Re-wilding the suburb

I grew up in a single-family home in a post-World War II 1950’s suburb built on farmland. People call these universally single family homes “starter homes,” but they did their job; as a latch key kid I could walk or bike to elementary school, to the neighborhood park, and to friend’s homes. We didn’t get a grocery store until later, when I could drive, and it was in the periphery of a strip mall. The neighborhood was built for a married nuclear family, and not just 30 years later my lived experience didn’t fit in with this idea of family. 

With two kids and the passing of time, I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up, and how similar or different my kids have it as full-on New Yorkers to my experience. The neighborhood I grew up needs a town center, a focus, a convenient place to grab your sundry goods, and a place for capitalism to flourish. 

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We had it right, then we got it wrong

Nothing here should seem new or different: this is how we built neighborhoods prior to the 1920’s, and is a density which municipalities and developers are rediscovering. 

There is nothing natural about a single-family detached home. 

Some random people have just decided that’s the only thing we can build. I think that’s wrong, stupid, and doesn’t reflect how we are living as Americans.

This is a quick thought experiment on how to re–wild a suburb, on a way station to a denser and more climate-friendly neighborhood. My fear is that these simple changes are too “controversial,” yet aren’t enough to avert climate disaster. 

Existing Condition

A late 1950’s suburb, Huber Ridge was designed with small 1-,000–2,000 square foot detached homes on 1/4 to 1/2 acre lots. The new roads follow the old farm paths.

Proposed Condition

Create a town center at the intersection of the school road and main streets, by rezoning 12 single family homes to host more neighbors, and provide services to people.


A range of housing and office types augmenting the existing single family detached homes.

Instead of only housing 12 families, we can house 18 to 40 families, in addition to workshops and stores. All of which are a  walkable destination for the neighborhood.


A cottage for a small family or a singleton, giving people an entry into the housing market.

20ft x 20ft
2 Floor
18 units
18–36 people


Flexible space for either a two-floor workshop or store, or live-work, with living space above.

20ft x 20ft
2 floor
5 units
0–12 people


A single family shared-wall attached home, with three bedrooms with a deep backyard.

20ft x 40ft
2–3 floors
7 units
14–28 people


Community and retail space at the base, allowing grocery or bodegas, with flats or apartments above.

30ft x 30ft
3 floors
6 units
12–24 people

Multifamily & Retail

Retail and community space at the base, flats & apartments above. This could be organized as a two family home, or up to five smaller one/two bedroom apartments.

80ft x 30ft
3 floors
5 units
12–24 people

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