Thursday, September 17, 2015

Securing inner ring suburbs by "moving away from the traditional suburban standards and making them adaptable."

This article is an excellent and timely introduction to the topic of inner ring suburban neighborhoods. In New Albany's case, many (probably most) such areas lie inside the beltway (I-265). It is an informative overview, and there are numerous points herein for initiating the discussion.

The author begins by contrasting modes of metropolitan development.

The Perils of Inner Ring Suburbs, by Pete Saunders (The Corner Side Yard)

Our metropolitan areas are finding themselves in some pretty interesting times. The force that shaped metropolitan development since World War II, namely the outward push of conventional suburban development usually characterized as "sprawl", has been tempered as a renewed focus on inner city redevelopment has risen over the last 20-25 years or so. This is creating greater recognition of and concern for what's been left behind -- the inner ring suburban type, mostly built between the 1950's and 1970's. Their future will tell us much about what our nation values and how we will move forward socially and economically.

He offers a few potential solutions.

There are ways that inner ring suburbs can combat the potential rot that could plague them. Interestingly, the solutions involve moving away from the traditional suburban standards and making them adaptable. Here are four ideas:

  • Contemporize your housing stock. Many communities fall out of favor with homebuyers and renters because they don't offer the amenities that are built in to newer places in city centers or suburban fringes. Inner ring suburbs will have to find ways to make their housing stock attractive to rehabbers interested in adding space and features to older structures.
  • Diversify your housing stock. The days of bedroom communities exclusively consisting of single family homes may be slowly coming to an end. More of today's homebuyers -- and renters -- are seeking more diverse environments. This means more multifamily development, more mixed use development, and even the inclusion of accessory units on single family home lots.
  • Make walkability a priority. As residents of a community age, the ability to access places via the automobile may decrease. However, they deserve a chance to remain mobile. Communities can aid this by adding the sidewalks, crosswalks, trails, streetscapes, signage and other features that can connect people to places. An added side benefit is that these changes can make your community more attractive to new residents as well.
  • Coordinate social services. It's likely that changing suburban demographics means changing demands from residents, and inner ring suburbs must prepare for the change. This could mean greater reliance on assistance programs that aid low-income residents, as well as programs to physically and socially engage senior residents.

For a very long time, we've been saying that New Albany's inner ring neighborhoods cannot be allowed to become the next "doughnut holes" in the urban fabric, and that in many ways, policies useful for downtown also are viable for the inner ring.

Walkability is a fine example of this, as anyone living on or near Slate Run Road will tell you.

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