Suburban Blight

The Changing Landscape of Where We Live.

With the global population bearing down on cities and the retail landscape being reshaped as big box retailers disappear, the sprawl of the suburbs is becoming the new dust bowl. Suburbs are declining, while cities rise. To reverse the downward trend, the idea of “revival” will need to be considered for these suburban areas, just as has been done for city downtowns in the past.

  • California’s Central Valley suburbs once were areas of hope, but jobs did not materialize or went away with the contraction of the economy. According to a Brookings Institution book by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, today in the U.S. poverty is growing faster in suburbs than in cities or rural areas.
  • And with big box stores closing across the country (e.g., Sears, Barnes & Noble, Staples) and retail under siege by Amazon and other retail start-up models, what will happen to all the traditional malls and strip malls that dot the suburban landscape? It will take inventive city planning and redevelopment to rejuvenate these sprawled areas. Consider Bikini Berlin in Germany, a new “concept mall” that opened to great fanfare in April. The property developer, Bayerischen Hausbau, is responsible for creating an art-inspired mixed-use space that includes pop-up shops, flexible retail space, a terrace for community gathering, and a hotel. These large suburban spaces will need to be reinvented to create renewed vibrancy.
  • The younger demographic are choosing cities over suburban areas outside many metropolitan areas such as New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Suburban populations now skew towards older ages. Why? Because young people find cities more diverse, attractive, and not as unaffordable in comparison to suburbs as in times past. Some suburbs are trying to reverse this trend through new city planning initiatives intended to create some of the goodness of cities, such as density and convenient transportation.

Consumer Forecast: Help create a thriving community.



Berger, Joseph. “Suburbs Try to Prevent an Exodus as Young Adults Move to Cities and Stay,” The New York Times, April 16, 2014.

Berube, Alan; Kneebone, Elizabeth; and Williams, Jane. “Suburban Poverty Traverses the Red/Blue Divide,” The Brookings Institute, August 6, 2013.

Bradley, Kimberly. “Bare Essentials,” Monocle, June 2014.

Medinamay, Jennifer. “Hardship Makes a New Home in the Suburbs,” The New York Times, May 9, 2014.

Categories: Culture, Economy

Tagged as:

3 replies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.