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You should read Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. You very cogently touched on a lot of the social issues that arise out of traditional suburban development. For me this book was like a religious experience, putting words and names to things I have long felt but never described.
Literally this. It was all farm fields back then, and Southdale was a new concept, an indoor shopping mall, the first in the nation. The idea is that they would draw people from the "cities" (minneapolis and st. paul proper) out to the new shopping center. To get there, they drove. Easy parking was achived with massive parking lots surrounding the mall. Heck, there was even a Red Owl Grocery store in the mall when it first opened. To the south was nothing but more farmland. Then they built the Metropolitan Stadium around the same time, have a look at photos of it when it was built, again, a stadium surrounded by farm fields. Today it's the Mall Of America. This all happened in the boom years right after WWII when the GI Bill paid for education and home loans, so it was a building bonanza. Most families could afford a car, so driving was fun and a new experience for many families. That's why you would build a huge mall with parking all around it.
If you are interested in urban planning and how it all went wrong in the 60's, and we are now trying to get back to what it was before then, I'd reccomend a book called "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream" by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, & Jeff Speck. It discusses many of these design "flaws" and how we keep repeating them. One of the worst among the flaws, cul-de-sacs! How I hate them!
I’d really recommend the book Suburban Nation. It’s about 20 years old but more relevant than ever.
It’s a subtle online as a pirated ebook but I can’t find the link so here’s the Amazon link
There are two broad categories of the type of development you describe. Both are common throughout the country, although more in some areas than others:
Streetcar suburbs. These are suburbs built roughly in the first half of the 20th Century, and usually have detached houses in a grid of streets, with a traditionally walkable main street at the center.
New Urbanism. These are suburbs built roughly since 1990 that attempt to rearrange the components of suburbia into a more walkable form. The book Suburban Nation describes how this is done, and a simple google search for "new urbanism" will show you several results. .
Considering how big an investment you're contemplating, the 3 hours or so it would take to read this book would be extremely well spent.
SS: From the introduction:
> How do we solve the problem of the suburbs? Urbanist Jeff Speck shows how we can free ourselves from dependence on the car -- which he calls "a gas-belching, time-wasting, life-threatening prosthetic device" -- by making our cities more walkable and more pleasant for more people.
Jeff Speck is an urban planner who "advocates internationally for walkable cities." He is the co-author of <em>Suburban Nation</em> (2000), <em>Walkable City</em> (2012), and its sequel, <em>Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places</em> (2018) which takes Walkable City from ideas to action.
Thx u/ayerk131 for bringing Speck's work to my attention.
Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream is worth a read.
Suburban Nation https://www.amazon.com/Suburban-Nation-Sprawl-Decline-American/dp/0865477507/ref=sr_1_1?crid=32DS904R8V9O7&keywords=suburban+nation&qid=1657830232&s=books&sprefix=suburban+nation%2Cstripbooks%2C80&sr=1-1
has a section on the failure of pedestrian only streets.
I really think everyone should pick up this book
or ya know get the free ebook from your library or something. it's a great read
A Pattern Language
Dan Hill’s Medium
But on a more serious note you are correct that urban design has a big impact on people's health. Books like Suburban Nation and Walkable Cities give pretty convincing evidence of how denser cities make it easier to commute and travel by non-automobile, more physically intensive (but still enjoyable and convenient) modes of transportation, and how this has a big health improvement.
I definitely see this process even within Metropolitan areas. My dad lives in Venice, a city with a walk score of 83. It's way more convenient to walk and get exercise in that city versus ones in the Inland Empire like Rancho Cucamonga (walk score 40) . The latter is a lot more obese and unhealthy (but is also a lot more low income, which does not help)
Other reading on this phenomenon can be found at Strong Towns and in the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream .
> “We need to acknowledge the tension here: that “protecting” or “promoting” property values is the same thing as “making housing more expensive.””
I second Jane Jacobs!
You're probably thinking of Suburban Nation. I have both books.
I hope you're not seriously wanting the suburbs to grow more. Suburban development is the most ecologically and fiscally unsustainable invention in human history, except maybe capitalism.
For $17 you can learn enough to do a pretty good job of identifying these neighborhoods in your area.