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New Urbanism – Freedom of Choice

August 16, 2010

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” — Newton’s Third Law of Motion. In our sound-bite society, this often becomes translated like this: “For every problem there is a hyped over-reaction.” Personally I think there is a major problem with zoning laws in this country that have had the unintended consequence of leading us to suburban sprawl, a dependence on automobiles, and a loss of opportunities to interact with neighbors in our communities.

The hyped over-reaction to sprawl is this video, but I know why the maker’s of the video used this method…to get our attention on a subject that really needs to be addressed.

If you hadn’t heard the term “New Urbanism” before this video you probably knew what it was, you just might not have known that this is what it was called. New Urbanism is really a return to Traditional Neighborhood Design with walkable, pedestrian friendly, mixed use developments that also emphasize sustainable design and public transportation. On a basic level there is an almost intrinsic human desire to connect with others and return to “Main Street” communities. Over the last two decades this has been most evident in the success of outdoor “Lifestyle” retail centers that have all but replaced indoor malls as the retail development of choice. While some of these create the “look” of Main Street they remain primarily just a retail center accessed by cars. The most successful New Urbanist examples of these lifestyle centers are true multi-use developments with retail on the street level, and office and residential development above, or in some cases down the street from, the retail.

One of the worst and unfortunately longest-lasting contributions of the Modernist movement in the first half of the twentieth century was single use zoning that became adopted almost universally across the United States by planning and zoning departments, making traditional mixed-use neighborhoods illegal. At its core the idea behind single-use zoning was to separate the “evil and dirty” commercial and industrial spaces from the “pristine” residential spaces that make up the American Dream.

While this makes some sense when you are talking about trying to keep a heavy industrial use out of a residential neighborhood, it really makes no sense when applied to everyday retail and commercial office space. Almost overnight these zoning standards forced America to be dependent on the car to get anywhere. No longer could you walk out your front door and walk down the sidewalk to the neighborhood grocery store or your office. Instead you were forced to get in your car and drive. The result of this is suburban sprawl, and one of the worst examples of suburban sprawl happens to be where I currently call home…Atlanta.

The same producers of the video above, American Makeover, also produced the video below called “Sprawlanta.”

This video does a great job of outlining the problems of sprawl and some suggested solutions, and I think in general most people can easily see the advantages of New Urbanism, and a return to traditional neighborhood design paradigms. Unfortunately due to current zoning regulations these types of developments are simply illegal throughout most of the country. Slowly planners are starting to see the benefits of mixed use zoning and beginning to allow exceptions to current codes, or in some cases actually writing new codes around New Urbanist principles.

So with all these positives, where is the controversy? Why isn’t everyone jumping on the New Urbanist bandwagon? Why are some communities in political turmoil over whether to enact New Urbanist policies? Many of the proponents of New Urbanism rightly claim that many Americans want New Urbanist-style developments, and should have the freedom of choice to live in these type of environments that are currently not allowed thanks to current zoning laws. I agree with this and don’t think there is any controversy with this position. I believe the controversy comes from some of the biggest proponents of New Urbanism taking it a step further. While claiming a desire for freedom of choice some are proposing limited choice in the other direction. Many of the vocal proponents are academics that come across as elitist, condescending, or even “preachy” (see this example). Activism and a belief that there is only one “right” way to do New Urbanism is short sighted and rubs the typical American the wrong way.

Many of the most vocal proponents of New Urbanism are urbanites who love living in a dense city high rise and riding public transportation, and who look down their nose at suburbanites, or worse they privately (and sometimes publicly) hope and advocate for what is in effect the demise and abandonment of the suburbs. A large portion of the population of this country does not fit that description. Millions of Americans live in rural or suburban areas because they like the privacy of having a space of their own and enjoy living closer to nature or away from the crowds and bustle of the city. With the development of the internet there are also millions of people who telecommute to work and don’t need to live in an urban environment to be close to a job. A fear, whether it is completely grounded in reality or not, is that the New Urbanists want to use the force of law to exchange one extreme (suburban sprawl caused by single use zoning) for the other (development restricted only within urban boundaries created through revised zoning regulations).

