Ferguson unrest prompts discussion about suburban design

Ferguson protest
A protester holds up a sign as police try to keep protesters and media moving by not allowing anyone to congregate Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.
Jeff Roberson/AP

When Charles Marohn looks at the photos and video of Ferguson, Missouri, he looks beyond the police and the marching residents and notices something in the background. Specifically, he sees a familiar pattern of aging suburban homes, shops and sidewalks.

Like so many towns built in the 60s, he says, Ferguson wasn't designed to last. Financial decisions made along the way dug the town into debt and the evidence is the kinds of businesses that populate the main streets of town: dollar stores, car lots, drive-thru restaurants.

"Decline isn't a result of poverty," Marohn, president of Strong Towns wrote. "The converse is actually true: poverty is the result of decline. Once you understand that decline is baked into the process of building auto-oriented places, the poverty aspect of it becomes fairly predictable."

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