Rethinking Corridors

Zoning Practice — February 2011

By David Dixon


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Over the last half-century, arterial corridors that connected 19th-century villages and served as the Main Streets of early 20th-century downtowns and neighborhoods evolved into the primary engines — and icons — of sprawl. Zoning and other regulatory tools institutionalized a continuous pattern of low-density, auto-oriented strip development that reflected both the realities of American real estate markets and the planning goals of many American communities from the end of World War II until recently.

Over the past decade, rapid demographic changes and related shifts in real estate economics and community values set the stage for transforming many arterial corridors into "strings of pearls" — pedestrian-oriented, mixed use, higher density, walkable redevelopment connected by stretches of auto-oriented strip development. These nodes offer significant quality-of-life and economic opportunity benefits for host communities — reviving urban main streets and suburban town centers.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses how corridor planning initiatives can lead to significant benefits for host communities. It highlights several examples of successful arterial corridor planning efforts that leveraged new zoning to promote transformation.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2011
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American Planning Association

About the Author

David Dixon
Three awards sum up David's career: The AIA's Thomas Jefferson Award “for a lifetime of … significant achievement in [creating]… livable neighborhoods, vibrant civic spaces, and vital downtowns;" Residential Architecture's 2012 Hall of Fame award “as the person we call when we have a question about cities;” and the APA's Hard Won Victory Award for New Orleans' post-Katrina Master Plan, which he led. David is the co-author of Urban Design for and Urban Century: creating more livable, equitable and resilient cities (Wiley, 2015) and co-editor of Suburban Remix: the next generation of urban places (Island Press, 2018). David's current and recent work focuses on helping cities and suburbs alike manage the accelerating pace of demographic, economic, environmental, and technological change for public benefit.