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"The New Suburban Gothic" (D8N De Development)

6646 Views 12 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  james5
Dayton. In a stagnant metropolitan era surrounding a dying city, suburbia gets gritty….

The New Suburban Gothic

In this article, we critically examine transformation and decline in US suburbs.
We identify four distinct, chronological phases of development: suburban utopias,
suburban conformity, suburban diversity, and suburban dichotomy. An element of
this new suburban dichotomy is what we term suburban gothic. We theorize that
the forces of an aging housing stock, land-use planning, and deindustrialization
contribute to the divergent realities of US suburbs.

A historic site. Built in 1946-47, Miracle Lane was Dayton’s first true auto-oriented shopping center. Miracle Lane has miraculously disappeared, leaving a only a parking lot and grassy knoll.

The Future Once Happened Here

Drive-in now a cell phone tower

Suburban tear-downs (nice pile of dirt with the yellow safety tape, hmmm..)

Former site of the Kon-Tiki Theatre,

From Cinema Treasures:

The theater opened in 1968 as the Kon-Tiki. It featured a South Pacific decor, which included conch shells for restroom sinks, illuminated tiki faces on the facade, and volcanic and abalone shells in the walls.

Another dead theatre

Suburban boulevard of broken dreams….

Dead department store

Half empty (or 3/4s empty) strip centers are a Dayton specialty

Dead big boxes….

Another historic site. The Salem Mall was developed by Rouse….opened in 1966 it was Dayton’s first indoor shopping mall, and actually was a lot like the original Mall St Matthews in Louisville in detail…it was recently torn down, though I think the Sears is still there for awhile longer….

Another Dayton specialty….dead big box partially colonized by either a dollar store, Big Lots, or some other discounter…

Few things are more melancholy than dead themed fast food/restaurants….

The more recent spread of suburbanization has undermined the former
advantages of the older suburbs. The older suburbs, particularly those
built in the 1950s and 1960s, no longer attract new development or new

….In many cases, these inner-ring suburbs exhibit the very symptoms of
decline that US cities experienced some three decades ago. In contrast,
newer suburbs, or ‘outer suburbs’, located further away from the core, are
the main sites of new development and investment.

This dichotomy has brought what we term a ‘gothic’ element to older,
inner-ring suburbs. The term ‘gothic’ refers to the grotesque or desolate, adjectives
not typically associated with the suburbs. Yet, many older suburbs,
particularly those built in the postwar period, are bleak places. Many
older, postwar suburbs struggle to survive let alone thrive in today’s

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My God. I feel sorry for you guys down in Dayton. At least Milwaukee's suburbs aren't experiencing that kind of disaster, if I can imply that.

Is anything improving for the city and its suburbs?
Actually yes. Since this is a stagnant area, it means suburban growth is selective and uneven, not growing across the board around the city.

The suburban areas that are growing are tied to active economic sectors, which in this town is, believe it or not, defense, or close to the interestate highway system.

Stay tuned for a thread on that.
This is fascinating. Blighted suburban areas exist in Indy as well, although not to this extent.

I did a research paper not too long ago dealing with suburban blight in the U.S. and much of what you've said is true.
I wonder when developers will turn these structures into housing....Think of a LongJohnSilver's McMansion....

seems feasible. and although a bit fishy...quite funky as well....
Yikes, and I thought the inner suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul looked bad.
One of these days I am going to have do a pix thread on Dayton's western "suburb" of Drexel.

This is possibly the strangest suburb of all. The area was subdivided around WWI or maybe even earlier, but never really built out, and there was nearly no post WWII suburban development like you see in this thread.

Its like a time warp. The "old city" just sort of ends, peters out in a strip of junkyards and old bungalows and a rootbeer stand and corner grocery, filled in around by vacant lots and scrubland, then you are out in the farm country.

Its like the suburban real estate market west of the city collapsed in the Great Depression and never really recovered.
Jeff in Dayton you are a poet. No kidding these pix are haunting and tell a story of hope, yearning, greed and broken promises. Its an allegory of the American dream in Real Estate - rags to riches to rags again. Keep up the good work, I always look forward to your posts.
Jeff, this is one of the most interesting threads I've seen in quite a long time. Thank you for shedding light on this issue.

We always focus on the decline of cities and their neighborhoods, and as cities revitalize we tend to forget that the plague of disinvestment didn't really go away, it just moved into the inner-ring suburbs.

Much as how preservationists lament the demolition of historic prewar buildings in cities, one has to wonder if some day we'll see people standing in the way of bulldozers trying to protect an abandoned drive-thru restaurant in suburbia.
Jeff you and your camera really get around. Your tour actually starts in Dayton and crosses into Trotwood with the Shopkeepers Village sign. You have not mentioned that local leaders are working their butts off to try and recharge this area. From a planning note the portion in Trotwood never even had sidewalks until last year, which is indicative of the lack of requirements that existed when this stretch developed originally. Its a mish mash of non-conforming setbacks, plenty of asphalt, and five decades of different styles that makes for many challenges.

The city (Trotwood) has a limited budget but continues a program of tryng to remove dilapidated properties as they can. Housing in the area has similar challenges but not to the extreme seen on the commercial corridor. I believe much of this is the result of a continued march up the corridor with each new national chain center becoming the next new thing leaving their older buildings unrenovated. Public private partnerships have formed to tackle the worst issues and develop long range goals. There are still major retailers thriving at the extreme Trotwood end of the corridor including Target, K-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Office Depot and others. It's what these new stores have left behind that has become the challenge.

White flight over the last 20 years has also been a challenge and the income demographics are not as supportive as they used to be.

The beautiful thing about the area is it has become very affordable and is a short 15 minute commute to downtown. To find housing quality at these prices elswhere would double or triple commute times.

And yes I am a former city council member and general cheerleader for the community.
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Wow I must've missed this thread first time around. Such emptiness, and the b/w effect enhances it oh-so well. Nice work Jeff, very solid thread!
it is so sad to see those pictures of Cornell Drive and Salem Ave. Tasty Bird was owned by the Franks (our next door neighbor) and our family owned the Owens Supermarket Center ever since my Uncles built it. My father had his office in that Center for years. There is even a street named after me behind the Center (Roger CT.) I tried to take a picture in front of the street sign a few years back and was threatened and chased away.
Kon Tiki theater was built and owned by the Levin's and their twin Uncles
Haunting!!!!Suburban decay looks as bad or worse than urban decay...nice reminder/warning of the potential pitfalls of auto dependent, big box, surface parking sprawl.....
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