Thursday, February 7, 2013

Urban Living and The Second Suburban Sprawl

A large percentage of new housing units constructed as part of downtown revitalization cater to a two specific groups of people: older "empty nesters" who live alone and do not want to drive, and young professionals, who are often single and want to be near active and "trendy" neighborhoods. A common element in both these groups is that they do not have children, and thus neighborhoods designed to attract them do not cater to the needs of children by providing amenities such as schools, libraries, and playgrounds.  

Because of this, it is likely that many young professionals will move out of cities and back to suburbs should they decide to start families. This will cause yet another round of suburban sprawl and possibly a second wave of urban decay.

In order to lessen the effects of this or prevent it altogether, urban space must be designed and purposed in a way that is inclusive to the needs of current and future residents of all age groups. In some cases, this will result in tradeoffs where a city has to decide whether to allocate resources to schools and public or affordable housing or amenities designed to attract younger residents and tourists to cities.

Despite these tradeoffs, an inclusive built environment has the potential to draw a previously unconsidered demographic to cities, families that live in the suburbs simply because these are the only areas that currently cater to their needs. Making cities attractive for these groups will not only work to reduce suburban sprawl but will also extend the economic and social benefits of urban life to as many people as possible.

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