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Scorn for Suburban Office Parks

Michael Lewyn has a nice little post up at Planetizen about the functional problems with suburban office parks.
I can think of no reason why an office building (other than, perhaps, one where the Ebola virus is routinely handled) should be behind a 500-foot driveway with no sidewalks. The arguments for allowing offices to locate in suburbia do not justify the office park form, because 500-foot driveways do not reduce rents in any obvious respect. Moreover, the suburban office park in its current form creates harmful externalities, by forcing people to drive to reach them even if they live nearby (thus increasing pollution and traffic congestion).
There's another, longer-term problem with suburban office parks: they create future uncertainty and inefficiency.

(from Flickr user Dean Terry)

Imagine a metro area where all of the white-collar jobs exist inside the central business district. If people want to live in the suburbs, they can live on the east side of town, west side of town, or wherever, it doesn't really matter. Transit could efficiently provide service for people who don't want to drive. People who want to live downtown could reasonably walk to work. Fewer two-parent working families would have to make the awkward decision of which parent has to make the painful commute to the other side of town for their job, they might even be able to carpool to work.

People change jobs a lot. Some change jobs more often than they change homes. If someone works in a west-side suburb and chooses to buy a home near their office, that's a reasonable short/medium-term decision. But what if they then lose that job and find a new one in an east-side suburb? What do they do? Do they make a painfully long cross-town commute every day? Do they sell the house, pack up and move to the east-side suburb?

If all jobs were located in the central business district, this long-term uncertainly would be greatly reduced. A person or family could choose a place to live knowing that, if anything happens to their career, they'll be looking for a new one in the same general vicinity.


Donnie said…
This is one of my few problems with the city of Houston.

It has no barriers to expansion North, West, and South.

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