From Built Environment and Public Health: A Definition of Converntional Development

Just in case you needed one.

As noted in Chapter 2, architects, theorists and others including Clarence Perry, Raymond Unwin, Frank Lloyd Wright, and others proposed suburban development forms intended, in part, to promote health.  These ideas had been influenced by the urban problems of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along with increasing affluence, new technologies, and a number of other factors, these new suburban ideas helped produce a form of the built environment that dominated most of the United States during the second half of the 20th century.  For the purposes of this book, we will call it “conventional development” and though there were variations in this form, mostly the result of the legacy of development that predated the triumph of this development pattern or changes in suburbanization that occurred as it progressed through a variety of development waves, it characterizes most of the development in rural, suburban, urban areas in these decades.  In general, conventional development consists of single family homes on lots of at least 6,000 square feet, but often on lots of a quarter acre or larger.  These houses are set back from the street with a substantial landscaped front yard and a driveway leading to a garage that can accommodate two or more vehicles. Views of the street from most of the house are not possible. Many residential streets are cul-de-sacs or semi closed off so that through traffic is discouraged.  These streets open on to collector streets which feed into arterials and then highways.  Most housing is distant from any commercial, industrial, or other non-residential uses, though there may be a park or recreational space in the neighborhood.  Schools may or may not be present and similarly, sidewalks and other pedestrian amenities are optional.

Commercial uses tend to be either in strip developments or in malls, but in both cases, stores are separated from streets by large areas of parking.  These commercial areas sometimes have sidewalks, but these are far from building entries and often along arterials built to promote the travel of high volumes of traffic at high speeds.  Walking to or between commercial developments is difficult and rare. Making them even less pedestrian friendly, an important percentage of commercial development is oriented towards highway off ramps rather than residential development.  Offices are often in large suburban developments that include a number of discreet buildings, each surrounded by substantial parking lots.  These office parks are not accessible by walking or bicycling, either. In center cities, many office and commercial developments are designed on the assumption that suburban users and visitors fear inner city crime and will only visit and use downtown buildings if they are heavily separated from surrounding neighborhoods.  Many mid 20th century urban office buildings favor blank facades at street level, entries are tightly monitored, and surface and structured parking are subsidized to make driving easier.

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