Reston Spring

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Death of the Fringe Suburb, OpEd, New York Times, November 25, 2011

This NY Times OpEd by Christopher Leinberger, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of practice in urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan, puts a perspective on the recent GMU Center for Regional Analysis (CRA) study, "Housing the Region's Workforce: Policy Challenges for Local Jurisdictions."  That study argues that the Washington region will suffer significant economic losses if its local governments do not change their housing policies to allow more high-density, affordable housing and better public transportation.   Here is how the OpEd begins:

DRIVE through any number of outer-ring suburbs in America, and you’ll see boarded-up and vacant strip malls, surrounded by vast seas of empty parking spaces. These forlorn monuments to the real estate crash are not going to come back to life, even when the economy recovers. And that’s because the demand for the housing that once supported commercial activity in many exurbs isn’t coming back, either. . .
. . . Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.
The shift is durable and lasting because of a major demographic event: the convergence of the two largest generations in American history, the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the millennials (born between 1979 and 1996), which today represent half of the total population. . .
 . . .The good news is that there is great pent-up demand for walkable, centrally located neighborhoods in cities like Portland, Denver, Philadelphia and Chattanooga, Tenn. The transformation of suburbia can be seen in places like Arlington County, Va., Bellevue, Wash., and Pasadena, Calif., where strip malls have been bulldozed and replaced by higher-density mixed-use developments with good transit connections.

Reston needs to take advantage of this opportunity and, like the forward thinking planned community it has been, build its 21st century TOD areas in a way that offers a rich mix of housing and commercial opportunities rather than more 20th century auto-dependent office parks .  This will not only better meet future housing demand, but will also better serve our environment and the principle of housing diversity in Reston. 

For the rest of the OpEd, click here


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