When it comes to strengthening our communities, sometimes less is more. We often see communities expanding into broader areas, but is this “bigger and better” mentality really serving us?

Sprawl development of this type usually means that residents need to travel farther, spend more on mortgages, and splinter the remaining natural habitat into smaller and smaller pieces. The results can be disastrous: habitat fragmentation, higher cost of living, and disharmony with our beautiful natural landscape in San Diego. 

Many people may see our desire for environmental stewardship and economic development to be at odds, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Today, we have an approach that unifies the best of both worlds: urban infill development. 

What is urban infill?

Urban infill may not sound like the most environmentally-friendly term at first glance, but this type of development is actually key to improving our communities from the inside out. 

The concept is simple: instead of spreading out into completely undeveloped areas, this type of development “fills in the gaps” of already-developed areas to make the most effective use of the land. Existing development is built in and up, rather than out. 

What does this look like? Urban infill can entail building residential homes in existing neighborhoods (like apartments and microunits) or creating a blend of commercial, office, and development areas. Urban infill actually makes these locations more desirable by offering more services, amenities, parking spaces, transit options, and affordable housing. 

The result? These locations become more beautiful, more productive, and act as a better use of space, even in areas that would otherwise be rundown or undesirable. 

In San Diego, one prime urban infill example can be found in The Point at Ingraham. This urban living space was built to be a “high-end, pedestrian friendly, mixed-use urban design” with 21 apartments and 2,268 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. 

How does urban infill impact transit options?

In California, housing in low-density areas can lead to limited transportation options. No one likes to get stuck in traffic, and sprawl development only increases commuting time from our homes and workspaces. Urban infill helps communities stay closer together by offering everything residents need to live and thrive in one place. This supports the population density necessary to keep these amenities open and vibrant. 

When these amenities (like homes, parks, and retail spaces) are closer together, this type of development also allows for more eco-friendly transit options. Pedestrian trails, bike lanes, and public transit can be more accessible and pleasant to use. 

Can infill reduce the impacts of climate change?

Urban infill development isn’t just good for the communities; it’s good for the environment. This type of development can reduce the impact of sprawl development by revitalizing urban centers and make every inch of land use as effective as possible. 

Since residents of urban infill centers don’t need to travel as far or as long, urban infill can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also improving local air quality. 

Urban infill centers are also prime candidates for sustainable city design, such as green storm water systems and eco-friendly public transit. This helps reduce the storm water runoff that can flood and pollute surrounding waterways. 

By utilizing every inch of land wisely, urban infill development decreases the impact of habitat fragmentation that threatens our vulnerable wildlife populations. This helps local critters access the areas they need to feed, grow, and repopulate. 

Urban Development Of The Future

Sometimes, making our communities more environmentally-friendly starts from the inside. Urban infill projects help us clean up existing development and provide our residents everything they need to live and grow, all in one place. With this type of development, we can maximize our current land use while making our neighborhoods the best possible place to live.