It’s crazy to think that cities as we know them today are systematically different than they were even 100 years ago. During the 1960’s especially we saw a major shift in urban areas. As the automobile became widely used and aspects of war affected families, Americans jumped on the band wagon of suburbanism. They valued living in the quiet country as a form of escapism, and also as a way to rebuild their family structure in a peaceful environment. This trend caught on extremely fast, and if you had the money you could have a nice home in a suburban community erected in less than a month. This is the mindset behind how many of these neighborhoods were built- quickly with few, cheap materials.
In the last fifteen years we have seen another shift. Now Americans want to live in the city center again, surrounded by the hustle and bustle, so urban areas have been straining to support these new residents. This trend is only increasing, and in thirty years a majority of us will live in one of twelve major hubs in the United States. So how can we plan for this influx of people in order to save the integrity of the area? Cities have a need for a new comprehensive plan including aspects of transportation, housing, job opportunities, and tourism. An overarching theme of these master plans is sustainability.
One way we can implement sustainability is by utilizing the abandoned suburbs I discussed earlier. In order to divert a large portion of Americans from moving to overcrowded cities, they must have access to an area that gives them everything a city center could offer. Through an idea called “retrofitting suburbia” there is potential to give some TLC to those smaller cities and neighborhoods that were lost in our turn of the century urban flight. This plan allows developers and city planners to reestablish an area that has existing structures, but no draw.
City centers offer many aspects that millennials are intrigued by. Some of these include an awesome job market, mixed use housing, and strong community involvement. Retrofitting aims to integrate these components to a suburban area with hopes that people would want to move there; featuring compactness, connectivity and multiple transportation options, diversity, and cultural relevance. Developers will take abandoned box stores or malls and convert them into mixed use structures. There will be bike and car sharing programs implemented. A new town center will be established as a grounds for community gatherings and events. Green space will allow people to get outside and enjoy their city. Energy/water saving technologies will be used.
Retrofitting is a great way to ensure that our country can sustain us in years to come. However it will take a shift in cultural norms and a greater overall mindset which focuses on environmentalism. Let’s work to save our cities!