights alignment as we parallel the Norfolk Southern again. There are still catenary supports here from the long abandoned mainline electrification project. East 34th St.-Campus and East 55th Street are the next two stations. As we approach East 55th, the main shop facility is on our left and beyond it lies a major Norfolk Southern freight yard. As we leave E. 55th the lines diverge; the Blue/Green LRV lines nead east and the rapid transit line turns northeast toward Windermere. We are now adjacent former New York Central trackage. There are six stations on this route: East 79th St., East 105th St.-Quincy, University Circle, East 120th St.-Euclid, Superior, and Windermere (now called Louis B. Stokes after a local politician). All of these are island platforms on embankment, and there are bus transfer stops at the street level. Only Windermere, which was rebuilt when the shops were removed, is ADA compliant. As we enter the rebuilt Windermere station there is some evidence of the former configuration. As built in the 1950s there was a turnaround loop and shop facility. Now there is a simple stub end terminal.

    Green/Blue Lines (Light Rail)
    Returning to East 55th St. to ride the Green LRV line, there are four stations served by the Green line only although the Blue and Green lines share trackage. These are: East 79th, Woodhill, East 116th (the line is in a cut here), and Shaker Square. At the Shaker Square station on the inbound side there is a small 1950s style restaurant serving burgers, fries, BLTs, shakes etc. Ate there in 1963 and again in 1996– still good!

    Departing Shaker Square, the Blue line trackage diverges to the south and the Green line proceeds east. Beyond Shaker Square, the Green Line right of way enters the median of the local streets, and platforms are traditional trolley style outside concrete pads with minimal shelter/bench amenities. From this point the line will be most recognizable to users of the MBTA Green Line C route– the trackage is in a pleasantly maintained greensward in a well kept neighborhood. The Green line makes 10 stops before arriving at Green, the end of the line. At Green, there is a vestigial loop from PCC times, with an adjacent parking lot. The graded right of way extends east several miles but tracks have never been extended.

    Turning south and then east again from Shaker Square, the Blue line is in a similar median right of way for several miles then turns south east, making 10 stops before terminating at Warrensville. This stub ended terminal once had a loop enclosing a restaurant but that is now gone. Trolley stops on these sections are much closer together than the stops on the grade seperated ROW within Cleveland reflecting the designs common to early 20th century systems.

    The Waterfront line is the first new trackage since the Airport extension and serves a once industrial, now yuppie/tourist area with condos, restaurants, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is operated as an extension of the Green/Blue lines with the Breda LRVs There are five stations along this line, all of which are ADA compliant. The line diverges northerly from the Red line to the west of Tower City descending to the riverbank level. Following the curve of the Cuyahoga River the line crosses over the lakefront ex-New York Central line on a roller coaster-like elevated section with a station adjacent to the Amtrak depot. The line ends at a stub station at South Harbor although there has been talk of extensions.

    [Reply]

    Rich Reply:

    @SEAN, Rocky River is not on the “Rapid”, but the major thoroughfares have buses. As it happens, long ago, I once took a bus to Westgate.

    [Reply]

    James Reply:

    @Rich, I agree that many of Cleveland’s near east side suburbs share a lot of the attributes of a walkable town like Rocky River on the west side. And, these towns all developed, for the most part, pre-WWII.

    Although Rocky River and the eastern suburbs that you mention have lots of post-war infill development (Westgate Mall and my nearby street of early 1960s homes were postwar infill), the pattern for the densely-packed mixed use pedestrian-friendly development that characterizes these towns was established pre-WWII.

    Before WWII, Rocky River was a streetcar suburb. The long gone Lake Shore Electric crossed the old Detroit Avenue bridge from Lakewood and wound its way through Beach Cliff and headed to Bay Village and further points west. In addition, the Nickel Plate Road had a station in downtown Rocky River and a passenger service to downtown Cleveland. The early development clustered around these transportation lines and set the tone for the balance of development in Rocky River.

    While no longer served by rail, Rocky River continues to have excellent access to public transit, with multiple bus lines. Hard to imagine a rail line could be any more efficient than the “55” bus routes along Lake Road and the “46” along Detroit Road.

    While on the topic of streetcar suburbs, Lakewood to the east of Rocky River and closer to Cleveland was perhaps the ultimate streetcar suburb with streetcar lines on either side of Clifton Boulevard (that’s why Clifton is so broad today) and lines down the middle of Detroit and Madison Avenues.

    Lakewood’s development was in the very early years of the automobile age but the streetcars set the pattern of development. There is a street in Lakewood, just off Clifton Boulevard, called Clifton Prado, that was in fact not a street at all. In lieu of an actual street for cars, the houses on the Prado lined a sidewalk. Who needed a car, when the Clifton line was at the end of the walk? This “sidewalk” street lasted until the 1980s, when an actual street for cars (albeit a very narrow street) was finally put through the Prado.

    [Reply]

  10. Regarding the street that wasn’t (Clifton Prado), I just googled “Clifton Prado” and found links to web sites with pictures and descriptions of the Prado, if anyone is interested.

    [Reply]

  11. $6 a gallon gasoline. The second that $6 is the price for a gallon of gas on a regular (and rising) basis, is the day that suburbia will have no choice but to change its fabric and densify…and become New Urban. And a lot of these places on the outskirts will just wither and die.

    [Reply]

    SEAN Reply:

    @Aaron, Did you read either The long Emergency or $20 per gallon?

    [Reply]

  12. If an empty Walmart shouldn’t EVER be used for something else. Stupid “sustainable design” liberals are giving our country a lame image.

    [Reply]

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