Thus the controversy, and why I would advocate for Freedom of Choice…not “either/or,” but “both/and.” Change the regulations to allow mixed use zoning that people obviously want (just look at the success of New Urbanist neighborhoods), but don’t restrict it narrowly to only specific urban growth/redevelopment districts. Abandoning the suburbs is not the answer. I believe the answer will be found by transforming the suburbs through the strategic infill of urban mixed-use nodes, and fundamentally transforming the master planning of new suburban developments. There are some great examples of what are essentially suburban developments using New Urbanist design principles. Probably the most famous, and one of the earliest, is Seaside, FL, the idyllic town used as the setting for the movie “The Truman Show.”

Another great example that I personally really love is found in the far flung suburbs of metro Atlanta in Cumming, GA. I have visited and photographed Vickery several times. In many ways this development is not unlike your typical suburban single family neighborhood, but with some key New Urbanist differences. The retail and commercial office areas that make up the “main street downtown” called “Vickery Village” are within a short walk or bike ride and include residential lofts above the main street level making this a true mixed-use development, but in addition to single family houses there are also live-work flats, and multi-story, high density apartment/condos and attached townhouses.

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Main Street

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Main Street

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Traditional Design Styles

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Traditional Design Styles

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Typical House

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Typical House

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Beautiful Parks

Vickery - Cumming, GA - Beautiful Parks

If you take a look at the master plan for Vickery you’ll see that there are no cul-de-sacs, there are numerous neighborhood parks all within walking distance, and there is a network of “alleys” where the cars are parked behind the homes. This allows the houses to utilize a traditional front porch that addresses the street and helps build community as neighbors walk down the sidewalks from their homes to the parks or the neighborhood shopping, offices, and restaurants.

I believe that developments like Vickery should be a model for future suburban infill, and commercial developments like those found at Vickery Village could even be “grafted” onto existing suburban neighborhoods to fill the mixed use void, by providing shopping and office options that are within walking distance instead of requiring suburbanites to jump in the car for every need. Let the market decide. Give Americans the Freedom of Choice and watch New Urbanism “redeem” both the suburbs and the inner city for the next generation.

How do you feel about New Urbanism? What do you think can be done to reverse the problems caused by suburban sprawl?

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47 Comments leave one →
  1. Bryan permalink
    August 17, 2010 8:11 am

    Jody-
    Great blog & I love the New Urban concept… My only pushback is that, even as evidenced by Glenwood Park, developers have to commit to being able to not outprice the common person with their TND offerings… My wife and I recently contributed to the suburban sprawl here outside of Houston, after looking at a New Urban concept neighborhood and bought almost 1000 more square feet for 50,000 less than the most entry-level home- we needed the space and affordability more than the lifestyle. If you pay attention to the clientele, cars, clothes in the video, it seems that Glenwood Park is an upper middle class community. Vickery, Seaside, Celebration… in my experience are as well… To me, the larger issue of embracing a new way of living and thinking isn’t about changing the desire for people to live there, its changing the ability to live there… and it will take some real creativity and commitment from developers and designers to make this an accessible lifestyle for a broader population. Glad you guys are on the front lines of that charge… would love to engage in a discussion on how houses of worship and faith play a part in the TND model…

  2. August 17, 2010 9:27 am

    Bryan, thanks for the thoughtful response. I completely agree that affordability should be a goal. Unfortunately right now I think this is currently a market issue of supply and demand. Like you mentioned in your own experience, a much smaller house in a new urbanist neighborhood is much more expensive than one in the suburbs, and that’s because so many more people are choosing to pay a higher price to be a part of these “communities”. Once the market catches up and more developers start offering TND neighborhoods, as well as offering the quality of house design/construction found in these developments more inventory will be available and the price difference should begin to fall.

