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John Petro

Suburbs of the Future Will Look Like Cities of the Past

Over at New Geography, Aaron Renn argues for the "10% solution," in which cities set the goal of capturing ten percent of a metropolitan region's population growth.

Beginning with the Census Bureau's estimate that the U.S. will gain 100 million peole by 2050, Renn writes that it would be physically impossible to direct a large percentage of that growth into our city cores.

Even if all the old housing [in central cities] was rebuilt, declines in household sizes, particularly in urban areas, has reduced the effective carrying capacity of the old urban fabric even at historic densities... Most of the existing highly urbanized cities are already largely full of buildings. Even where land is available, zoning restricts what can be built there, and increasing densities is politically difficult.

So, because capturing a greater percentage of a region's population growth would be difficult, cities should set the modest goal of attracting ten percent of growth.

But when considering where the country's next 100 million people will live, we need to look more closely at the suburbs that ring our urban cores. We need to ensure that instead of metropolitan regions continuing to grow outwards, that we begin to develop our suburbs so that they may absorb population growth in a more sustainable manner. This means that many inner-ring suburbs will begin to look a lot more urban.

Cities and metropolitan regions across the country are already beginning to undergo these types of transformations. Cities like Charlotte, North Carolina have built rapid transit lines and are developing moderate-density apartment buildings along these rail corridors. The same thing is happening in San Diego, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Houston.

The country's suburbs will continue to absorb the majority of the country's growth. The only difference is that those suburbs will begin to grow along rail lines rather than cul-de-sacs.

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Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 04, 2010 in Urban Affairs
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