According to the book “Suburban Remix” North America is in the midst of a next generation of urban places within the suburbs. The book surveyed planning, urban design and real estate developers and urban policy professionals to illustrate how suburbia can leverage the growing demand for urban living with renewed appeal as walkable places to live, work, play, and invest.

The successful sub-urbanization design should have a common DNA of process, policies, and placemaking principles. It typically starts with a civic leadership—a local official, advocate, or organization that steps forward and makes the case for change. The community’s transformative planning process should be built around inclusive engagement that embodies a strong local support for density and urban models. All market-driven, these initiatives also rely on innovative public/private partnerships to fund an “urban” infrastructure of streets, parks, and structured parking.

The Battery at Suntrust Park  in Smyrna, Georgia by HGOR. Photo by Ralph Daniel Photography.

The Battery at Suntrust Park in Smyrna, Georgia by HGOR. Photo by Ralph Daniel Photography.

The sub-urbanization process should embody shared placemaking principles that focus on scale and walkability—distinguished by lively sidewalks and animated by a wide variety of shops, food, entertainment, and other amenities that invite meandering. The transformative planning process should connect to their communities in multiple ways: by bike, on foot, by bus (and sometimes transit), and by car. They should feature a multilayered public realm and include a “town green” and other civic spaces that invite their increasingly diverse populations to come together. They offer a plethora of choices for living, working, shopping, and playing, geared to increasingly diverse lifestyles. These communities should embody an authentic form of expression of the living cultures and the history, climate, and ecology that distinguish their communities and make it unique experience.

The Yards at the Assembly  in Doraville, Georgia by HGOR.

The Yards at the Assembly in Doraville, Georgia by HGOR.

Suburbs are in transition. They must plan for a different future and rethink their attitudes toward several key issues: including density, design, and diversity. Qualities that began reviving cities 20 years ago—walkable density, placemaking that builds a sense of community, a mix of uses geared to a diverse population—are bringing new life to North America’s suburbs. As we enter an urban era, I expect it to be as much about suburbs as it is about cities. In the end, the most successful suburbs are those that are remembering to strengthen their downtowns, protect established neighborhoods, revitalize their commercial corridors, preserve and connect green space, and cooperate with their municipal neighbors.

My goal as an urban planner and designer is to help clients plan the holistic process of developing places of lasting value that are centered on people. I challenge clients to think beyond the familiar toward the unlimited possibilities that are shaped by a broad range of urban planning philosophy that include methods and approaches focused on human-scale, feel, and form– typically in suburban communities that endeavor to become more walkable.

Authored by Lauren Standish, Principal at HGOR

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