Investing in Place: A Swiftly Growing Market

By Alex Ageno | Sustainable Living, Urban Design

Urban design trends are changing – and not just among specialized planners, but among the public.  The traditional urban design of the suburbs, the type of design that has a big emphasis on exacerbating various factors that have known to contribute to unsustainable cities, is losing its luster.

Sprawl has put an emphasis on the reliance on transportation, as residents who live in such widely spread areas cannot reach work and commerce within walking distance.  Often times, these residents rely on vehicles, as they cannot rely on alternative transportation to get to where they need to go in their daily lives.

As research has shown, this increased reliance on personal vehicles leads to pollution, congestion, and cities that are generally not well-tailored towards sustainability.

However, there is good news.  A growing number of the population is becoming disillusioned with the traditional methods of urban planning.  As a result, there’s a growing demand for innovative urban design – that which is opposite to traditional planning methods and single-use zoning.

Alternate transportation, mixed-use zoning, emphasis on walkability, and other forms of alternative planning are becoming traits that future residents want to see incorporated into their cities.  In a 2014 study conducted by the American Planning Association, called Investing in Place, this growing demand is documented.  If the demand continues to grow, it means that more cities can consider sustainable planning as a feasible direction.

"Tucson Light Trail.  Image via"

“Tucson Light Trail. Image via”

The Study Itself

Investing in Place addresses how different generations of citizens view the future of communities and cities. These future citizens are going to have preferences for what constitutes an attractive city. These criteria will influence decision making so planners and policy makers can plan cities that tailor to citizen preferences.

By conducting demographic analyses, the study concluded that future citizens – often citizens of disparate groups (baby boomers and millennials) – will prefer cities to be driven by alternative transportation, walkable communities, and attractive areas.

In regards to sustainability, there is hope that urban planners will be more willing to invest in sustainable solutions.  Sustainable solutions may be implemented into the city at a higher rate, because the cities will be tailor towards urban design that allows for sustainable solutions to be applied.

In addition, having a community that believes in the benefits of such concepts, including alternative transportation, means that the community may share overlapping values, such as those that pertain to sustainability in general.

Benefits of Investing In Place

Within the American Planning Association’s report, many non-traditional methods of planning are stated to be attractive to potential residents of urban areas.  Many of the sustainable benefits of these approaches have already been expanded upon at length within the field, and there’s no doubt that anyone interested in sustainability is familiar with them.

  • Alternative Transportation

By allowing citizens to use alternative transportation, it allows citizens to choose transportation methods that are of a sustainable nature (like walking, biking, light rail, and public transportation), which have various environmental, social, and economic benefits.

  • Community-Based Development Means Sustainability Cities

The study emphasizes the importance of a strong community for citizens, meaning that communities can focus on incorporating urban design that promotes healthy, sustainable lifestyles.  Green space, parks, form-based codes, new urbanism, and other forms of community-based urban design will have a greater chance of providing enrichment in citizens’ lives.

  • Economics of Place

Economics of place means that the economy’s growth can be fostered by the quality of communities and neighborhoods, including their physical dimensions and the overall urban design of the area. The local economy, a necessity for any city to stay afloat, will only grow and become better with an emphasis on local improvements and quality of neighborhoods and communities.

Feature Image: An Example of a Paragon of Place. Image via

About The Author

Alex Ageno earned his degree in Urban Planning in 2013 from Arizona State University. Alex's interests in Urban Planning include Urban Design, Sustainability, Form Based Codes, Zoning, and Environmental Planning. He resides in Arizona.