Regular readers of this blog know I am from Kansas. Overland Park, Kansas to be exact. I love my hometown but I am also concerned for my hometown. Last time I was in Overland Park, my Dad and I were navigating the sprawling suburbs and strip malls that make up the city. I looked around, and simply asked "can this type of development continue?" It was a weird feeling questioning the very foundation of my hometown.

The way in which cities are planned and developed is important. Overland Park consists primarily of strip malls and single family homes in big neighborhoods. It takes a minimum of 15 minutes to drive anywhere and walking is non-existent. This type of development works if people are willing to continue buying new homes. But we now see what happens when homes aren’t sold. You see headlines like this:

Ghost malls are scaring suburbs

“Residential was expanding and people were consuming at a high rate, and therefore developers and retailers were expanding at a high rate,” said Owen Buckley of Lane4 Property Group, a Kansas City developer and broker with retail projects in several Midwestern states. “They got caught.”

About 3.2 million square feet of retail space is vacant in metro Kansas City.

I am worried about the suburbs of my hometown. But I am not a smart growth expert. So here are two questions that I hope you weigh in on:

  1. Will these types of developments re-establish themselves when the economy recovers
  2. If these developments do not regrow, what can be done with these spaces?