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US City Form - Form and Pattern Typologies


NOTE:  All images in this blog post, unless noted otherwise, are taken from US Geological Survey 7.5' Quadrangles, latest available editions available at the time of posting, and color adjusted by me.  All additions I have made to the images are noted with each applicable image.  All aerial images are oriented with cardinal north at the top of the image.

Cities and towns are inherently complex, covering land areas ranging from a few blocks to many hundreds of square miles.  They are made up of numerous components such as streets, blocks, buildings of various types and uses, public spaces, parks, schools, campuses, rail lines, utility rights-of-way, and even airports.  Their forms are influenced by the local geography, the rural patterns of surrounding lands into which the cities and towns grow, the regional networks of rural roads, highways, waterways, and rail lines that feed into and connect with other cities and towns, and the local traditions for development.

Maps are the way by which we can accurately describe and comprehend the physical aspects of these large creations.  It is from these maps that the characteristic patterns of streets and blocks that define a city can be understood, and can be relatable to those who live there and to those who visit.  Additional insight comes from aerial and satellite imagery, which shows us a birds-eye view of the buildings, streets, and the numerous other elements that make up a city but might not be seen on a map.  All of this information has become easily available for the public to review using such internet applications as Google Maps, Google Earth, MapQuest, and Bing Maps, which allows for armchair exploration inconceivable even a few years ago.

When the numerous cities and towns of America are looked at from above, various patterns combine to form each community's unique physical characteristics, which become its identity.  These patterns are categorized into the typologies below, representing many of the common patterns and forms found in our towns and cities across the nation.  These patterns represent each community's growth through time, its social traditions, the regional similarities it shares with other communities and the planning philosophies at various points in time.  These typologies have been organized into broader categories, such as Regional Form, Street and Block Patterns, Commercial Form, and Public Spaces.  These categories and typologies will be used in further discussions regarding individual cities, towns, and neighborhoods.


Many of the earliest communities in the United States have an historic form that develops from pre-colonial Native American traditions, or from colonial European traditions and land patterns.  The categories below represent the most common of these forms.

Pueblo Form
The Pueblo Form is common to the pre-colonial Native American communities of the southwest region of the current United States, especially in the Rio Grande valley and adjacent areas of New Mexico.  The historic form consists of a collection of adobe structures built adjacent to each other, generally oriented in a similar direction though loosely organized in groups or blocks of varying sizes, and often surrounding an open common area.

The loosely organized pueblo of Isleta Village, New Mexico

French and Spanish Land Strips Communities
Colonial farm parcels in French (especially Louisiana) and Spanish (especially New Mexico and Texas) areas of North America typically occurred along rivers and streams, and were divided into long, narrow strips of land that ran roughly perpendicularly from the watercourses, allowing for large numbers of land parcels to have access to water.  The settlements in these areas grew into these strips, strongly influencing their overall development patterns.

The Spanish land strips of Espaniola, New Mexico

The French land strips of Thibodaux, Louisiana

Random Pattern Land Form
Most of the eastern United States was settled without any pre-planned subdivision of lands.  Most farmland was claimed by settlers as they moved to new areas, with each farmer selecting a tract of land based upon pacing a boundary or by establishing boundaries based upon natural features.  This process led to a random patterning across the lands, which subsequently influenced the overall pattern and development of the communities that developed within these areas.

The surrounding random land patterns influence the form of Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Section Survey Land Form
The Township and Range Surveys of the Public Land Survey System, along with the Block Surveys of west Texas and the California Ranchos, established a rigid pattern of rectangular and square tracts of land across most of the central and western states.  These surveys typically divided land parcels oriented to the cardinal directions, though some area surveys were skewed to reflect the regional land patterning established by the Spanish or other early settlers.  This patterning would provide the framework within which towns and cities would grow, impacting their overall patterning of primary streets and subdivision boundaries.

