Seaside Florida: http://www.seasidefl.com/ - have you ever heard of this place? It is so interesting how this suburban sized community that prescribed to the concept of "New Urbanism" is thriving as both a place to live and as a tourist destination. What fascinates me is that even though the size is relatively small (approx 11,500), it has become a successful and sustainable urban center in its own right.
From what I gather, people gravitate to this community because of the beautiful natural setting as well as its walkability, commercial retail and public spaces.
Locally, could we replicate the walkable community in our suburbs, some that have very steep terrain? I have to say, I love the idea of what they have done in Medellin, Columbia. Escalators with landing areas surrounded by local shops: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/14/travel/colombia-medellin-neighborhood/
In Seaside, investors have benefited substantially as the housing prices have skyrocketed due to desirability. The downside of this demand, of course, is that the community presumably lacks diversity due to affordability issues.
In Medellin, the streets have become safer and the community more connected. The relatively inexpensive transportation system has also allowed the local businesses to thrive. Suburban retail centers need unique features in order to keep people in, and draw people to, the community to sustain the businesses. Businesses in the suburb of Kettle Valley have struggled in spite of the importance of these little retail spots in maintaining a healthy happy development and decreasing environmental impact (i.e. not having to drive to town to get milk).
How will technology impact our ability to live in the suburbs with less of an environmental impact? The following article speculates about the future of virtual shopping: : http://www.diamandis.com/blog/no-more-malls-5-disruptive-techs-transforming-retail - I have to admit that the idea of having multiple virtual "Taras" walking around with different outfits assisting me in me clothing choices appeals to me. Virtual stores would decrease our need to drive to the mall therefore benefiting our environment. That being said, I worry about a world of disconnected, lonely and unhealthy individuals if this type of reality prevails. Perhaps there is a way to move forward with this type of technology in a more connected way? Small, suburban boutiques where you go to share with others this type of virtual technology?
It is encouraging to know that there are suburban developments and technological concepts from which we can lean and enhance innovative new ways of living in our built environment. Restructuring our suburbs to be happier, healthier places by infusing technology and design elements that can mitigate the effect of urban sprawl is exciting! After all, true live, work, play environments that balance private and public space conjure images of the most desirable communities in the wold.
Are you, like me, interested in being a part of the conversation in Kelowna about our future city? If so, check out the series of "Upside Down Town Halls" that are being presented by Urban Systems. Join me Oct 3 for the discussion on housing affordability. Have your say and learn what leaders in our community are imagining. http://www.urbansystems.ca/finding-our-yimby-reflections-on-affordability-housing-and-the-way-forward-october-3/ - I hope to see you there!