Gas prices drive push to reinvent America’s suburbs

Donna Nance of Maricopa works in Phoenix and takes a commuter bus that's part of the suburb's transit program. Photo: Rob Schumacher, USA Today

[Source: Haya El Nasser, USA Today] — Maricopa Mayor Tony Smith proudly waves a thank-you letter from a major builder telling him that no city has ever reached out to him in his 30-year career the way Maricopa did.  What Maricopa has been doing is unusual, especially for a distant suburb.  This city about 35 miles south of Phoenix is asking builders not to develop just isolated subdivisions behind walls, but whole communities that encourage walking by including stores, schools, and services nearby.  “The people of Maricopa don’t want to be a bedroom community, a city of rooftops,” Smith says.  “They want a self-sustained community.”

Especially today.  As gas prices hover around $4 a gallon, the nation’s far-flung suburbs — which have boomed because they could provide larger homes at cheaper prices to those willing to drive farther — are losing their appeal.  Soaring energy costs and the foreclosure epidemic have jolted many Americans into realizing that their lifestyles are at risk.  For many, ever-lengthening commutes in the search for affordable homes no longer make financial sense.  In Maricopa and elsewhere, a movement is underway to transform suburbs from bedroom communities that sprang up during an era of cheap gasoline to lively, more cosmopolitan places that mix houses with jobs, shops, restaurants, colleges and entertainment.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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