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What could live smaller, work closer trend mean for sprawl region?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/20/12 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

Consider this: How will American cities and suburbs ride out the recession and come out stronger? The Urban Land Institute suggests in the report, "What's Next: Real Estate in the New Economy" a development trend that could have tremendous implications for Northeast Ohio-if civic leaders, developers and the region's large employers choose to listen.

The ULI report concludes that, "intensifying demand for live-work environments which involve less car dependency and feature walkable neighborhoods are very attractive to the increasing share of single-person households who make 'living solo' a way of life." And that, "bright-light urban environments attract the exploding number of career-building, Boomer offspring known as Generation Y."

Retiring Baby Boomers and their Gen Y offspring want to live where they can access vibrant 'urban' amenities-even in suburbs. Trends point to more of what the city of Shaker Heights is doing with its Complete Street makeover of Warrensville and Van Aken-retrofit malls and single-use strip centers into mixed-use, walkable town centers. The demand is there; not everyone will be able to afford to live in hot city center neighborhoods like downtown Cleveland. But, they still want an authentic urban experience-and affordability and connectedness to city jobs with great bikeways and on public transit.

Suburban leaders, developers and the business community would do well to recognize the macro trend. Stimulate some brain gain within new town centers, around existing transit-and move away from 'fortress' big box centers.

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