trends in the suburbs

selected abstracts

Jill L Grant and Gillad Rosen. 2009. Armed compounds and broken arms: the cultural production of gated communities. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 99(3): 575-589

In recent geographic and urban discourse neoliberalism increasingly appears as an explanatory framework for a range of spatial phenomena, including gated communities. This article compares the form and function of gated communities in Israel and Canada to illustrate how locally and historically contingent development processes and cultural understandings intersect and interact with globalizing practices and regional manifestations of neoliberal policies. In so doing, it explores the way that global and local processes collectively produce gated communities with varying regional expressions.


Jill L Grant and Katherine Perrott. 2009. Producing diversity in a new urbanism community: policy and practice. TPR (Town Planning Review) 80(3): 267-289

Since the mid-1990s Markham, Ontario, has embedded new urbanism and smart growth principles in its plans. The policies presume that policies for place diversity -- requiring a mix of housing types, uses, and densities -- will produce social diversity. This paper examines planning policies and reviews interview data to understand the challenges in interpreting and implementing a diversity agenda in practice. Although respondents describe Markham as ethnically diverse, census data reveal new kinds of social homogeneity. Planning policies and regulations that call for diversity in housing types, land uses, and densities may contribute to place vitality and economic health, but the Markham case suggests that they may not produce social equity. Planners’ faith in place diversity as a means to social diversity faces significant challenges in practice.


Jill L Grant. 2009. Theory and practice in planning the suburbs: challenges in implementing new urbanism, smart growth, and sustainability principles. Planning Theory and Practice, 10(1): 11-33

Although municipalities across Canada have adopted new urbanism, smart growth, and sustainability principles in their planning and policy documents, new suburbs continue to reveal the influence of conventional development practices. This paper examines challenges to implementing new planning principles and reveals some ways the development market selectively resists planning objectives in three Canadian urban areas. Interviews with planners, councillors, and representatives of the development industry indicate that while land cost pressures contribute to increasing suburban densities, developers may challenge planning principles related to urban form and function. The study finds that weak political commitment and market pressures frustrate planners’ desires to create accessible and open communities. Conceptual distinctions between planning approaches important to theory become blurred in practice.


Jill L Grant. 2007. Chapter 3: Encouraging mixed use in practice. In GJ Knaap, HA Haccou, KJ Clifton, JW Frece (eds) Incentives, Regulations and Plans: The role of states and nation-states in smart growth planning, Edwin Elgar Publishers, Cheltenham UK, pp 57-76

As planners we are charged with offering advice about how to create better communities. Conventional contemporary wisdom suggests a few key choices. Whether falling under the rubric of ‘smart growth’ (USA), ‘sustainable development’ (Canada), ‘urban renaissance’ (England) or ‘machizukuri’ (Japan), the solutions and prescriptions seem quite similar: they call for compact form, public participation, mixed use, mass transit, pedestrian orientation and open space networks. We find widespread consensus in theory on the principles of good development and urban form and in the desire to accommodate growth. In practice, though, we see less evidence that new planning premises lead to widespread change in urban form or building patterns.

In this chapter I examine one principle of the contemporary planning paradigm: mixed use. I consider briefly why mixed use is seen as key to good urban form, discuss some of the challenges to implementing mix, and offer suggestions on how higher levels of government may develop strategies for promoting the integration of uses. Through exploring the approaches taken by governments in the USA, Canada, England and Japan I will attempt to identify strategies senior governments may use to encourage mixed use in practice.