The Township and Range section grid forms the urban and rural framework on the east side of Wichita, Kansas


Street and block patterns are the simplest method of looking at the physical identity of a city or town.  The categories below represent basic street and block pattern forms.

Random Form
The Random Form pattern is a historical pattern that consists of streets that run in various directions within a given area, creating a non-uniform pattern across numerous blocks of varying shapes and sizes.  Longer streets within this pattern often run in a meandering course, with other streets often running for only one or a few blocks.  The layout may sometimes relate to specific geographical features such as bays, rivers, creeks, ridges or hills, but more often occurs as happenstance during the initial growth of a town prior to the use of pre-planned subdivisions.  It can also result from the growth of a village into a random pattern of surrounding farm fields, with the streets and blocks adjusting to the multi-directional boundaries of the fields.

The Random form is the oldest city form of the earliest British and Dutch settlements, starting in the 17th Century, but also found in areas of Spanish settlement.  The random form is prominent among the historic towns and city centers of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, especially New England and eastern New York.

The random street patterns of New London, Connecticut

The random patterns surrounding the early Spanish settlement of Ysleta, Texas

Linear Form
The Linear Form is typical of a village that develops piecemeal along a roadway, with minimal development away from the roadway.

The linear village of Soudersburg, Pennsylvania

Crossroads Form
The Crossroads Form is typical of a village that develops where two or more highways and/or rural roads meet, with minimal development away from those highways/roads.

The crossroads community of Luxemburg, Iowa

Geographic Form
The Geographic Form is a pattern by which streets typically follow strong geographic features, especially rivers and streams, around hills, along ridges, around bays, and within valleys.  This can occur organically by happenstance, taking on the Random Form pattern, or by pre-planned layouts that intentionally relate to geographic features.

The meandering form of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is influenced by its location in the Smokey Mountains.

The graceful streets of the Nautilus neighborhood in Miami Beach, Florida, follow the outlines of Biscayne Bay and the adjacent inland canal.

Mountainous Streets Form
The Mountainous Streets Form consists of a dynamic patterning caused by streets that use hairpin turns and curving roads that follow along mountainsides to traverse steep grades along highly sloped terrain, along with streets that follow and dead-end upon ridgelines atop mountains, hills and bluffs, or that follow and dead-end within steep valleys and ravines within mountainous areas.

The twisting streets of the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California

Grid Form
The Grid Form is a result of the application of pre-planned land subdivision combined with the use of formal surveying.  The typical grid form consists of a simple pattern in which streets run in two directions at right angles to each other, with streets running uninterrupted and straight across the plan.  The parallel streets create a series of typically uniform blocks that are subdivided into uniform rectangular lots.

The Grid Form is arguably the most common initial street pattern for American cities and towns.  Starting in the 17th Century, notably with the planning of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Grid Form was used fairly consistently from the 18th Century into the early 20th Century for new communities and subdivisions as cities and towns grew.

The Grid Form can take on a surprisingly wide number of variations, and can be further refined into the following patterns:
  • Uniform Grid:  This consists of a pattern in which all streets are the same width, and all blocks are the same size.  The blocks can be either square or rectangular 

A uniform grid on the southwest side of Chicago, Illinois
  • Axial Grid:  This pattern consists of a single primary street that is wider than the other streets, and typically centered within the grid of blocks that make up the town or subdivision.

Main Street in Perryton, Texas, is the axial spine of the original townsite grid
  • Dual-Axial Grid:  This pattern consist of two primary streets running crosswise from each other, each of which is wider than the other streets, and each typically being centered within the grid that makes up the town or subdivision. 

The original townsite grid of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, is centered upon the wider primary streets that intersect at the heart of the downtown.
  • Main Street Blocks:  This form consists of a single row of square and/or rectangular blocks to each side of the primary street of the town, with the balance of the town developing in a loose grid, non-uniform grid, or other non-grid street/block pattern.

