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Retrofitting Suburbia: a Role for Parks

Ellen Dunham-Jones spoke in a TED presentation on retrofitting suburbia. If you’re interested in how metro areas can retrofit their suburbs into places that turn underused parking lots, mall sites and other moribund areas into walkable places with shops, housing, parks and accessible transit, this video is a worthwhile twenty minutes.

In particular, Dunham-Jones mentions some efforts to restore ecological features and provide new public parks as part of redevelopment. On a very related note, the Red Fields to Green Fields project might be a great way to take advantage of so many fallow suburban commercial properties by turning them into parks that entice walkable urban development around them. (Interestingly, this TED talk was in Atlanta, where much of the thinking and planning about Red Fields to Green Fields has occurred.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

For those interested in reading more about retrofitting, a Christian Science Monitor article last year offers a nice overview, and there’s also Dunham-Jones’ (and June Williamson’s) book called Retrofitting Suburbia.

One Response

  1. I really dislike the idea of “retrofitting suburbia.” In a world of ever limiting resources, we are going to have to selectively choose where we invest our public monies so that the best return on investment can be achieved. In this case I would argue that is within cities, not suburbia.

    Suburbs lack the positives experienced in cities with social/human capital, they’re damaging to the environment, achieve low economies of scale when it comes to public assets and services, and the land is not able to produce anything purposeful for the environment or human life.

    The other element at play here is the assumption that growth rates will continue as they have for the past several decades. Most demographic and economic projections seem to say otherwise, and if that’s the case, then we will not be able to both retrofit our suburbs while also repopulating our cities. As a result, I believe that resources should be directed to cities and productive suburban areas, while we return these often cheaply built suburban areas to more productive uses for the environment and human kind – wildlife or agriculture.

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