Valuing America’s First Suburbs: A Policy Agenda for Older Suburbs in the Midwest

April 1, 2002

Older, inner-ring (or “first”) suburbs have their own unique set of assets and challenges that set them apart from newer suburban areas further out from the core of metropolitan areas, but also from their center cities.

Despite their assets, many first suburbs are beginning to experience challenges normally associated with age and disinvestment. In many places, the stresses they face are beginning to hamper their ability to remain, or become, economically competitive.

This report finds that, unfortunately, first suburbs are caught in a policy blindspot. They tend to not be poor enough to qualify for federal and state aid and not large enough to receive federal and state funds directly.

The authors call upon the Federal and state governments to do more to help strengthen the health and vitality of first suburbs before they become the next ring of decline. Coalitions of first suburban leaders can work to change the “rules of the development game” to ensure more balanced transportation, land use, economic development and reinvestment policies that are focused specifically on the unique issues and challenges they face.