Americans are voting with their feet to abandon strip malls and suburban sprawl, embracing instead a new type of community where they can live, work, shop, and play within easy walking distance. In The Option of Urbanism visionary developer and strategist Christopher B. Leinberger explains why government policies have tilted the playing field toward one form of development over the last sixty years: the drivable suburb. Rooted in the driving forces of the economy—car manufacturing and the oil industry—this type of growth has fostered the decline of community, contributed to urban decay, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and contributed to the rise in obesity and asthma.
Highlighting both the challenges and the opportunities for this type of development, The Option of Urbanism shows how the American Dream is shifting to include cities as well as suburbs and how the financial and real estate communities need to respond to build communities that are more environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable.
Christopher B. Leinberger
Brand: Island Press
Used Book in Good Condition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
People outside the planning profession would find this book helpful in understanding new directions that are possible. Developers who are looking for a competitive advantage tool would do well to avail themselves to Leinberger's perspective on urbanism. It is an easy read, not technical, requires no specific background other than a healthy curiosity and drive to do better. City commissioners would also benefit from purusing these pages.
The author is a major mover and shaker in Albuquerque and a key proponent of their downtown revival. Leinberger writes from first-hand experience. I recommend reading books like this because it is a chance to get inside the head of a visionary. A person could easily read one book like this each week; how else could you immerse yourself in 52 change agents per year?? When a consultant of Leinberger's stature shares 5 hours of his insights for less than $20 it is a pretty good value.
Written from a perspective that most urban critiques fail to provide, this book grounds the reader in the real estate, demographic and policy realities that have shaped the American built environment into what we see today. Leinberger knows this stuff cold, both as a developer and through his more recent positions in Brookings and academia. He writes in an approachable style and provides the most thorough discussion to date of the entrenched system of subsidies and practices fueling types of residential and commercial construction that is increasingly at odds with the "true" market. Late in the book, I think he makes a rare--but very appropriate--connection between the implication of the continuation of these policies and our future energy needs. For those of us who like a good, constructive reality check now and again in the midst of all the usual suburban finger-wagging, it's a must-read book this year.
I've drank the urbanist Kool-Aid, for sure. However, I was very pleased that this book presents both sides of the argument between walkable urbanism and driveable suburbanism. The author, who is a real estate developer and expert, goes through the benefits and drawbacks of each with some fairness, though he seems to prefer the urbanism argument.
I particularly liked his framing of the situation in terms of demographics, social policy, and long term effects, and how he posits that perhaps we've gone too far down the suburban path and need to swing back toward walkable urbanism. His arguments describe how Wall Street, large developers, and government policy lead us toward suburban development, and why urban areas are so expensive (longer term building timelines, more expensive land, and most of all, lack of supply.)
I highly recommend this for anyone unfamiliar with walkable urbanism, or who might be interested in why our built environment is the way it is. It's a...
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