Friday, December 26, 2008

Rebuilding the Suburbs

Earlier this month I wrote about suburbs turning into tomorrows slums as the number of foreclosures increase, higher gas prices, and more demand for walkable neighborhoods.

Mesa, Arizona is doing something about this and wants to rebuild their image from a suburb known for sprawl into a livable community.

How do you remake a city of sprawl. That’s exactly what the city of Mesa, Arizona is trying to do, according to The Economist. Mesa has experienced tremendous growth in the past several decades, surging from 7,000 in 1940) to roughly 450,000 today. While many people still haven’t heard of it, Mesa numbers among the nation’s 50 largest cities, bigger than Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, or Miami. It’s a classic “edge city” which, as The Economist writes, consists of: “Mile after mile of strip malls and tract houses, whose evocative names and fanciful architecture cannot disguise the fact that they are large, stucco-covered boxes, dominate the landscape.”

Now Mesa is working hard to turn itself into a more liveable city. To bolster its economy, it’s constructing a new airport downtown (to better connect itself to the world - recall the Phoenix-Tuscon area is one of the world ’s 40 biggest mega-regions) in an effort to remake itself as what University of North Carolina’s John Kasarda calls an “aerotropolis” – the thinking being that air transport today is analogous to what canals, railroads, and cars were to past urban systems. Even more interesting is the city is investing heavily in improving its quality of place - urban design, mixed use development, strict building heights, increased density, warehouse conversions, and an extensive network of urban neighborhood parks in an effort to improve its ability to lure talent and jobs.

Read more here.

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