An Alternative to Sprawl

By Mark T. Mitchell for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

According to an article in The New York Times, many Americans are tiring of the lifestyle associated with sprawl and, finally, developers are responding. The age of the McMansion may be waning. Young people, especially, seem to be looking for a new version of the American Dream.

Increasingly, many of those looking for places to live found that the market had nothing for them. Houses were too big, too isolated, too generic, too hard to maintain. Or they were designed for the quintessential nuclear family that exists more in our cultural imagination than in reality. Few homes offered options for aging in place, for returning college kids or elderly parents, or even decent home office space. Would-be residents lamented the lack of amenities like a café or a playground within walking distance in master-planned communities of 5,000, 10,000 or even 40,000 homes (!), an absence often explained away with “a community of this size couldn’t support it.” For years, I heard from builders and developers who said they knew there was a market for smaller, more sustainable properties — they just couldn’t get such projects to pencil out.

But with the economic down turn, more traditional neighborhoods are once again under construction. It will be interesting to see how this trend shapes up in the next few years. Surely energy prices will play a significant role. But equally important will be the opportunity for serious consideration of different possibilities. Real alternatives make it easier for individuals to choose intelligently, for they can see the differences in concrete examples. If this author is correct, traditional neighborhoods just might be the American Dream of the future.

h/t Rick Avramenko

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