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Beware the sprawl
The American Makeover web series takes on Atlanta, home to both rampant suburban sprawl and a remarkable planned green neighborhood.
Every so often, in between blogging about recycled cardboard pendant lamps and toxic toilet cleaners, I get the chance to write about sustainable, mixed-used communities. Unlike areas of unrelenting suburban sprawl filled with cookie cutter snout houses, these nouveau “traditional neighborhoods” are not designed around the automobile; they’re designed around human feet. New urbanism, the antithesis of sprawl, is a movement that champions front porches, neighborhood businesses, quick commutes, community gardens, and parks that don’t require a 40-minute drive.
Having grown up in an old, new urbanism-style neighborhood complete with schools, parks, a historic movie theatre, grocery stores, banks, shops, farmers market, and restaurants all within walking distance (now I truly know why my parents never aspired to a McMansion on a golf course) and as someone who has spent most of his adult life either in Boston or Brooklyn, I’ve never really known suburban sprawl first-hand.
I suppose this is why I find Sprawlanta, the first episode of American Makeover, a new six-part Web series about suburban sprawl, so fascinating.
As you might have guessed, the subject of the episode is Atlanta, birthplace of suburban sprawl (interesting tidbit: Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With the Wind" and Atlanta native, was killed by a car while crossing the street). The episode isn't all doomy and gloomy "Atlanta's sprawl is evil and needs to stop and here's why ..." It also focuses on Atlanta's Glenwood Park, a mixed-used community filled with green-built residences and designed so that residents are lured out of their cars and onto the sidewalks. At the very least, Glenwood Park was designed so that people don't meet the same unfortunate fate as Margaret Mitchell.
Watch Sprawlanta in its entirety below. And remember, there are five more American Makeover episodes in the works. What cities aside from Atlanta come to mind when you think of the dreaded “S” word? And is there a planned neighborhood like Glenwood Park, self-proclaimed “green” or not, built around the ideals of new urbanism that you think is exceptional?