Bernville, Pennsylvania, has a single row of rectangular blocks on each side of its main street.
  • Major/Minor Grid:  This pattern consists of a primary grid of wide streets overlaid upon a secondary grid of narrow streets, with the typical patterns consisting of narrow streets alternating with wide streets in one or both directions of the grid.  Both the major and minor streets front upon building lots.  The narrower streets can often act as service streets (such as an alley) to commercial buildings located on the wide streets and that are built to the full depth of a block, backing onto the narrow streets.

The northeast neighborhoods of Reading, Pennsylvania, are dominated by a primary square grid of wider streets.  Narrower streets running north/south alternate between the wider streets, forming rectangular blocks which are further subdivided by alleys that also run north/south.
  • Non-Uniform Grid:  This pattern consists of parallel streets running in two directions at right angles.  However, the street spacing varies, and the blocks are not uniform in size.Some streets run continuously, while others run intermittently.  This pattern is often associated with a series of subdivisions, where each subdivision creates its own pattern of streets and blocks that vary from adjacent and surrounding subdivisions. 

A non-uniform grid on the southwest side of Springfield, Missouri
  • Subdivided Grid:  This form consists of a uniform grid of streets forming large blocks that were later subdivided into smaller blocks of typically varying patterns and sizes.  This form stems from either an original large-block town plan or subdivision whose sizable blocks contained estate lots, or from a planned group of small rural agricultural tracts for family farms or orchards.  These lots were later either subdivided individually, or lots were consolidated and subdivided for development.

The historic large blocks on the east side of Salt Lake City, Utah, have been subdivided in a variety of ways.
  • Parallelogram Grid:  This pattern consists of parallel streets that run in two directions, but the angle between the two street directions is other than a right angle.

Parallelogram blocks south of Wilshire Boulevard and west of LaBrea Avenue in Los Angeles, California
  • Loose Grid:  This pattern consists of streets that generally run in two directions, but the individual streets or groups of streets do not run exactly parallel, and streets are not always continuous across multiple blocks.  This form can often meld into an organic form when street patterns start to vary significantly in direction.

The loose grid of Harlan, Kentucky

Additionally, different grid patterns can occur in a variety of ways across a large area, and can be categorized as follows:
  • Grid Groups:  This pattern consists of two or more uniform grids with streets running in the same directions but with each grid consisting of different sized blocks, or blocks in differing orientation (e.g., one grid with block lengths oriented north-south, with a second grid with block lengths oriented east-west). 

A variety of grids on the east side of Pampa, Texas
  • Rotated Grids:  This pattern consists of two or more groups of grids, with each group oriented at a different angle to each other.The intersection between two such groups consists of angled street intersections and triangular or trapezoidal blocks.

Rotated grids in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Shifted Grids:  This pattern consists of two or more groups of grids of matching orientation, but with each group offset from each other along a shared edge such that the streets running in the same direction do not align between grids.

Shifted grids on the west side of Waco, Texas

Formalist Ideal Form
The Formalist Ideal is a planning principal utilizing formal patterns as a defining element of an initial city or neighborhood plan.  This form tends to consist of radial avenues emanating from formal public squares or parks, or symmetrical patterns planned about formal public spaces or primary streets.  The underlying street patterns tend to be grid form in nature, but can also consist of concentric rings or curved streets that arc between the radial streets.  Though this ideal was instituted for new towns in America as early as the late 1700's, most notably with Washington, D.C., it was also influential to the later City Beautiful Movement of the late 1800's/early 1900's.

Washington, District of Columbia, whose site was selected for a new national capital in 1790, has a formal layout based upon a plan by Pierre Charles L'Enfant.

The 1896 layout for New Plymouth, Idaho, consists of a simple grid of streets that turn to form a beautiful pattern of crescent and radial streets.  A horseshoe-shaped landscaped boulevard encompasses the town.

