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Paradigm Shift- From Urban to Suburban to New-Urban

Paradigm Shift- From Urban to Suburban to New-Urban

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Published by AlannaKaiser
This paper outlines the paradigm shift that community planning and development has undergone in the United States since the 1950's.
This paper outlines the paradigm shift that community planning and development has undergone in the United States since the 1950's.

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Published by: AlannaKaiser on Apr 29, 2014
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Alanna Kaiser ENGL 137H Prof. Babcock October 31, 2013 Urban to Suburban to New Urbanism: A Double-Shift in American Community Development Picture a happy family donning a white picket fence, two-car garage, and 2.3 children. For a long time, this iconic image has been the ultimate picture of success. It is
a snapshot that can be taken in any one of America’s seemingly infinite number of
suburbs. For many, living in a suburb is the culmination of the American Dream. These communities are known to be safe, quiet, and indicative of a high standard of living, especially in comparison to the loud, dirty, poverty stricken cities that they border. Suburbs are, however, a dying type of development. The negative effects that suburban sprawl is having on both the environment and sense of community across America are  becoming quite obvious to homebuyers and community planners alike. In light of this, efforts are being made to return to traditional neighborhood planning, reducing the negative impact that modern development has on many facets of American life. Suburban development became the norm in America after World War II. Prior to the war, cities were where the majority of the American population lived. After the war, however, programs like the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration lowered mortgage costs for military families, and promoted habitation of single-family suburban homes, triggering the demand for suburbs to skyrocket. (Duany, Andrés, and Plater-Zyberk 7-10). These incentives, combined with the major economic
 
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 boom of the time period, caused young men returning from war to flock to the affordable houses to begin raising their families. In order to make this housing affordable, yet still fill the demand of the returning military men, houses were mass-produced using the assembly line business model invented by Henry Ford. William Levitt is largely credited with the development of these cookie cutter neighborhoods, affectionatly dubbed
“Levittowns” by the masses. Between
1950 and 1960, 20 million people migrated out of cities and into these mass housing
developments. (“Building”).
Since then, America has only become increasingly more suburbanized. A close demographic analysis of urban and suburban population distributions noted that 40 years ago, 34 million Americans lived in suburban areas and 49 million inhabited urban areas out of the total 149 million people that made up the
country’s population. In 1990, on the other hand, “
192 million of America's 248 million  people resided in metropolitan areas. Of these, only 78 million lived in the central cities. The remaining 114 million lived in the unincorporated areas and more than 6,700 incorporated urban places surrounding the central cities
 
(“Suburbanization”).
Since the early 1990s, however, there has been a gradual decline in the popularity of these sprawling developments. Many urban planning specialists argue that this can be attributed to the fact that suburbs were doomed from the beginning as they are unsustainable and self-destructive,
often described as “idealized” and “artificial.”
 Others  point out that the negative effects of urban sprawl are just recently exhibiting themselves on a grand scale, and in light of them, alternative development solutions must be implemented (Duany et al. 4).
 
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The undesirable consequences stemming from suburbia come about as a direct result of its physical makeup. There are five components to sprawl, which when combined are the root of all problems associated with suburbs. The first component of suburban sprawl is the housing subdivision, consisting of only residences. These housing clusters are often advertised as neighborhoods, but typically lack sidewalks and front  porches that are necessary for friendly neighbor-to-neighbor interaction to occur. The second and third components of sprawl are shopping centers and office parks. Both of these places are strictly single-use, only playing a role in the functional niche which each of their names suggest. The fourth component, civic institutions, includes schools, churches, town halls, and other large meeting places. The fifth component is perhaps the most important: roadways. Because the first four components of sprawl are isolated to their own geographic locations, large roadways are needed to connect community
members’ places of home, work, shopping, and civic engagement
. These roads are typically not pedestrian friendly, as they attempt to accommodate for the massive amounts of traffic traveling between components (Duany et al. 5-7). When combined with each other and the requisite low-density population of suburban development, these factors produce an environment that is detrimental to both the natural world and the community that resides within its ambiguous borders. Environmentally speaking, suburbs do not use natural resources efficiently. The large roadways that are essential for linking components within sprawl consume excessive amounts of land and often fragment habitats and entire ecosystems. Since these communities are so spread out, the people that live in them are essentially automobile dependent (Duany et al. 13). This not only creates inconvenient traffic situations, which

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