Like suburbs, large cities (like Phoenix) are rethinking growth patterns

[Source: Haya El Nasser, USA Today] — Outlying suburbs aren’t the only places rethinking growth and development patterns amid mushrooming costs of gasoline and other energy sources.  Building on a movement in the 1990s that invigorated many downtowns, urban centers and adjoining communities are forging ahead with redevelopment projects to attract residents.  Two examples from metropolitan Phoenix:

Phoenix native Michael Hallmark, architect of the Staples Center arena in Los Angeles, Safeco Field in Seattle, and other large venues, was part of an ambitious effort to bring sports and entertainment back to downtown Phoenix.  He’s helping plan the city’s Jackson Street Entertainment District, which will make a neighborhood denser.  He is narrowing streets and bringing in entertainment spots, stores, restaurants and condos.  The district will tie in to Phoenix’s new light-rail system, Arizona State University’s downtown campus, and the convention center.  It follows “green” standards by developing under-utilized land, maximizing shade, and reducing water runoff.  “We could build another Phoenix inside the one we already have, double the population of the city, and…still have a population density that is less than it was in 1950,” Hallmark says.

DMB Associates, a Scottsdale, AZ-based real estate company that tries to preserve the history and character of the land it develops, is taking on a big project in Mesa, a close-in suburb of Phoenix.  General Motors sold its 3,200-acre vehicle testing grounds to DMB in 2006, the last significant piece of privately owned land in the southeast part of the Phoenix Valley.  The site is near a small airport and another Arizona State University campus.  The plan: to build a city center, combining residences, offices, entertainment centers, and retail.  Drew Brown, CEO of DMB, says that using urban land in a more environmentally sound way is winning widespread support.  Between high gas prices, states adopting tough greenhouse gas limits and a proposed tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, “there may be enough moving parts finally,” he says.

DMB’s strategies are predicated on gas prices never coming down.  The company passed up sites farther from Phoenix because gas costs would wipe out the benefits.  “The development patterns you have in the Valley for 50 years had all been premised on cheap mobility,” Brown says.  “Yeah, we’re at a tipping point … starting to see the ramifications of bedroom communities on the way to nowhere.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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