Retrofitting Suburbia

Mount Laurel fire station (made out of rock from Double Oak Mountain)

Note: Great article on the success of three New Urbanist developments! These particular communities are examples of new and/or infill projects in suburban locations, which can serve as inspirational models for future suburban retrofits.

Three Alabama towns are robust examples of New Urbanism — traditional communities designed to be practical rather than nostalgic. One was named the National Association of Homebuilders’ 2014 Community of the Year.

In this article, Cary Estes and Art Meripol highlight three successful Alabama communities: Hampstead in Montgomery, the Village of Providence in Huntsville, and Mount Laurel in Birmingham.

It is called New Urbanism, a design concept in which communities are compact and connected. A place where children can walk to school, families can walk to church, and many of the necessities of daily life, such as food and health care, are also just a short stroll away. Where the sidewalks are wide and the front porches deep, and neighbors actually know each other.

“The reason it’s New Urbanism and not old urbanism is that it combines elements of both,” Andres Duany [of DPZ CoDESIGN] says. “We are non-ideological. This is not a nostalgic movement. It’s a pragmatic movement about whatever works best in the long run. And it turns out that what works best tends to have a lot of the characteristics of old-town planning, but with some of the things that suburbs do well. So it’s actually ruthlessly pragmatic.

“Essentially, suburbia, as we’ve known it, is obsolete. Office parks and malls are closing. People want the main streets. So now New Urbanism is dedicated to retrofitting suburbia and repairing urban sprawl. One of the most exciting things we’re doing now is taking all this great investment in suburbia that is losing value, and we’re fixing it. We’re making it walkable and diverse. This isn’t some kind of intellectual movement. It’s driven very much by reality,”  according to Duany.

Regency’s retrofit: A model for Chesterfield?

Regency Square Mall in Richmond, Virginia is undergoing what’s called a suburban retrofit, a term used for taking aging malls, office parks and other suburban properties and transforming them into more sustainable, urban and mixed-use developments.

Both Regency Square and Chesterfield Towne Center opened in 1975 (back then the latter was the Chesterfield Mall), and the rejuvenation of Regency Square may offer a blueprint for Chesterfield Towne Center in the years to come.

Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group and author of the book “Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development,” says Regency Square’s strategy may prove successful.

“I have seen those kinds of conversions work,” Gibbs says. “It’s when they turn the mall inside out and put the internal stores on the street.”

As department stores like Macy’s and Sears continue to struggle, Gibbs says the future is grim for the majority of America’s suburban malls.

“There’s about 2,000 of them, and we estimate that about 1,500 of them will close in the next five years, and that’s because they’re depending on department stores to stay open,” Gibbs says. “Without the department stores, it’s really hard to get people to go inside the mall.”

That said, Gibbs says malls in good locations can “right-size,” reducing their retail square footage and bringing in housing, entertainment and office space to create a walkable development where people can live, work and enjoy themselves.

Dynamic Communities – The New American Suburb

Check out this story and interactive website from The Washington Post:

“… all around the country as new types of vibrant suburbs, either revived or created from scratch, are springing up outside of expensive downtown cores to meet the needs of young families who aren’t so much choosing suburban life as insisting that the suburbs change to accommodate the priorities they’ve brought with them from the city.

They demand higher-density housing, shorter commutes, easy access to their daily needs, plenty of opportunities to interact socially, interesting shopping, nearby green space, high-end dining options and other amenities traditionally unavailable in sprawling suburbs. It’s a new kind of convenient and tech-enabled community, with more breathing room than downtown and more street life than the ‘burbs.”

“Millennials have been slow to form households, but it’s happening now, and roughly two-thirds say they want to live and work in mixed-use urban neighborhoods where they can feel a strong sense of community and invest in interactions and experiences, rather than things,” says Jennifer Griffin, urban planner and Millennial mom.

