25 great ideas of the New Urbanism

Mashpee Commons in Mashpee, Massachusetts, the nation’s first retrofit of a shopping center into town center. Photo by June Williamson

Robert Steuteville of Build a Better Burb highlights 25 great ideas of the New Urbanism, in honor of the 25th annual Congress for the New Urbanism held this year in Seattle. 

Check out Suburban Retrofit as one of the 25 great ideas: 

Retrofit is the suburban fountain of youth. It can literally save the suburbs.”

“Conventional suburbs, conceived in the mid-20th Century, are outdated. The oldest suburbs, the mixed-use walkable kind, are the most current—they meet market demand. Companies don’t want to locate in isolated places. Many shopping malls and shopping centers are dying, and suburban retrofit is the answer. We invested trillions of dollars in the suburbs, and some believe this investment has no future. I believe that significant value that can be salvaged with retrofit. This is a sunk cost opportunity, not dilemma. At CNU, we call this Build a Better Burb.”

The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here

Sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.

Alan M. Berger of The New York Times writes:

“Millennials want a different kind of suburban development that is smart, efficient and sustainable.

The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.

Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.

They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.

Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries.

Planners need to view cities, suburbs and exurbs not as discrete units but as regions, with one integrated environmental and technological system.”

The most environmentally responsible approach is almost always reusing and reconfiguring what already exists, rather than discarding and creating something new.  It is critical to employ sprawl repair techniques to make our communities more socially and environmentally responsive, not just build new to suit the millennials. Read more from Galina Tachieva.

How to Build Better Burbs to Ease the Housing Crunch

‘Missing middle’ forms of gentle density refer to the less-common housing types between the single-family house and the high-rise. Image by Opticos Design, Inc.

Christopher Cheung asks, 

“…does choosing the suburbs have to mean saying goodbye to the conveniences and lifestyle of the city?

Urbanists are saying no. “Sprawl repair” and “retrofitting suburbia” have become popular terms in the past two decades. Many municipalities that have embraced suburbia in the past are taking action to transform their sprawls into healthier, more convenient and more diverse communities.”

“The suburbs can change and get better without transforming every square foot of its built form,” said Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former chief planner, now a global consultant on city building.

At the very least, “you need to make the suburbs walkable,” said Toderian. “At minimum, you need sidewalks and street trees.”

Toderian also recommends mixed-use suburban centres that have higher density and are pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly. This evolution doesn’t mean doing away with cars; it means offering more choices so driving isn’t your only option if you need to get to work or grab a carton of milk.

“The conversation needs to be about true costs and consequences, as well as opportunities to do density well with great design,” he said. “Because if not, politicians could just suggest to their constituency that they’re protecting their city from density and change. That’s a dangerous, false narrative.”

Learn more about the Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva.

Suburbanism reversed in a generation?

According to Laurie Volk and Todd Zimmerman, “Since the turn of century, the demographic convergence of the two largest generations in the nation’s history, Baby Boomers and Millennials, both at life stages favoring community-oriented neighborhoods has formed the foundation for a nationwide urban resurgence.

The impact has been felt in neighborhoods at every scale, from the nation’s greatest cities to small, walkable 19th century downtowns that have become the de facto urban centers for surrounding auto-oriented subdivisions.”

However, there are other distinctions among households that can be more meaningful than age cohort, including preferences for urban scale and taste for new versus old.

In addition, Millennials’ life stage, financial circumstances and attitude toward ownership housing threatens to clog the whole system of ownership housing.

Millennial families’ continued embrace of walkable urbanism will depend on the success and quality of re-urbanization, particularly in smaller-scale urban centers, and whether a range of housing types can be developed, redeveloped, restored or maintained within these walkable neighborhoods. And, perhaps more importantly, it will depend on whether these dwellings, whether for-rent or for-sale, will be affordable to a wide spectrum of households.

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.

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

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/

Sprawl Repair – From Sprawl to Complete Communities

Sprawl is a pattern of growth characterized by an abundance of congested highways, strip shopping centers, big boxes, office parks, and gated cul-de-sac subdivisions—all separated from each other in isolated, single-use pods. This land-use pattern is typically found in suburban areas, but also affects our cities, and is central to our wasteful use of water, energy, land, and time spent in traffic. Sprawl has been linked to increased air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of open space and natural habitat, and the exponential increase in new infrastructure costs. Social problems related to the lack of diversity have been attributed to sprawl, and health problems such as obesity to its auto-dependence.
In contrast, complete communities have a mix of uses and are walkable, with many of a person’s daily need—shops, offices, transit, civic and recreational places—within a short distance of home. They are compact, so they consume less open space and enable multiple modes of transportation, including bicycles, cars, and mass transit. A wide variety of building types provides options to residents and businesses, encouraging diversity in population. This mix of uses, public spaces, transportation, and population makes complete communities economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.