the TAO of CHANGE

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Posts Tagged ‘inner-suburbs’

First Suburbs Come First

Friday, February 5th, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

I love my neighborhood – it is quiet, but close to the action and amenities of town. I grew up this way, and I’ve continued to be drawn to these familiar, convenient and vibrant areas. I live in an “inner-ring” suburb, also referred to as “first” suburbs, or “early” suburbs.

These are the first areas developed at the fringes of inner cities several decades ago. The inner suburbs were the quieter but connected neighborhoods of the working class – the places our newly wed parents and grandparents went to raise their children. These areas provided escape from the grime of the city, but proximity to jobs, schools, stores, entertainment, and, each other.

The evolution of these areas made a lot of sense – allowing public transportation to flourish, more parks and recreation, as well as a convenient pedestrian lifestyle – where more people were more fit (really – look at the old black ‘n whites in your grandmother’s attic).

But we somehow lost some of that common sense when we began to focus our time, energy, money and attention on these lavish developments in the outer suburbs fueled by economic interest of developers, highway builders, oil companies and the auto industry who all, of course, feed on a more car-dependent lifestyle. Unfortunately, despite what we’ve learned – or relearned – about the benefits of urban life, sprawl continues at an alarming rate.

As a result, the inner-suburbs are deteriorating both by age and neglect with outmoded housing and commercial buildings. As neighborhoods decay, pockets of poverty soon follow, marring the image and desirability of once thriving communities.

Some areas manage to adopt a “cool” factor, attracting a hip crowd of well-to-dos, but also bringing a gentrification which quickly eliminates both diversity and affordability. Many other inner-surburban areas suffer from lack of political support, considered to be in a policy blind spot as local governments compete for the spotlight.

Alex Steffen, futurist, founder and editor of worldchanging.org, (interviewed by Johnathan Hiskes on Grist.org) says that this political conflict will define the next decade, becoming a critical factor in the future of urban life. He also regrets being at war with the ‘burbs: “But there are so many more winners than losers in this fight that it’s a smart fight to take on…When you add together cities and inner-ring suburbs and allied small towns, it’s a solid majority of Americans.”



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