Shipping containers, oval swings and food trucks? How old Eastland Mall site could be reimagined

Jenna Martin of the Charlotte Business Journal wrote, “Think small to drive big, lasting results. That’s the current thought behind early efforts to breathe new life into the abandoned Eastland Mall property. That could range from small market-like businesses operating out of shipping containers and open, outdoor dining to a spot for food trucks or a place to hang out.”

As a sub-consultant to Jacobs Engineering’s Atlanta office, DPZ CoDesign is collaborating on the redesign of site of the former Eastland Mall, a 69-acre parcel owned by the City of Charlotte. They met with many of the key stakeholder groups in the East Charlotte area where this mall was once a major regional retail and social hub. This was also a week of re-assessing several prior design exercises.

On May 18th, 2017, the community celebrated the site’s past and explored the future during the exciting Eastland “days gone by” and Eastland “days to come” event. Neighbors gathered amid food trucks, a pop up park, cycle track, interactive murals and activities, to reminiscence and imagine new possibilities for the site as part of the evolving Eastland story.

DPZ provided a popular exhibit based on the successional evolution of an existing flea/farmer’s market. A typical public open space can be surrounded and defined by food trucks and temporary market stalls, initially, transitioning to fun and funky shipping container groupings, and ultimately to vibrant shops and restaurants in the potential climax condition for a revitalized town center.

Read more here: https://www-bizjournals-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2017/05/19/old-eastland-mall-site-draws-crowd-thursday-as.amp.html

City Building Exchange, New Orleans, Louisiana

March 8-10, 2017, Andres Duany and Galina Tachieva teamed up with a group of accomplished faculty and community leaders to discuss today’s most effective tools to enhance a community’s character, use city building as an economic development tool, and combat the specialization and professional silos that make city building a challenge.

Andres led a Three Urbanisms Walking Tour through the Garden District, Marigny and the French Quarter, and provided a keynote presentation on LEAN Urbanism: How Small Development Can Produce Big Returns for Cities.

Galina spoke on Sprawl Repair: Recycling Existing Suburban Development into Healthy Town Centers, answering questions such as why sprawl repair is important to a community, what are the common hurdles and challenges, what are the best models of sprawl repair and what potential actions a community can take for a successful implementation of sprawl repair.

Learn more here:

http://citybuildingexchange.com/uploads/5/4/7/5/54756721/cbe_brochure_sp17web.pdf

 

Urbanism Summit Miami 2017

On February 21, 2017, a diverse collection of change-makers, influencers and forward thinkers gathered to discuss the future of cities, their makers and dwellers.  The purpose was to share actionable ideas across disciplines in new urbanism and place making, and spark a movement of collaboration among new urbanism practitioners, investors, startups, policy makers and community.

Tachieva of DPZ, Cooper Copetas, architectural designer and George Cuevas, founder of CollabMiami, teamed up for a panel discussion on how to create co-working space in the context of suburbia that can support small and independent businesses.

Learn more here:

http://urbanismsummit.com/

https://www.facebook.com/events/542068492657980/

Great Idea: Building better suburbs through retrofit

Suburbs are becoming more diverse and connected to meet the needs of Americans of all ages in the 21st Century.

As part of the CNU series 25 Great Ideas of the New Urbanism, Public Square editor Robert Steuteville interviewed Galina Tachieva, principal at DPZ Partners and author of Sprawl Repair Manual, and Ellen Dunham-Jones, director of the Urban Design Program and Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Architecture and co-author, with June Williamson, of Retrofitting Suburbia. The series is meant to inspire and challenge those working toward complete communities in the next quarter century.

According to Galina Tachieva, “If anybody takes a drive outside of a city and looks carefully [they] will be shocked by the over-engineered, gold-plated, however—in many cases—already crumbling infrastructure that supports sprawl. And it will take a few generations to fix it. However, for us to be successful, we have to look at the roots of sprawl. Levittown changed the pattern of building communities in the United States because William Levitt created a normative product, the auto-dependent suburban enclave, which he could repeat easily. So we have to come up with normative step-by-step tools to retrofit suburbia in the way it was built.”

