A recent article in the Wall Street Journal looked at making suburbia more livable for people in their later years. The piece notes the work of the planning firm Duany Plater Zyberk in Mableton, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb trying to reduce the isolation that suburban street layouts and single-use zoning often bring.
The plan has the following elements: 1) New housing and retail space and services would enable residents to age in place; 2) An arts center would expand an existing amphitheater and add galleries and live-work units for local artists; 3) A new town center, coupled with greenways, would make Mableton more pedestrian-friendly;4) A civic center would include wellness and fitness centers; 5) A historic area would feature restored homes and a commuter rail stop.
One cannot help but notice the role of parks in the form of a town center, greenways, outdoor performance space and fitness centers in this upgrade. For suburbs looking to retrofit, the idea is not to provide the long held suburban ideal of “open space” but the walkable and usable idea of public spaces in plazas, neighborhood parks and interconnected trails.