    At Visioneering Studios, we are trying to develop Christ-Centered Communities by providing church campus designs that are mixed-use 7-day-a-week community centers that give back to, and help contribute to, the overall community. Historically churches were at the center of community life alongside the courthouse and the town square. Thanks to single-use zoning, churches have been relegated to “begging” for permission to be allowed anywhere through Conditional Use Permits because typically in most jurisdictions there is not a zone that allows churches by right. We think churches could and should be an integral part of the community wherever they are located and community-focused churches would make an excellent addition to any new urbanist development.

  3. August 17, 2010 10:28 am

    Great post. I’m almost 30, but not yet “settled” anywhere. My dream is to find this urban dream and live somewhere with a great mix of stores, shops, industry and housing. Wish me luck…I think I’ll need it.

  4. August 17, 2010 10:42 am

    new villagelism

  5. August 17, 2010 10:59 am

    Great post. Lots to think about. I know I wish I lived in a neighborhood rather than the life my city’s layout dictates.

    Oh and: “For every problem there is a hyped over-reaction.” — brilliant!

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  6. Abby permalink
    August 17, 2010 11:00 am

    This is mostly what England is like – always a shop/school/pub etc withing walking distance. And you don’t need to own a car to live there. That’s one of the things I love about it.

  7. thedadada permalink
    August 17, 2010 11:00 am

    This is a great post. You’ve given me a friendly way to share these ideas within the classes I teach. I am more familiar with the term “Smart Growth” which espouses essentially the same ideas. Conserving green space, preserving biodiversity, reducing greenhouse emissions, and getting people out of their homes and walking to destinations are great benefits of this approach. I think you suggest a nice balance in policy that reflects an understanding of the related challenges associated with implementing new urbanist/smart growth principles.

  8. August 17, 2010 12:01 pm

    I recently blogged about Newton’s Third Law, too. 🙂

    Step 1: Move 45 miles or more away from your place of employment because you want a nice house on a bigger piece of land and where the prices are cheaper.

    Step 2: Complain about the price of gas.

    Choice indeed.

  9. columbia2.0 permalink
    August 17, 2010 12:19 pm

    What a great post! We’ve re-posted part of it on our blog linking back to you. Columbia, Maryland, is an original master planned community, 43 years old, that has drifted over the years towards this non-ideal of suburban sprawl. However, we just got approval (Master Plan and Zoning) in February to begin redevelopment. This redevelopment will transform our “downtown” from unconnected, isolated, unwalkable areas to just what you reference here: mixed-use development with an emphasis on getting people out of cars and on their feet, with the added bonus of all kinds of cultural/community amenities and amazing environmental restoration. It’s helpful to see pieces like this to help our community see the bigger picture on just what it is we are about to do. Thanks for putting this piece together. We’ll keep an eye on your blog!
    – Columbia 2.0 The Next Generation of Columbia (http://columbia2.wordpress.com)

  10. August 17, 2010 12:19 pm

    You should check out southern Arizona, where nearly everyone has a 6-foot cinder block wall built around their yard. Most people around here claim they could not live without it. I don’t know whether I consider these walls a symbol or a consequence of the cultural strife Arizona is currently experiencing.

  11. August 17, 2010 12:33 pm

    Great Blog with one of the most important topics that public policy needs to take action on immediately. Too many townships in America are totally ignorant and apathetic to the fact that we have only so many resources that can be ruined before the entire eco-system collapses. The time is certainly NOW to get back to the conservation efforts of yesteryear.

  12. August 17, 2010 12:38 pm

    Great post! I have visited Celebration, Florida’s planned community. It is an awesome small town and would be ideal for raising a family. I’ve also lived in a small town in Germany and enjoyed the convenience of walking to the local bakery and downtown shopping. I love the thoughts of New Urbanism spreading to my neck of the woods!

  13. August 17, 2010 12:47 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. The zoning laws are unnecessarily restrictive, and the result is a patchwork.

  14. August 17, 2010 12:49 pm

    Excellent post! I am currently seeking out an apartment in a similar place in ATL now. Unfortunately, I will still have a commute to work…

  15. August 17, 2010 12:54 pm

    I feel like I should being my reply with my typical “As a geographer, I…blah blah blah”. 🙂

    I’ve always been a supporter of returning to the city from suburbia. However, I do not feel that we have the right to just abandon the suburbs to their fate. We built them, we should claim responsibility for either maintaining them for use, or removing them to assist nature in reclaiming her property.