Planned Naturalist Form
The Planned Naturalist Form was applied to many new towns and subdivisions of the late 1800's and early 1900's, based upon an ideal of nature as an antidote to the overcrowded and polluted cities of the era.  The street pattern of this form tends to consist of sweeping curves and angled intersections in an attempt to create "natural" forms in contrast to the perceived rigid/harsh forms of cities.  Lots were typically significantly larger than in cities, with homes set back from the street with landscaped yards and parkways.  This form initially developed with the commuter rail suburbs of the time period, which were located outside of large cities along commuter rail lines that fed into the cities.  However, this form was also influential in the layouts of numerous subdivisions within cities, towns, and automobile suburbs into the early 1900's.

The graceful streets of Riverside, Illinois, outside of Chicago, were laid out in 1869 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

City Beautiful Form
The City Beautiful Form is the result of the City Beautiful Movement of the late 1800's/early 1900's, which was an urban aesthetic and social movement in the same time period as the Naturalist Form.  The movement was an attempt to recreate portions of cities and/or to extend cities in a grand, formal fashion in order to both beautify the city and to evoke positive social development of its citizens.  The City Beautiful Form is typically an overlay of formal elements upon other forms, such as the grid form, creating dynamic landscaped boulevards that connect civic buildings, grand public plazas surrounded by formal civic buildings (civic center), and both formal and naturalist urban parks within and on the edges of cities.

The beautiful diagonal boulevards, public spaces, and tree-lined avenue leading to graceful parks in Buffalo, New York, were developed as part of the City Beautiful Movement.

Post-War Suburban Form
The period after World War II brought about radical departures from previous city and town forms.  This occurred as a culmination of numerous factors, including the academic re-thinking of urban living brought about via the modernist architectural movement of the early 1900's, zoning based upon the CIAM and the Athens Charter, and the dynamic social, economic, political and technological influences that were prominent in the mid-to-late 20th Century.  The street forms that came out of these changes were based upon the use of the automobile as the primary mode of transportation for all activities.  This was also the period during which zoning and its requirement of the separation of land uses became prominent, as well as the desire to channel heavier traffic onto primary roads while minimizing or eliminating through-traffic on residential streets.

Levittown, New York, is the seminal post-war suburb.

The graceful curving streets  of several 1970's and 1980's era neighborhoods on the west side of Amarillo, Texas

All of these factors brought about the use of dynamic and often purposefully disjointed street patterns.  Streets with dog-leg or right-angle turns, curving or looping streets, and cul-de-sacs discouraged through-traffic in residential neighborhoods while also creating a casual aesthetic that many post-war home buyers would find appealing.  A loose patterning of streets into large super-blocks and development tracts would also be used along and around highways, primary roads and their intersections for newly developed commercial districts.  These commercial districts would consist of large commercial lots on which all parking for the individual use was required to be accommodated, bringing about a total break from the contiguous, mixed-use, sidewalk-oriented commercial districts that came before.

Recent suburban development in Joliet and Shorewood, Illinois, outside of Chicago

Urban Renewal Form
The 1950's and 1960's saw a major shift in the movement of people and businesses out of older large cities, and out of the downtowns and central neighborhoods of other cities and towns across America.  To fight back, cities and towns during this time period tried to re-make themselves in a "modern" way in an attempt to entice businesses and people to stay in or move back to our downtowns and city neighborhoods.  Cities used urban renewal monies available from federal and state governments and/or from their own taxing authority, along with their powers of eminent domain, to consolidate numerous lots and blocks to build new modernist complexes such as government centers, convention centers, coliseums, stadiums, universities, office plazas, retail malls and housing complexes.

The primary form used in this urban renewal era was the urban super-block.  The urban super-block is a large parcel of land consolidated from numerous smaller blocks, cleared of most or all previous buildings and through streets to allow for new large-scale development.  Superblocks are obvious in their overly large size compared with surrounding block patterns, with buildings often grouped in a campus-like setting or consisting of a comparatively oversized building (mega-building) covering most of or the entire site.

A large percentage of smaller rectangular blocks in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, were consolidated for urban renewal projects in the last half of the 20th century.
(Urban renewal areas are highlighted in orange and red by me.)

