Mableton is a typical suburban community in Cobb County. The landscape is car-oriented, with winding residential roads full of detached homes separated from commercial corridors. It’s a sprawling model of the kind of use-based zoning that creates an environment hostile to pedestrians, particularly ones aging in place and increasingly less willing (or able) to drive.
Here’s the hoped-for future: retrofitting a suburban community so it becomes a new incarnation of an old-fashioned, walkable urban neighborhood. The new Mableton will have a town green, shops, and townhomes along a tree-lined boulevard. Parking lots will be transformed into parks. Mableton will become a “lifelong community,” where older residents can walk to a coffee shop, pharmacy, and farmers market while young families can walk to the elementary school, playgrounds, and puppet shows.
It’s a wonderful vision, one that fits in well with the goals found in “Retrofitting Suburbia” by Georgia Tech’s Ellen Dunham-Jones which, among other things, address the documented need for walkable places that accommodate an aging population.
The Mableton plan is long-term and very slow moving — the process of creating a new street grid alone will take several years. It’s entirely possible that another suburban community could pattern this plan and execute it more quickly. But that’s the best thing about what’s happening here: this one community, through its initiative and commitment, has shown what can be accomplished and has formed a blueprint for making it happen, one that can be copied and modified throughout the car-oriented sprawltburbs of Metro Atlanta.
Image credit: Duany Plater-Zyberk