    I also agree that if we continue to develop outwards, that we owe it to ourselves to provide city-centred amenities to these outer reaches, lest we force suburbanites to travel great distances for employment, supplies, etc.

    As it currently is promoted, I am not pro-new urbanism. The concept is sound, however the practice is pricey and elitest. If we offer mixed use residential, it’s important to offer mixed density residential as well. Not all good people are high income, and not all high income people are good. New urbanism as it stands tends to promote exclusivity, which isn’t something I’m particularly a fan of.

    As for reversing the problems of urban sprawl? Hmm, I’m not certain that is a possibility until society undergoes some serious culture change.

  16. August 17, 2010 1:24 pm

    I’ve lived in both suburban and inner city areas- I’ve liked aspects of both. I do not, however, encourage any sort of new-urbanism as it is not only unrealistic in practice, but as someone stated previously, promotes exclusivity. Also, though it could promote convenience and serenity or whatever the intent, it also is another medium for laziness. Everything should be closer together and less spread for what, a lack of motivation to ride a bike or jump in a car or on a bus? I feel like Americans are lazy enough- this would be another excuse for validating laziness.

  17. Amanda Jump permalink
    August 17, 2010 2:52 pm

    New Urbanism? I hadn’t heard about it until reading your post, but I have been dreaming of it for several years now! And since when did walking any distance become an example of ‘laziness’, as mentioned in a prior comment? Goodness. If you can get any American out of their car and on their own two feet for more than ten minutes, especially in the elements, you’ve really accomplished something. It’s not about the convenience of it; just because it’s within walking distance doesn’t make it convenient (though because I enjoy walking, I would tend to consider it such). I think it’s partially about a feeling of community and getting a breath of fresh(er) air – stepping away from industry, traffic, and saving some wear and tear on that automobile while I’m at it. Though the roads are not friendly to pedestrians where I currently live, I walk as much as possible – to the local library, corner store, restaurants, and RedBox. I envy New York’s sidewalks and relatively catered to pedestrians, though I have no desire to live in that large of a city. One community that captures my ideal is a place called Celebration, Florida (I see already mentioned above!). If you get the chance, it’s worth a visit.

  18. August 17, 2010 2:55 pm

    I live in Capitol Hill in Seattle and I walk or bike everywhere for everything. Here, there are countless buildings with retail space on the bottom and housing on top.
    I think it’s really a matter of re-locating to the places that have already naturally implemented these ideas. I suppose I should consider myself lucky to have found one so quickly.

  19. August 17, 2010 4:27 pm

    I’ve never been one for the suburbs. Seems like horror movies thrive in that neck of the woods. But She Is Just A Rat makes a good point, what would happen to those culs de sac? (which by the way is the proper plural of cul de sac, strange enough). I really appreciated that video you posted up. Very entertaining and enlightening. I’ve always wanted to live somewhere where everything was in walking distance, possibly Manhattan but affordable real estate is pretty much shot there. I’d consider Georgia but then I hate the sweltering weather when I was there last summer.

  20. Victoria permalink
    August 17, 2010 4:46 pm

    I can’t imagine where I live in South FL ever being able to change. It’s soooo far gone. There are entire “towns” made up of just suburban neighborhoods that were created out of thin air. They plowed down trees, dried up swampland and dropped neighborhoods on top. Our housing boom was so big and came on so quickly that we had to build schools for these new neighborhoods and now that so many people are unable to handle their mortgages we have schools now with not enough students as families pick up and move back to where ever they came from.

    I think the only option for other places and some parts of where I live is what you suggest – some type of middle ground that bridges the massive gap between where we are and where we want to be ideally. It incorporates what already exists (what seems irreversible), and brings in things that would help so many people get off of their many suburban dependences. I’m with Erin above me – I will likely relocate to attain that lifestyle as my city is a textbook example of Suburban Sprawl.

