Originally published by Susan Bady, Senior Editor, Design in the January 2010 issue of Professional Builder magazine.

What will residential communities look like 10, 15, and 20 years from now?  Land-planning experts critique current approaches to neighborhood design and provide a glimpse of the future.

There’s little doubt that the suburban tract-house pattern of development of the 1950s is no longer viable in America. Land and gasoline aren’t the cheap commodities they once were. Consumers don’t want to spend hours commuting to and from work, and when they’re at home, they’d rather not drive 20 minutes to the gym or the nearest supermarket. With gasoline expected to climb back up to $4 or more per gallon, transportation and energy costs are going to significantly impact where people want to live. Yet, outdated approaches to residential development persist. Blame it on the economy, the regulatory climate or a lack of creativity, but something’s got to give.

HomeTown Sketch PlanWe asked five leading authorities in the architecture, land planning and urban planning fields what they thought was good and bad about community design today, how it can be improved and what we can expect to see in the future.

The Experts: David Clinger and Kristy Riveland, David A. Clinger & Associates, Golden, Colo.

Nationally known land planner David Clinger believes that once the economy and the housing market recover, the suburban housing model that has dominated America for the last 40 years will disappear. In its place there will be smaller, mixed-use neighborhoods with higher densities and a diversity of housing types (such as Hometown, above). Compact single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, rental housing, home-based businesses and neighborhood centers will reduce development costs while encouraging walking, biking and community-based recreation.

Clinger says the shift from the exurbs to urban infi ll sites actually started after the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. But he expects this movement to shift into high gear as home buyers re-evaluate their priorities. “Transit-oriented developments will increase in value and popularity as well as mixed-use, walkable communities that have less emphasis on an auto-dependent lifestyle,” he says.

Parkways with trees, detached sidewalks and a variety of housing types will create a lower-density look and feel while yielding an average density of 9 to 11 dwelling units per acre. “These ‘villages’ maximize privacy between units, provide private courtyard spaces and reduce stormwater runoff,” Clinger says. “They’re all about sustainability.” Such communities provide pedestrian access to neighborhood shops as well as affordable, low-maintenance homes, condos and apartments.

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