In the last post we looked at 5 reasons Mountlake Terrace is Prime for revitalization. Today we'll take a look at 5 more. A recent article by Robert Steuteville at Better! Cities & Towns highlights why inner-ring, postwar suburbs built from 1946 to 1965 (like Mountlake Terrace) could be the key to suburban revitalization.
He lists ten reasons why these types suburbs are good candidates for repair. Here are reasons 6-10 and why Mountlake Terrace, in particular the Town Center neighborhood, is a good fit.
Steuteville highlights two groups of people who would likely find a revitalized inner-ring suburb appealing:
Gen Xers and Millennials - Over 50% of the population in Mountlake Terrace might be considered to be either Gen Xers or Millennials (also referred to as Gen Yers). These types of people might enjoy living in more walkable cities and appreciate the racial and socioeconomic diversity of cities but prefer the suburbs due to considerations like schools. Mountlake Terrace has a good balance of decent schools (average rating of 6 at GreatSchools.org) and racial and socioeconomic diversity (most MLT schools are 40%-50% non-white).
Baby boomers - Walkable, mixed use neighborhoods are great places to retire. Around 22% of the population in Mountlake Terrace is 55 and over. As often happens in old age, people begin to lose mobility, especially when it comes to the ability to drive. We're already seeing construction begin on an assisted care facility in the Town Center and further revitalization of the neighborhood will make it a great place for seniors to be able to walk to the majority of their destinations.
Incremental development opportunities
While some projects, such as the recently completed Arbor Village, will take some significant capital to build there are ample opportunities for smaller lots to be developed. Much of the Town Center zoned area is smaller single family residential lots. We're already seeing several instances where a developer buys up 2 or 3 adjacent lots to develop as townhouses or mixed use buildings. While some of the larger parcels might require visionary developers with significant capital the remainder of the redevelopment can occur incrementally through smaller projects.
Potential for combining suburban and urban qualities
A lot of people desire a single family home with a yard but want to live in a walkable neighborhood. In larger cities you often get the walkable neighborhood without many single family homes. In the exurbs you have only single family homes but nowhere to walk to. We have a great opportunity in Mountlake Terrace to have both.
Here Steuteville is comparing inner-ring suburbs like our own to the trend in building new, walkable, mixed use neighborhoods from scratch. Think something like the Issaquah Highlands. We have good schools, good parks, a great street network. All things that developers don't have to fund to support new development making Mountlake Terrace that much more appealing.
In most of our neighborhoods we have plenty of underutilized on-street parking. Most single family residences in the city have off-street parking for even two cars. In front of my house alone there are three spots that are rarely occupied. As neighborhoods are infilled with higher density housing, all these open spots will give the City some flexibility when it comes to parking requirements and, therefore, allow more affordable housing options in our city.
Steuteville sums it up well:
"Cities and towns with historic gridded streets will continue to revitalize. But living in the city is not for everyone, at all stages of life. It’s important that the US develop sustainable, walkable suburban neighborhoods with plentiful single-family housing. The postwar suburbs offer the greatest opportunity to do so. Over all, these neighborhoods complement cities more than compete with them. The demand for walkable neighborhoods is strong enough that both cities and postwar suburbs can benefit from revitalization. The creation of more walkable neighborhoods in inner-ring suburbs will help keep some urban neighborhoods affordable in the coming decades.
As successful case studies pile up, demonstrating the high returns generated by redevelopment associated with Leave it to Beaver neighborhoods, more public funds could be allocated into remaking the “corridors of crap” into main streets. This, in turn, could generate momentum for bringing new life to the suburbs built after World War II and make US metropolitan regions more sustainable, appealing, and economically viable."