  21. August 17, 2010 4:50 pm

    I agree! It would be so nice to go back to ‘how it was’ 🙂 With a promenade and everything!

  22. Chris permalink
    August 17, 2010 5:06 pm

    I reached your posting through the Columbia 2.0 site.

    My primary criticism of “new urbanism” lies not in its concepts as you express them, e.g., “transforming the suburbs through the strategic infill of urban mixed-use nodes,” which I heartily support, but in its misuse by developers as a PR device to mask classic suburban sprawl, e.g., “look at the nice ‘new urban’ development that we are building 25 miles away from anything else.”

    Another thought: the market place imperfectly measures the value of infill and increased density because the drive-to-qualify equation heavily favors long commutes.

  23. August 17, 2010 6:43 pm

    Great discussion in the comments everyone. I think there is still a lot to learn, both from new ideas and from history. I also don’t think there is one right solution or that someone out there has it all figured out already. Regarding “elitism” I agree that much of the current New Urbanist offerings are on the high end of the price spectrum, and I agree that this should not be the desired goal long-term. I’m hopeful that this is a relatively short-term transition period as New Urbanist principles become more accepted by jurisdictions and the public, which will lead to more developers jumping in at all price levels and the increased supply will begin to take care of the current excess demand resulting in more affordable options. I just read another blog post (http://bit.ly/bZI3nJ) that made great points about other government regulation/interference with the free market (beyond just zoning) that probably deserves more of the blame for the current sprawl than most people have been willing to admit. Check it out and keep the comments coming.

  24. August 17, 2010 7:23 pm

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    I love the idea of New Urbanism. Living in Ireland I never needed a car to get anywhere. The shops, post office, restaurants, buses, trains, etc. were all within walking distance. This not only reduced my own carbon footprint (and was an easy way to get exercise), but it also saved me time and money. I never had to look or pay for parking, zero time in rush hour traffic, and no insurance or repairs to pay. I’d like to see all major city planners pick up on this idea with VERY special attention on cheap and efficient public transport (look to the London Tube system as a good example).

    Unfortunately, however, this will not reverse the problems caused by suburban sprawl. It may help, yes, but we still have a HUGE population control problem. Until that’s solved, we’re just putting a big, pretty band-aid on the problem.

    Natina

  25. August 17, 2010 7:43 pm

    I currently visit a place where you can actually walk downtown to the city from your house and I absolutely love that… you can walk quicker and get to a place much faster than sitting in your car because the traffic gets so bad downtown. The community is really close too so everyone knows everyone else business, say hello, smile, ect. I definitely really enjoy it and that ability to be so close to everything and not having to get inside of the car to get there.

  26. August 17, 2010 10:36 pm

    I recently moved to a suburb of Chicago and somehow landed in a true “best of both worlds” situation. I have a single family home with a yard and neighbors but I can also walk to the train to the city, the grocery store, a pharmacy, a hardware store, hair dresser, restaurants, coffee shops…the list goes on and on. I LOVE it here. The only time I use my car is to go to big box stores and to the zoo. I REALLY wish the rest of the suburbs in the country could be like this. I think everyone would benefit.

  27. August 18, 2010 12:43 am

    Always good to have articles to rethink our living choices. We recently visited a recently desinged neighbourhood in Malmo, Sweden that was designed in a manner that was more oriented for pedestrians and cyclists. Wish I could post photos in comments. Inspires me to blog this later.

    Another is sustainable communities that are not just about green grass, reduced carbon footprint but also designed so that it is closer to services and alternative transportation. Or even designed with sidewalks. Can’t even remember the number of neighbourhoods that have no sidewalks which is ill-thought if you want to encourage a stroll.

    We can have all the romantic notions of being surrounded by kms. of green acreage and driving around..just make sure you are prepared to have frail, elderly people (like future boomers) who insist on still driving around when they shouldn’t be. 🙂 Actually living close to services in city, if one chooses location right, means no real need to even consider retirement communities, etc. unless one gets very old/very frail. Multi-generational neighbourhoods are the healthiest.

