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Focus Project “Suburban Neighbourhoods” – Suburban Neighbourhoods under Conditions of Declining Growth
Partner(s):Research group 1; international Partners
Time frame:01/2014 – 12/2017


Declining growth as an evolutional phenomenon of cities in old-industrialized countries has been object of a large body of research and led to manifold strategies for planners, administration and house-owners. In contrast, suburban areas are still prospering. This initiated a body of research dealing with ‘Suburban re(tro)fitting’ which aims to improve suburban areas regarding one (single) need of adjustment. However, refitting mostly comprises growth-oriented planning approaches.

Though, in recent years some suburbs themselves face the challenges of decline due to economic, social and demographic changes. Most of the urban strategies which refer to decline are not appropriate to handle problems arising from the specific trajectories of suburban development.

Thus, the main objective of the project is to support the development of suburban areas focusing on housing-estate neighbourhoods under conditions of decline. On the one hand we want to point out the specific constraints of adapting the stock; on the other hand we want to argue if the international debate on refitting actually improves the development under shrinkage.


We want to explore both, the characteristics of shrinkage and decline in suburbia in an International context and adaptation strategies that take into account the opportunities of decline. Benefits are the knowledge extension on possibilities and limits of measures adjusting the urban stock. Besides, different development trajectories depending on specific constellations of place should be derived empirically.

Therefore, we want to integrate both debates on shrinkage and on refitting in order to improve and adapt suburban housing neighbourhoods to today’s needs. By comparing different cases in different European countries we try to find generalised statements supporting the academic debate on a ‘new urban development under conditions of declining growth’. Special attention has to be paid to both, the needs of a quick adjustment that suburban areas face and the uncertainty of the long-term demands. It will, therefore, be necessary to go into detail considering specific characteristics of the suburbs.

On November 14 researchers from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the USA as well as other European countries had joined a workshop in Cologne to explore the differences of suburbs and their evolution, the possibilities of sustainable development, and the experience gained from empirical analyses. The dokumentation „Exploring the Future of Suburban Neighbourhoods under Conditions of Declining Growth“ gives an overview of the trends in suburbia in germany, netherlands, italy and the USA.

In Germany, this topic becomes increasingly important for the planning departments in the cities in terms of pursuing a strategic land use, as a Survey of all german local authorities with more than 10.000 inhabitants revealed (see also project Single Family Homes under Pressure). Additionally our research includes an systematic study of about 200 activities for adjustment the municipal housing stocks in cities with population decline.

Project team:
  • Magdalena Leyser-Droste

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