A significant portion of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, New York, was gutted in the mid-20th century to make way for massive urban renewal programs.  The result is the series of consolidated superblocks along the East River which are filled with a random pattern of high-rise housing set within the open blocks.

Lawton, Oklahoma, tore out half of its historic downtown in the 1970's in order to build a suburban-style shopping mall in an effort to stave off the decline of the downtown area.  Note the remnants of the city's historic main street along the north edge of the mall's north parking area.

New Urbanism Form
The New Urbanism Form is based upon the New Urbanism movement.  This movement developed as a reaction against the auto-oriented suburban sprawl brought about by the Post-War Suburban Form, as well as the urban renewal development seen in large cities throughout the last half of the 20th Century.  Academic and grass-roots criticism of post-war planning started in the 1960's, gained traction in the 1970's, and started to become influential in the 1980's, gaining significant momentum into the 21st Century.  The basic ideal of New Urbanism is to return to the basic relationships of pre-war town and city form, allowing for pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and commercial districts, mixed-use planning, a variety of housing types, and pedestrian and transit-oriented design to decrease automobile dependence and to reduce auto traffic congestion.  The street patterning consists of a pedestrian-friendly web of streets typically consisting of a variation on the grid or a combination of gridded and curvilinear streets, along with formal placement of parks, public spaces, playgrounds and public facilities to give communities a unique identity and a sense of place.  New Urbanism can occur as new developments in suburbia, as redevelopment of former industrial or other sites within cities, or as smaller infill development within a town or city.

Seaside, Florida, was the first major planned community in the United States to be designed and built based upon the concepts of New Urbanism.

New Urbanism is being used to redevelop the site of the former Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado.


Most all cities and towns develop and exist as commercial entities.  They begin and grow primarily because of an economic benefit to their location, with that benefit impacting the size of their population.

Towns begin their existence at a particular location and time, and this location tends to become and remain the historic commercial center of the community.  This commercial center creates a pattern that is a unique feature of each city or town, and can often still be inferred even after significant growth over time.  As towns grow, new commercial patterns develop based upon economic and social changes, along with advancements in transportation.

Following are a number of typologies that can be used to categorize cities and towns relative to their commercial forms.Most cities and towns have commercial forms that span more than one typology.

Traditional Commercial Form
This form consists of the contiguous sidewalk-oriented retail and commercial development typical of the historic commercial districts of towns or cities, Commuter Suburb, Street-Car or other historic neighborhoods, or within New Urbanist communities.  Such commercial areas, either historically or currently, are also adjacent to medium to high density pedestrian-friendly residential neighborhoods, allowing for easy pedestrian access between residential and commercial areas.

Downtown San Luis Obispo, California, consists of traditional blocks that are pedestrian-friendly and filled with contiguous buildings containing numerous retail stores, restaurants, and services.

Main Street Commercial Form
Arguably the most common initial commercial form, this consists of contiguous commercial buildings that run along one or both sides of a primary street, typically for several blocks.  This form can develop from and be identified by the following characteristics:
  • Commercial Road:  This form develops from an initial village that grew linearly along a primary road.  The primary identifier for this sub-form is a commercial district consisting of a linear series of contiguous buildings along a primary street, with non-uniform and offset streets and blocks to either side of the primary street.

Ephrata, Pennsylvania, developed along the commercial road that runs from the northwest to the southeast.
  • Crossroads:  This form develops from an initial village that grows primarily along one of two or more intersecting well-travelled roads.  The primary identifier for this sub-form is a commercial district consisting of a linear series of contiguous buildings, with a series of non-uniform and offset streets and blocks to either side of the primary streets that intersect, creating a loose grid, non-uniform grid, or random form pattern within each segment between the primary roads. 