    Or teenagers wanting to..have a car or borrow the car if you are not willing to schlep them around.

    We live within 10 min. walk to all services, at the foot of several bike-pedestrian routes and rapid train commuter stations.

    I worked in the suburbs for nearly 3 yrs. It was a convoluted 1.5 hr. 1 way. It was survival time…

  28. August 18, 2010 3:44 am

    Amazing, but of course where I am right now the only interest seems to be in how much money can be made from a plot of land – forget design, style, practicality, environment, all it amounts to is money. It´s a great shame as Spain is a beautiful country but is being trashed by greedy people who now say they are moving out of Spain (with their ill gotten gains) to pastures new because Spain is in crisis with millions of unwanted, empty housing. What a shame to trash such a lovely country!

  29. blackwatertown permalink
    August 18, 2010 7:14 am

    Mixed use zones are a good idea, but I disagree with your opposition to cul-de-sacs. I like them. Safer for children to play out with their neighbours, works better for street parties, easier to monitor unusual comings and goings, traffic speed is lower, more neighbourly interaction. I live in one and I love it.
    http://www.blackwatertown.wordpress.com

  30. blackwatertown permalink
    August 18, 2010 7:15 am

    Also not sure about a system of back alleys. There’s the risk of them becoming dumping grounds, muggers delights and hangouts for ne’er-do-wells. And there’s a word you don’t hear every day.
    http://www.blackwatertown.wordpress.com

  31. August 18, 2010 7:55 am

    it made me tingle

  32. August 18, 2010 9:32 am

    Very interesting piece on a topic that should be talked about more than it is. Excellent use of resources and a pleasure to read, especially the dialogue in the comments!

    – Calhoun

    http://selfproclaimedmegalomaniac.wordpress.com/

  33. August 18, 2010 10:27 am

    Jody,

    Great post in helping to outline some of the issues. Being an architect, it’s certainly a topic of debate that moves around design circles with some regularity. The movement is actually older than many people think, but it’s lack of mainstream acceptance has occurred due to many of the reasons you touched on. Though a good start, it needs some more evolution before it can make a difference on a large scale.

    One of New Urbanism’s problems is that it’s strongest proponents attach a stylistic language to its construction as is evident in towns like Seaside and Celebration. This revival of Cape-style homes is unnecessarily shoe-horning development into mold that not all of us subscribe to and become more dated everyday. This also contributes to the pricey nature that many people touched on. The concepts of new urbanism should be separated from this “image” in order to be used on a larger scale that can apply to more people.

    I do however join many who level a heavy critique on the suburbs. While enjoyable and comforting (I grew up in the suburbs) their lack of sustainability is too significant to ignore. The average suburbanite uses nearly twice as much energy at home as an urban counterpart (and that’s not counting car travel.) The suburbs have generated and perpetuate strip malls and the worst forms of consumerism. The design community has to zero in on what is it about suburbs that people gravitate to and work on repackaging that in a new form.

    Less urban developments that share yards? Achieve walkability? Refine all their own waste? Produce more of their own power, clean water and food? Facets of New Urbanism can be a part of that, but the suburbs have to evolve from the likeness they’ve held for the past half-century.

    • Foggy River permalink
      April 17, 2011 3:22 am

      It is unfortunate that so many proponents of new urbanism so readily accept the status quo hypocrisy of what is or is not sustainable. For example a quick study of industrialized hemp would solve much of our dependence on oil. The suppression of such an enormously useful, safe, and economical species is a crime against humanity. Purely politics and money people. I’d expand but I would prefer you all do your own research on the subject and learn for yourselves. It’s easy to find, just look.

