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Thread: Communities whose entire housing stock was built in the span of a few years

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Communities whose entire housing stock was built in the span of a few years

    North of Buffalo lies the Town of Tonawanda, one of Buffalo's largest suburbs. The bulk of the town was subdivided in the 1920s, and some limited development occurred before the Great Depression and World War II. In the prosperous years following World War II, development in Tonawanda exploded, and the town nearly reached buildout by 1960. Tonawanda has a local reputation as being the region's trademark mid-century suburb, where away from the Buffalo city line it seems like practically every house, commercial building, factory and civic structure was built between 1950 and 1960.

    Driving through Tonawanda's subdivisions can be like a trip back in time, The commercial districts are also little changed from the 1950s too, save for some facade updates, and the replacement of neon-laden Googie-style signs with plastic boxes on poles, and more recently, a proliferation of electronic message centers,

    East of Cleveland, some suburbs have a building stock that only spans a period of about five years. The cities of Willowick and Wickliffe were practically empty in the early 1950s save for some scattered farmhouses and stillborn pre-Depression subdivisions, and were completely built out by the late 1950s. Lyndhurst and Mayfield Heights are similar; subdivided in the 1920s, almost no development until the 1950s, and mostly scattered infill and redevelopment after 1960.

    I'm curious about other cities and towns where it seems like everything was built in a short span; not so much exurbs that are only beginning to develop, but those places where practically every house was built in a five or ten year span.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    There were incredible amounts of Detroit and its suburbs that were built immediately following WW-2. During the war, there was very little built; but the demand was increased due to the war effort needing the airplanes, tanks, jeeps, and other things that were produced in the factories. For example, Ford built a plant near Detroit just outside of the City of Ypsilanti. This plant had 90,000 people working on producing bombers. This plant closed in the early 1990's and was producing Chevrolet Impalas/Caprice Classics when production was moved to Texas, at that time there was only a few thousand workers there; now there are none. During the war, much of the existing larger homes were carved into smaller apartments.

    After the war, there was a pent-up demand for the goods that people went without during the War, Detroit stepped up and was a leader in not just producing autos, but many home appliances with names such as Kalvinator, Philco (Ford), and GM.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    The town I grew up in, Willingboro, NJ, was like that. Before the Levitt Corp. came along around 1958, it was just farms with a few isolated houses. On one corner of it was an old Quaker village with some houses dating to the 1700's. They decided they wanted no part of it and voted to become part of neighboring Westhampton Twp. Levitt tore down the farm houses and re-aligned the country roads, so the old patterns were largely erased. They finished building around 1973. There was no new home development until the late 80's when a small-time developer got hold of 18 acres that the Catholic diocese bought years before with plans of a new church and school that was never needed. Then in the last few years the old shopping center was rebuilt, somewhat along New Urbanist lines, with rental housing. You can read about it in Retrofitting Suburbia.
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    Cyburbian fareastsider's avatar
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    Warren Michigan always makes me think of this subject. Minus a few areas in the southern part of the city almost the entire city is late fifties and sixties structures, including homes and retail. Newer and further out is Macomb Twp which has grown rapidly and has most of its housing stock built since 1990 with some late 80s subs in the southwest corner. Everything from schools, stores and homes was built in the last 20 years. Both Warren and Macomb Twp are 36 square mile townships and I often compare them to each other with the speed at which development has occurred. Both went from almost all farms to developed suburbs within 20 years.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    In three highly intertwined far northwest suburbs of Chicago (Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, and Huntley) that tend to make up one community that I call home, they collectively are home to about 82,000 people. 62,000 of those people have moved here since 1990. Thus, I would estimate that about 75% of the housing stock in my area has been built between 1990 and 2007. In Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, most of the growth occurred from about 1990 to 2003, while in Huntley, most of the growth occurred from about 1996 to 2007. So in all, the majority of housing stock in each of the three suburbs was constructed within the timeframe of about a decade.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    What long-term effect will the overall structure build quality of those eras have on these suburbs? The late 20th/early 21st century, especially, have been known for overall poor quality materials and workmanship. This could be a really big issue for some of them as time passes.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    What long-term effect will the overall structure build quality of those eras have on these suburbs? The late 20th/early 21st century, especially, have been known for overall poor quality materials and workmanship. This could be a really big issue for some of them as time passes.

    Mike
    It all depends. Some of the neighborhoods had crappier developers than others. But there's also good quality builders like Pulte, which has a significant presence in the area and which does have problems of their own, but have a better reputation of quality craftsmanship than most of the other major builders. Additionally, there are large tracts of custom or semi-custom large homes that were built over longer periods of time, which also have better craftsmanship. So, it all depends on the builder really. There are plenty of subdivisions with developers that weren't of very high quality.

    But nonetheless, the large quantity of recently constructed housing will likely mean that this area will be a haven for industries that revolve around construction, home improvement, etc. for a long time to come. I remember, recently, a hail storm came through the area, contributing to heavy roofing and siding damage, which meant all the local contractors were seeing booming business, and during their lunch breaks, many of them were frequenting the area restaurants, many of which will take all the weekday lunchtime business they can get. Meanwhile, the municipalities racked up revenue via permit fees. So there are perks.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fareastsider View post
    Warren Michigan always makes me think of this subject. Minus a few areas in the southern part of the city almost the entire city is late fifties and sixties structures, including homes and retail. Newer and further out is Macomb Twp which has grown rapidly and has most of its housing stock built since 1990 with some late 80s subs in the southwest corner. Everything from schools, stores and homes was built in the last 20 years. Both Warren and Macomb Twp are 36 square mile townships and I often compare them to each other with the speed at which development has occurred. Both went from almost all farms to developed suburbs within 20 years.
    How about Center Line?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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