Doylestown, Pennsylvania, grew from the site of a tavern at a crossroads north of Philadelphia.  The commercial district extends along both routes.
  • Front Street:  This form is identified by a linear commercial district that is focused along a street that runs alongside (fronts) a waterfront on a bay, along a river or canal, or along a rail line.  The front street commercial buildings of this form can be along one side of the street, with the other side open to the water or rail line, or the commercial buildings can be on both sides of the street, with buildings on one side backing onto the water or rail line.

Beaufort, North Carolina, has an historic commercial district along its waterside front street.

Spencerville, Ohio, has a front street commercial district alongside the MIami and Erie Canal upon which it was founded around 1840.

Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has a commercial district focused along the two front streets that parallel each side of the railroad upon which the town was founded.
  • Grid Main Street:  This commercial form develops primarily along both sides of one street that is typically centered within a pre-planned grid form covering numerous blocks in each direction. 

Summit Street in Arkansas City, Kansas is the primary commercial street within the historic town grid.

Town Square Commercial Form
This common form consists of contiguous commercial buildings that face upon a town square along each of the blocks that surround the square. 

The central commercial district of Lincoln, Illinois, is focused around the town's historic courthouse square.

District Commercial Form
This form consists of focused commercial development across multiple streets and blocks.  This can occur in the central part of a pre-planned grid form, as the later development from an earlier front street or main street commercial form, or as focused development along two or more intersecting streets.  This form can also be a designed component of pre-war planned suburbs and New Urbanism development.

Champaign, Illinois, has an historic commercial district that spans multiple blocks and streets adjacent to the Illinois Central (now Canadian National) railroad.

Historic Industrial District
Prior to World War II, transportation of raw materials and manufactured goods for trade primarily occurred via rail and/or water.  Additionally, workers often did not own cars, and so many or most workers would walk to work or take some form of public transportation to reach the industrial plants.  Both of these situations required companies to build their plants within or immediately adjacent to a neighborhood, town or city.  The Historic Industrial District contains the large-scale industrial buildings from the Pre-War Era.  The buildings are either one or more stories, and tend to be located adjacent to the historic commercial and/or residential areas of a town.  The buildings often cover an area larger than the typical blocks found within the community.

Historic steel mills line the south bank of a waterway in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Downtown is immediately to the southwest, with adjacent residential neighborhoods to the south.

Historic textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, lined the numerous canals that surround downtown.  The canals were were built in 1820 as a power source for the mills.

Historic Warehouse District
Historic Warehouse Districts, similar to the Historic Industrial District, tended to locate near rail and/or water transport in larger towns and cities, adjacent to the historic commercial district.  Typically larger than most commercial buildings of the period, but generally not as large in footprint as major factories, these warehouse buildings would often be built within the typical blocks found within the community.

The large-scale historic warehouse buildings in Old Town in central Wichita, Kansas, have been transformed into a popular entertainment district that houses shops, restaurants, galleries, and clubs.

Long, narrow historic warehouses line the waterfront in downtown Savannah, Georgia.

Commuter Suburb Commercial Form
This form consists of a commercial district focused around a commuter rail station on one or both sides of the railroad tracks within a suburb in a large metropolitan area.  The form can occur as a front street, main street or district format, but developed primarily to serve the community housing the station, as opposed to serving as a regional commercial center.

The pedestrian-friendly downtown of Lake Forest, Illinois, is adjacent to the town's commuter rail station in suburban Chicago.

Street Car Commercial Form
This form consists of contiguous sidewalk-oriented retail and commercial buildings that developed along street car lines in neighborhoods of pre-war cities.  This commercial development was surrounded by pedestrian-friendly moderate to high-density residential neighborhoods.

The commercial strip along Lincoln Avenue south of Belmont Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, developed along a streetcar line.

Suburban Strip Commercial Form
This form consists of a variety of commercial buildings along a primary artery, with each building set back from the road and apart from each other, and fronting upon parking lots located adjacent to the road.  The buildings can be single-use, or can be shopping centers that house multiple establishments in a linear, L-shaped, or U-shaped strip center format.  This form typically develops piecemeal over time.

