Sprawl : also known as urban sprawl or suburban sprawl. Although the term is widely recognized, understanding of its effects, like many trends that shape our communities, varies. Many Americans accept the state of the places they live uncritically, not thinking or realizing that many conscious decisions went into the creation of sprawling, unwalkable suburbs, the destruction of prime farmland, and the devastation of urban areas. Since World War II, development in the United State has taken the form of "out" instead of "up." The area of developed land in the country has far outpaced the population growth as market forces, the financial industry, and state and federal government programs encouraged low-density, auto-dominated development outside of U.S. cities.
Rochester is one of the best case studies in sprawl in the northeast US. The population of metropolitan Rochester has held steady since the early 1980's, but the 'developed' area of Rochester is 150% the size it was in the '80's. At the same time, large sections of the city are plagued with abandoned houses which are too expensive to tear down, decreasing the value of their neighborhoods. This feeds back into the growth of sprawl, driving people out away from the 'bad' areas into more suburban developments.
Sprawl is extremely expensive. Each generation creates a new set of roads, schools, shopping centers, and entertainment complexes. But we must continue supporting an older set of facilities or spend money to tear them down in a 'clean' way.
The City of Rochester, like most older cities in the Northeast and Midwest, is the victim of sprawl. It cannot attract the new development and thus new tax base that suburban municipalities can, yet must deal with the expensive problems (crime, failing schools, maintaining the existing infrastructure on a reduced tax base, etc.) that concentrated poverty brings. New York State's property tax structure forces municipalities to compete for development in order to raise tax revenue. I.e. no municipality is going to turn down development because good planning practices say that that development should be in the city. The few that do (Perinton, in the 1970s, with Eastview Mall) only see that development move further out to another more willing municipality.
Sprawl means more infrastructure to maintain, less tax base for the city, and dilution of the urban environment a lot of young professionals find interesting.
An in-depth Lincoln Institute study
A Smart Growth America study listed Rochester as the twelfth most sprawling metro area in the nation at the time of its publication.
The Rochester Regional Community Design Center promotes pedestrian-friendly urban design.