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NARRATOR: As business and industry have increasingly relocated from the city to the suburb over the last 30 years, a new type of suburb -- edge city - - has developed -- a spread-out, self-contained environment offering work, residence, and consumption.

HERB JANICK: It isn’t really until the ‘50s when people are beginning to say, "Geez, do we really need the city?" If we live in the suburbs maybe we can work here too and maybe we can shop here too." And that I think is a major change in the suburban pattern. That suddenly the department stores in the ‘50s and ‘60s are closing downtown and are moving out to the suburbs. And we’re in a place like this where corporations are saying, "Do we need the big high rise on Park Avenue or can we come out here where are employees are living anyway?"

NARRATOR: This trend opened even more towns to suburbanization. Before 1965 most Connecticut jobs were in the city, now they’re in decentralized sites as more offices, industry and retailers locate in the suburbs. 85% of the time, we commute from suburb to suburb rather than from suburb to city.

HERB JANICK: The suburbanization of commerce and industry has in a way made it possible to spread this way of life over more parts of Connecticut. You know, Litchfield County now that a- nobody would ever think of a suburban area - that’s a rural area. It’s suburban now because people are living there and they’re working in other parts - they work at the mall. They work at Union Carbide and they live there. I think it’s extended the grip of that way of living


NARRATOR: Have we found the good life in the suburbs?

JAY GITLIN: This is a nice example, I think, of a high end contemporary suburb. As you can see there’s lots of space all around. It’s the ultimate in some ways of the de-concentrated, decentralized place. These are very nice homes plunked down smack dab in the middle of nature so that you are really surrounded by lots of trees, streams. And you might notice that the city is nowhere in sight. The other type of contemporary upscale suburb, a- will look very different from this and in fact will be a return to the idea of living in an older village. A place that’s a walking town where you have the texture of history.

NARRATOR: Devonwood is an upper-class subdivision in Farmington that for many represents the American Dream realized to the fullest.

OTTO PAPARAZZO (Developer): It is what I like to think of as almost an anti-subdivision subdivision. The sizes of the lots would vary from as small as a third of an acre up to an acre and a half. Price range runs from a $150,000 to $250,000 dollars. The houses in price range run from $400 to a million two. The average house is in probably in the neighborhood of $600,000 dollars, and the size of the lot is not nearly as important as the setting. I think Devonwood is probably one of the most successful residential communities in the State of Connecticut right now. - we have sold 300 lots. We control the architecture we control the design of your building, the color of your house, the landscaping has to be approved, and so this strong pattern, the protection of the strong control pattern really makes it. Now this also can be done with inexpensive housing. There’s no parking on the existing roads so then if there is a stranger there he’s gonna be very obvious to the neighbors. There’s almost a mutual neighborhood protection. A sense of security that is here even though there is no guards on the gates and stuff.

NARRATOR: Connecticut’s embrace of the suburban lifestyle has in many ways been a successful one.

JONI ZARKA (Farmington Resident): The day that we moved in our neighbors came over and said, "Hi we’re your new neighbors. It looks like you’re moving in. Can we take your children to McDonald’s for you? Get them out of your hair? "What can we do for you?" Very friendly. It has been very friendly, yeah. Can’t beat that.

LYNN LINDENGRASS (Farmington Resident): I agree. It’s been very friendly and we picked our neighborhood specifically so that we had all age groups of people and a lot of children around. I found the same thing the day we moved in they had lemonade and cookies. It’s us though.


NARRATOR: The benefits of suburban living are clear. The costs are sometimes hidden. In many ways, the more avidly we pursue the good life, the more it recedes before us.

Land development is at the heart of all suburban growth.

LAURA WIER CLARKE: When you fly out of Bradley Field you look down at a state that seems wonderfully rural. The problem with that is that a lot of that wooded land is owned by people nearing retirement age, and it’s owned in smaller parcels - that is 50 acres and smaller. What that means is that in the next 20 years, those lands will be changing hands.

NARRATOR: The pursuit of the rural experience paradoxically can lead to sprawl, congestion and loss of open space.

CATHERINE JOHNSON: About 40 years ago, after about a mile or two you were in the country, literally farms. They still exist, but more and more farmers whose children don’t take up the same occupation, they’re being left with no choice but to sell the land for development. And then in a place where you had this beautiful cultivated landscape, you now have four gigantic houses with 3-car garages. So, that eventually if we continue this pattern, there’s gonna be no difference between built and natural. And it’s all gonna be this in-between, this other, neither urban nor rural.

PHILIP LANGDON (Author, A Better Place to Live): For the last 30 years we’ve tended to concentrate all the retailing on these broad highways. You just have to have a car. And that’s an expensive way to get around. And it also means that suburbs which ostensibly are designed with the well-being of raising kids in mind, in fact, are very much anti-youngster because the kids really don’t have that ability to just get around on their own power.

LAURA WIER CLARKE: We have destroyed the scale of the suburb. We have destroyed a scale that will make it come together and work as a neighborhood because people aren’t- won’t walk in it. There’s no reason to walk in it. And when people don’t get out of their cars, the neighborhood won’t develop.


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Last modified: September 03, 2012