Turning the Corner

Urbanism in Tysons Corner?  According to this Washington Post article, there is reason to believe that the future of this oft-ridiculed "edge city" is one of community-fostering parks, plazas, and playgrounds.  Though pervasive private ownership makes it hard to align the incentives to create public-serving space, there is such a yearning for green gathering points that developers are starting to fork over the dough to provide them.

To me, this is symptomatic of the tension between cities and suburbs.  One is not better than the other, but they are drastically different.  In one place, high density makes driving difficult and privacy impossible, in exchange for multiple travel modes and vibrant social mixing.  In the other place, low density makes non-auto forms of transportation difficult and serendipitous meetups impossible, in exchange for ease of travel and personal space.

Of course, we value different things at different points in our lives.  Historically, we craved cities when we were singles and then preferred suburbs when we paired off and had kids.  But, being Americans, we now want it all: high social mixing and distinct personal space, the ability to be free from our cars as well as use them freely and easily.

Sometimes things can be "both and" - Los Angeles is as car-centric as it comes, but it can be enjoyed at the pedestrian level too - and sometimes there are trade-offs.  Let's keep an eye on Tysons Corner, to see if these early moves towards urbanism are the green shoots of what becomes a thriving community or alternatively the quickly deteriorating evidence that it's hard to have it all when it comes to land use patterns.
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