The automobile-oriented development along Broad Street in suburban Richmond, Virginia, is typical of modern American commercial strips.

Suburban Commercial District
Similar to the Suburban Strip Commercial Form, this district spans a larger area, both on major arterial streets as well as along collector or local roadways to one or both sides of the arterials.  Buildings are located on individual blocks with each building set back from the road and apart from each other, and fronting upon parking lots located adjacent to the road.  Retail is typically focused along and at the intersections of the major roads, with offices and service businesses on the remaining parcels.  Some districts also can include supply houses, distribution centers, and light industry, especially if located adjacent to major transportation such as highways and railways.

A suburban commercial district developed around the intersection of Wolflin Avenue and Georgia Street in Amarillo, Texas, starting in the 1950's.

Pre-Planned Suburban Commercial Form
This form consists of a large area of suburban-style commercial development tracts in a pre-planned layout initiated by a single developer, and consisting primarily of low to mid-rise offices buildings, ancillary retail and commercial buildings, and often with a large retail shopping complex as its focus.  Occasionally such development might include one or more outdoor public/semi-public spaces, such as parks and/or plazas, around which much of the development occurs.  This district often provides the commercial identity for a particular suburban community or groups of communities.  This form is often part of a larger planned post-war suburban development that incorporated residential, commercial, and public components, but prior to the development of the New Urbanism movement.

The Woodlands, Texas, is a master planned community that began in the 1970's outside of Houston, Texas.  Its commercial district was designed around a retail shopping mall and an office district located along a small lake and a canal.

Suburban Mall Commercial Form
This form focuses a large area of suburban-style commercial development around a large enclosed or open-air shopping mall or lifestyle center.  The surrounding commercial development can occur piecemeal after the initial development of the mall, or as a pre-planned component of a large planned suburban development encompassing large amounts of housing and commercial development.

A large suburban commercial district sprang up around the 1970's-era Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Illinois, outside of Chicago.

New Urbanism Commercial Form
This form consists of a contiguous group of similarly-designed sidewalk-oriented commercial buildings, occasionally also including residential units and/or offices on upper floors, in a pre-planned layout that attempts to re-create traditional commercial street forms.  This can be part of a larger New Urbanism Form community, but can also be a self-contained suburban development that attempts to act as a town center for the surrounding suburban area.

Reston, Virginia, located outside of Washington, D.C., is a planned community that began in the 1960's.  Beginning in the 1980's, the location for the intended commercial center was developed as a New Urbanism-styled town center, incorporating small-scaled blocks focused upon a main street, and incorporating retail, restaurant, office, and residential uses in a pedestrian-friendly development.

Suburban Office District
The Suburban Office District is a commercial area that houses primarily low-rise, mid-rise, and/or occasional high-rise office buildings of various sizes.  The buildings can be individual on a lot containing all required parking, or a campus of similarly-designed buildings with associated parking located on a super-block parcel of land.  Pre-planned office park developments often provide landscaping for each lot, as well as specified architectural design requirements.  A minimal amount of retail, services, and restaurants might be included within the district to serve the office workers.

The "Technology Corridor", stretching along both sides of Interstate 88 in west suburban Chicago, Illinois, contains a large number of low-to-mid-rise office buildings and office parks.

Suburban Industrial District
Similar to the Suburban Office District, the Suburban Industrial District is an area that houses primarily light-industry and distribution buildings.  The buildings are typically one-story but large-scaled, and sit on their own lot containing all automobile and truck parking as well as associated off-street loading facilities.  Pre-planned industrial parks often provide landscaping for each lot, as well as specified architectural design requirements.  A minimal amount of retail, services, and restaurants might be included within the district to serve the industrial workers.

A massive collection of large-scale warehouse and distribution complexes has developed along Interstate 55 in southwest suburban Chicago, Illinois.  Note the size of these buildings compared with the nearby residential subdivisions.

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