  34. August 18, 2010 10:49 am

    I’ve lived my entire life in a suburb outside New York City in a town that dates back to pre-colonial times, and since the 1870s the city was no more than a train-ride away. Much is within walking distance, from the schools to groceries and a range of small stores including the butcher shop, hardware, appliances, clothes, restaurants and so on. The surrounding towns are much the same, and while malls have strained some of the old main streets they’ve still retained much of their pre-zoning laws mix. There’s tree lined streets, yards and picket fences, it’s very nice. Unfortunately this all comes at a price, and that is the price itself. In the last few decades as sprawl has spread further and commuters on the highway are willing to drive from as far as Pennsylvania to NYC each day, this area has grown in desirability and home prices have escalated accordingly. Had I not lived here for decades, had my husband and I not renovated a modest, delapidated home ourselves years ago, living here would be entirely beyond our means. As years pass I watch the houses around us leveled and replaced by McMansions as living standards of those around us rose and driveways once occupied by Fords and Dodges now house Mercedes and BMWs. I see no way anyone starting out could afford to live here; it’s unfortunate for people like my daughter, this is her home town but even with a good job it’s out of her reach. Her goal is to settle somewhere without the picket fence and yard, somewhere in one othe city’s boroughs, and I’m seriously considering it may be time to do the same.

    http://cegrundler.com

  35. September 7, 2010 9:45 pm

    Ok, probably asking for nothing out of a lost cause (I’m optimistic though) but I’ve been wondering if this concept would work with a place like Detroit? The city Is practically a few bulldozers from being a clean slate, why not use this concept to scale down the city and break it down into simple pieces. Every idea the Detroit city council seems to come up with sounds like a “swing for the fences” idea about trying to construct a huge complex or expand its waterfront.

    • September 10, 2010 10:18 pm

      Striker, I don’t know much about Detroit. I’ve flown through the airport several times but never spent any time there. I know it is where the Big 3 automakers used to shine, and now it is crumbling, and they have had fair share of corruption, including recent leadership. There is something to be said for a “swing for the fences” big idea that can be the core of a larger scale, long-term renewal, but I don’t see any reason why smaller scale pieces couldn’t work. The key is to have a critical mass of mixed uses in each piece, and to spend the time and money to do the due diligence by having a proper market analysis study done before going forward with any substantial development. I doubt if you or I could have any influence from this small forum, but if you are local, make your voice heard…go to City Council and Planning Commission meetings and tell them your ideas, maybe someone will listen. They’ve got to realize that what they are doing isn’t working and things can’t get much worse!

      • December 16, 2010 3:20 pm

        Loving the depth of this discussion!
        That is the very essence of new urbanism, actual citizens formally confronting actual issues. These discussions are at the very core of the “Placemaking” concept should be encouraged by municipalities everywhere. Who knows more about the the best usage of mixed use development sites than the people who will be living and working in the area? Please continue to find the flaws and expose them, but don’t forget to champion the successes as well.
        Cheers

  36. Foggy River permalink
    April 17, 2011 3:03 am

    So when my parents were growing up on the farm and walked a mile or two to that one room school house,,,,that wasn’t walkable? Give me a break. After one step forward, new urbanism represents two steps back. Planners plan or they are out of work. Think!

    • Greg Ezzo permalink
      April 19, 2011 3:07 pm

      It’s not all about the walking distance, though most people today are too impatient to walk 2 miles to school or work. The problem though lies in the design of our suburbs, one aspect could be the fact that most of those suburbs are outlined by 4 lane roads where cars go +50 mph. Where I live, you have to cross an 8 lane road that is constantly busy with irate drivers (there isn’t even a sidewalk to accommodate those who choose to walk) just to get to a grocery store or the mall. So there are other aspects. Personally I live out in the country and as you mentioned, it’s certainly doable to walk a mile or two down the dirt road to your local town. But in the suburbs where my friends live, it’s complete mayhem.

      • Greg Ezzo permalink
        April 19, 2011 3:09 pm

        *Let me correct myself, the 8 lane rd is where my friends live, not me :P*

Trackbacks

  1. New Urbanism vs. Suburban Sprawl « Columbia 2.0 The Next Generation of Columbia
  2. The Moral Liberal
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  4. New Urbanism – Freedom of Choice (via Reckless Abandon) « Light & Darkness
  5. New Urbanism – Freedom of Choice (via Reckless Abandon) « Pars Nova
  6. Mythbusting: But I thought Visioneering was just a design firm | Reckless Abandon

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