Author argues the singular American suburban dream is splintering into multiple dreams

In the new book The End of the Suburbs, Leigh Gallagher argues the suburban dream is changing:

That gets to what you say at the very end: the American dream won’t be singular anymore. There will be different dreams.

And they will be dreams. They won’t be houses. They won’t be buildings. Somewhere along the way the American Dream morphed from being a dream, an opportunity, to being a house. That’s no longer the case for a lot of people…

The future you outline are these “urban burbs”-style developments where people don’t have to drive more than a mile or two and they can reach other urban burbs by transit. How close are we to that on a broad scale?

We’re far away from being these network of nodes where everybody is hooked up to everyone else by public transit and we all read three hours more a day. We’re far from that. But the important thing is, people are recognizing that we can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s not satisfying people. And it’s no longer meeting the market demand. Home-builders only react when they think the market wants something. And they’re starting to react.

One could argue that even at the peak of mass suburbanization, sometime between the late 1940s and mid 1960s, there have always been some different visions of suburbia. The common image is similar to what happened in the Levittowns: mostly white city dwellers fleeing the city and seeking out more private spaces in the suburbs. But, even then there were pockets of different kinds of suburbs, whether they were more industrial suburbs, suburbs with mostly African-American residents (see Places of Their Own by Andrew Wiese), and working-class suburbs (see My Blue Heaven by Becky Nicolaides).

Thus, this may an issue of the dominant trends in building and development (more urban suburban places) but it is also about the dominant image or narrative of the suburbs, particularly that of critics, falling apart. If suburbs become more dense on the whole, does it make them more palatable to everyone? How dense do they need to be before they are viewed as something very different?

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