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Thread: Suburban Renewal!

  1. #1

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    Suburban Renewal!

    A couple of weeks ago I saw an interesting article in the Washington Post ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp...nguage=printer ). The article mentioned that an entire subdivision of 100 homes on 80+ acres in Fairfax County, VA was being bought out for the construction of over 1,000 townhouses, apartments and some detached homes!

    I always wondered how more dense development would come to the suburbs; I guess developers with deep enough pockets will lead the way in buying whole subdivisions to build tons more homes. My guess -- in the near future developers will come to suburban governments to tell them that some subdivision is not viable anymore, and they will want assistance toward its acquisition for redevelopment.

    The emerging suburban renewal. Please discuss.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    It hasn't happened yet but you only have to look to the Philly suburbs at Levittown, PA. A post war brainchild is now only one step above the ghetto. There have been several community development projects in recent years to try to revitalize this development but none have succeeded. As land begins to get more and more scarce around the Philly suburbs I wouldn't rule out a developer buying up huge chunks of this development (and others), and just starting over.

  3. #3

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    Interesting.

    I've always wondered what will happen to the awful 1970s subdivisions. I can't imagine a preservationist movement to protect the 1975 stucco ranch house subdivisions that are already looking, frankly, very very bad.

  4. #4
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    We should keep a block or two of the old houses...just to remind us not to do it again

  5. #5
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    Agreed.I've even found examples of old gas stations and parking garages that are worth preserving for history's and the community's sake. However I still haven't found a surface lot interesting enough to preserve. Perhaps if they become more rare I'd think about saving the last Wal*mart and surface lot ocean, One day!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    One mans trash is another mans treasure. While places like Levittown may be "one step above the ghetto" it just demonstrates the theory of real estate life cycles.

    BKM - Those "aweful" 1970's stucco homes represent a unique time in American architecture. Someday someone will value them for it. This is funny to me, because in the 1970s we were knocking down entire neighborhoods from the 1930s. Didnt we learn anything???

    Someday places like these -- if they survive -- will be historic districts and the gentrifiers will move in! Or is it, the gentrifiers will move in, and then they become historic districts...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Originally posted by bturk
    One mans trash is another mans treasure. While places like Levittown may be "one step above the ghetto" it just demonstrates the theory of real estate life cycles.

    BKM - Those "aweful" 1970's stucco homes represent a unique time in American architecture. Someday someone will value them for it. This is funny to me, because in the 1970s we were knocking down entire neighborhoods from the 1930s. Didnt we learn anything???

    Someday places like these -- if they survive -- will be historic districts and the gentrifiers will move in! Or is it, the gentrifiers will move in, and then they become historic districts...
    There's a lot of truth to that. As this country ages, styles that were once considered contemporary are now becomming "historic" and/or "vintage." It usually takes so-called hip people, i.e. gentrifiers, 25 yrs or so to become nostalgic over previous eras.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  8. #8

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    Originally posted by Planderella


    As this country ages, styles that were once considered contemporary are now becomming "historic" and/or "vintage." It usually takes so-called hip people, i.e. gentrifiers, 25 yrs or so to become nostalgic over previous eras.
    True, but not every '70s split-level subdivision is going to become "historic" or "vintage". Here in Chicago, many inner-ring suburbs are aging ethnic enclaves that are not attracting any newcomers. They're becoming less safe, more impoverished and their homes are not appreciating nearly as much as in other areas. Young families are leaving these places to move further away from the city.

    Many subdivisions will be seen as obsolete, much as urban renewal areas were in the 1950s and '60s. While it will be good to keep a few reflect a period in American history and architecture, it might be time to see old subdivisions as ripe for New Urbanism/Smart Growth infill.

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    Will politicians have the guts?

    One more thought. Surely local politicians in the suburbs where these "awful" subdivisions exist know that they are quickly losing their long-term appeal. But will they have the juevos to to admit that a subdivision full of half-acre or one-acre lots is not working, and that a developer's goal to create more density and variety on the same site might work?

    Is this the New Urbanism/Smart Growth battleground?

  10. #10

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    Well, I would admit that many of the first generation modernist subdivisions (the earliest ranchers, the Eichlers here in the Bay Area, etc) have a lot of merit.

    The problem is that the 70s were an exhausted decade, imo, in architecture and most art forms (silly period revivals aside-and I even LIKE That Seventies Show ). These houses lack the quality materials, design quirks, and, in many neighborhoods from that era, the tree-shaded streets that have encouraged the nostal;gia industry. Plus, they are not very centrally located (although compared to the more far-flung subdivisions, maybe.)

    Construction quality is not very good, they are very basic shelter, that's it. Maybe there will be a preservation movement, but it will be so minor when compared to the scale of this development that the dinvestment mentioned by Pete Rock I will dominate.

    However, in regions facing rapid population growth and excessive planning that restricts further sprawl (like California) this dinvestment may be less significant.

    Still, I doubt there will be much nostalgia over chocolate brown Hoffman Construction Company ranches circa 1976. And, our older rancher neighborhoods are not seeing that much new investment either-despite the amazing runup in housing prices.

  11. #11

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    Originally posted by BKM
    Maybe there will be a preservation movement, but it will be so minor when compared to the scale of this development that the dinvestment mentioned by Pete Rock I will dominate.

    However, in regions facing rapid population growth and excessive planning that restricts further sprawl (like California) this dinvestment may be less significant.

    Excellent point, BKM. What a scenario -- 30 years into the future the rapid growth areas of the country will have tons of '60s and '70s-style homes that were never demolished because the demand for housing remained strong and growth management policies restricted new construction. On the other hand, regions growing less rapidly like the Northeast and Midwest may be replacing their housing stock to attract newcomers.

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