google image via New York Times
Allison Arieff asks the question in the New York Times, and reminds us that we should no longer be worrying about how we are going to design communities in the future; Right now we have to worry about what we are going to do with the communities we are left with.
Arieff notes that
In urban areas, there’s rich precedent for the transformation or reuse of abandoned lots or buildings. Vacant lots have been converted into pocket parks, community gardens and pop-up stores (or they remain vacant, anxiously awaiting recovery and subsequent conversion into high-end office space condos). Old homes get divided into apartments, old factories into lofts, old warehouses into retail.
But in the 'burbs, it is not so simple; the road pattern is not as flexible as the urban grid, and the build quality of the houses (not to mention the plans) do not lend themselves to easy conversions. Allison fantasizes:
I still dream that some major overhaul can occur: that a self-sufficient mixed-use neighborhood can emerge. That three-car-garaged McMansions can be subdivided into rental units with streetfront cafés, shops and other local businesses.
Not likely, but there are other options. When ever I visit my mother-in-law's house in an inner suburb of Toronto, (shown above in the google shot) I am amazed at the amount of land in the rear yards. If those fences came down you could grow enough food there to feed the neighbourhood and more. They are trying it in Philadelphia and Detroit; why not fill those empty houses with homesteaders and get them farming.
What Will Save the Suburbs? in the New York Times
Urban (and suburban) farming in TreeHugger:
Urban Renewal, the Philly Orchard Project Way
Detroit Charity Turns Wasteland into Farms
Book Review - Food Not Lawns
Transition City Bristol to Plant a Virtual Orchard