Suburbs increasingly view their auto-centric sprawl as a health hazard

The connection between the type of places we live in and our well-being should be obvious, but until recently there has been little hard data showing sprawl’s negative impacts on our health – both physical and mental. This is changing and not only health practitioners but also public officials and residents have started to acknowledge the importance of walkable, mixed-use environments.

Sprawl Retrofit Tools

Check out the new additions to the Build a Better Burb Toolkit to help municipalities, developers, citizens, investors and equity advocates

 

CNU group seeks to Build a Better Burb

The Build a Better Burb Sprawl Retrofit Council met in Miami to explore opportunities for promoting land-use diversity and transportation choice in the suburbs—with particular focus on the needs of smaller suburbs with less robust markets. A follow–up meeting will be held at CNU 24 in Detroit on June 11 viagra l.

The Council is gathering like-minded people and generating a toolkit on suburban retrofit to be distributed on CNU’s Build a Better Burb website. The first products are brief reports on specific challenges and solutions—such as this one on affordable housing tax credits.

In Detroit, the Council will discuss peer-to-peer idea sharing and problem-solving, and other topics related to this project.

Downtown Pontiac: ‘Nothing looks impossible’

Pontiac, Michigan, could be headed for a downtown revival, a CNU Legacy Charrette team led by DPZ Partners told citizens and officials. The keys to unlocking economic development are to transform the massive one-way Woodward Loop, also called the Wide Track, that currently sends traffic around downtown—plus allow more on-street parking and make pedestrian improvements.

If those changes are made, a market analysis shows support for 211,000 square feet of retail producing up to $55 million in annual sales.

The team—which also included Gibbs Planning Group, architects Archive DS, and Conrad Kickert of the University of Cincinnati—worked with with a diverse range of citizens and officials to create a plan. The event was sponsored by the City, CNU, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Legacy Charrettes are designed to apply CNU’s placemaking expertise to make a lasting difference in the Congress’s host region—which is Detroit in 2016.

Pontiac Gets Expert Advice on Developing Downtown

Pontiac, MI – In advance of the upcoming Congress of the New Urbanism Conference in Detroit June 8-11, 2016, CNU hosted development charrettes in Pontiac and Hazel Park to build examples of how thoughtful planning can help revitalize communities.
In Pontiac that meant three days of public meetings mixed with sessions where architects and developers took ideas from residents and business owners and literally brought them to the drawing table. The experts donated thousands of dollars’ worth of consulting time and renderings to help guide the city towards the brighter future that is on the horizon.

Rent a car with driver in Geneva

Tremendous Economic Development Potential in Pontiac

The economic development potential for the city of Pontiac is tremendous. Just how great? How about a demand of up to 211,700 square feet of new retail and restaurant development producing up to $55.2 million in annual sales. That’s how great, said Pontiac native Bob Gibbs, urban planning and retail consultant director for Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham.
“By 2021, this economic demand could generate up to $58 million in gross sales,” Gibbs said. “And that’s a conservative estimate.”
This message presented by Gibbs and others in downtown Pontiac Friday night came during the first of three days of an intensive design and planning program called, a Congress Legacy “Charrette” Project. It’s being done in the city by the Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU). It’s one of four such charrettes happening this week in conjunction with the international CNU 24 conference coming to Detroit in June. The other three charrettes were in Hazel Park, April 12-14; and April 15-17 in two Detroit neighborhoods – Grandmont-Rosedale and Vernor Crossing.

Council to study building a ‘better burb’

CNU is reviving a tradition of intimate discussions with top experts next month in Miami with the Build a Better Burb Sprawl Retrofit Council.

For a decade, top new urbanist thinkers met in intimate Councils to work on problems, conduct high-level discussions, and immerse themselves in the art and craft of building communities. Five years after the last Council, CNU is reviving the tradition next month in Miami with the Build a Better Burb Sprawl Retrofit Council.

