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Sprawl retrofitting reimagines auto-centric cities

Are American strip malls ready for an urban makeover? (Chika Watanabe/flickr/cc)

Cities with endless stretches of chain restaurants, shopping plazas, congested thoroughfares and unwalkable streets, take note. “Sprawl retrofitting” is here to help.

Arizona State University is on the vanguard of an emerging field of urban planning that seeks to inject human-scale design into auto-centric development, according to ASU News.

There are two main strategies to combat sprawl, the university says. “Reinhabitation” repurposes existing structures — such as derelict shopping malls — into community centers, artist studios, classrooms, libraries or other civic spaces. A more expensive alternative is redevelopment — the complete transformation of a neighborhood into a compact, walkable, transit-oriented environment.

ASU researchers hope to retrofit much of Phoenix, a city synonymous with sprawl. To promote diversity and encourage social inclusion, they reimagined its ubiquitous clusters of single-family homes as multi-family dwellings for singles, families with children and seniors. So far, the idea remains on the drawing boards, though other urban makeovers are slowly being introduced throughout Arizona.

“What’s actually been happening, in terms of sprawl retrofit, is very minimal, and at the very beginning stages,” Emily Talen, an ASU urban planning professor, tells the publication.

ASU News

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