Cul-de-sacs and cookie-cutter homes, big-box shopping centers with miles of parking lot. Picturesque picket fences and unimaginative bank buildings. Anxious teenagers not speaking to their disillusioned parents in oversized SUVs. We’re talking about the suburbs, of course—or our conventional idea of them. Reinforced in the American collective imagination for decades, our notion of “suburbs” has actually changed very little.
But the suburbs are changing now. They are becoming more walkable, with better access to public transportation and fewer cookie-cutter buildings. They are taking steps to tackle climate change and becoming more diverse. They are shifting politically. And as they evolve to reflect urban traits, they are also confronting big-city problems, like economic inequality and growing poverty.
In Curbed’s suburbs issue, we look at the ways the ’burbs have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, from the founding rules of Levittown, New York, to the changing demographics of Duluth, Georgia, to the way suburban sprawl has worsened the effects of flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland. Suburban homeownership is often described as a cornerstone of the American dream, but that dream was never accessible to everyone—and, as an entire generation of millennials are discovering, it may never be within reach. —Sara Polsky
Writers: Jeff Andrews, Diana Budds, Katy Kelleher, Britta Lokting, Amy Plitt, Adina Solomon, Alissa Walker
Editor: Sara Polsky
Art direction: Alyssa Nassner
Illustrations: Kelly Abeln
Photos: Audrey Levine
Copy editing: Emma Alpern
Fact checking: Andrea López Cruzado, Dawn Mobley
Engagement: Jessica Gatdula, Stephanie Griffin, Sharell Jeffrey
Special Thanks: Mariam Aldhahi, Kelsey Keith, Mercedes Kraus