Many of the world’s top thinkers on reshaping and improving the suburbs will attend, rolling up their sleeves along with everybody else. These leaders include Galina Tachieva, author of Sprawl Repair Manual; Ellen Dunham-Jones, coauthor of Retrofitting Suburbia; and Lynn Richards, president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

As a bonus, this Council will meet at Palm Court in the Miami Design District, a remarkable urban revitalization area that employs suburban retrofit ideas—including connecting big box stores to residential and workplace areas.

Smart Design = Smart Policy: Eezy-Peezy? Not so fast

See if this sounds familiar:
The city planning staff, maybe working with an expert team of design consultants, comes up with what they think is a no-brainer solution to a high-profile problem. Say, a proposal for much-needed multifamily development to address workforce housing demand. Or a plan to fix a blighted block with a mixed-use project that checks all the Smart Growth boxes. Or perhaps a senior-friendly cottage court adjacent to an existing single-family neighborhood of larger lots and homes.

Retail Parking: A View from Google Earth

Last year I shared how Google Earth can be used to understand parking utilization. In response, readers suggested that Google Earth can be used for walking audits and offered that Remote Sensing Metrics is another resources for parking utilization data. Patrick Holland, a Master’s in City and Regional Planning student at Ohio State University, Gala Korniyenko, a Master’s of Urban Planning student at the University of Kansas, and Brittany Port, an Ohio State University graduate of the Master’s in City and Regional Planning program, along with myself, looked at Google Earth image after Google Earth image to understand parking utilization at large scale retailers.

Charrette: A Social Innovation Lab

When you think social innovation, you might think micro loans in developing countries, or hand-ups to help people in from the fringes here at home. Or a wide range of ways to build social capital or how charitable institutions backstop community with philanthropy. But for those of you who are working in the city planning trenches every day, using collaborative design workshops to engage the people, you’re really running a form of social innovation lab.

Four types of sprawl

Drivable suburbia, or sprawl, also is not just one, big, lumpy “thing.” It’s fine to use the basic term as a starting point, but it’s important to also see the nuance that is found in the typical suburban environment.

Beyond the white picket fence

With more people gravitating toward cities than ever before, new urban morphologies are proliferating throughout the developed and developing worlds. Roger Keil, a professor at Toronto’s York University, has spent his career thinking about the implications of this process. I spoke with him about Suburban Governance: A Global View, a newly released book he co-edited with University of Montreal professor Pierre Hamel.

Putting People First: 10 Steps Toward Pedestrian-Friendly Suburbs

The University of Utah estimates that 2.8 million acres of parking lots and other greyfield areas are ripe for redevelopment, and 1.1 million acres are available in underutilized shopping areas, such as strip malls and vacant storefronts (Dunham Jones and Williamson 2009). Transforming these landscapes will be a 21st-century planning and development priority in the United States.

Lifelong Communities: A Framework for Planning

In June, 2014, ARC, joined by community and tactical urbanism partners, created a temporary Lifelong Community on two-blocks of Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn Avenue. Over a period of three days, The “Sweet Auburn Living Beyond Expectations” project demonstrated many of the elements that help create a Lifelong Community.

Lean Sprawl Repair – Mall Retrofit

As a comprehensive method for transforming car-dependent environments into walkable, diverse communities, Sprawl Repair includes small-scale and inexpensive interventions. Sprawl Repair works at multiple scales, from the region to the neighborhood and the building, and utilizes a variety of tools that are cost-effective, incremental, and can be quickly implemented. This paper will demonstrate how a mall, the most promising contender for Sprawl Repair, can be retrofitted in small, efficient steps, creating much-needed, cheap space for incubating new businesses and artisan uses, as well as providing affordable student housing.

Getting to know LEED: Neighborhood Development

Is your local grocery store within walking distance…and is there a sidewalk for you to trek there safely? Does your neighborhood boast high-performing green buildings, parks and green space? Do bikes, pedestrians and vehicles play nicely together on the road? LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) was engineered to inspire and help create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods. It looks beyond the scale of buildings to consider entire communities. Why? Because sprawl is a scary thing. Here’s the antidote.