Mixed-use neighborhood reshapes suburban landscape

Taking advantage of unexpected demand, the mixed-use Village Center is defined by three-to-five-story buildings and recalls the character of Huntsville’s historic town center.

Providence, which won a 2018 CNU Charter Award, is an example of how traditional neighborhood development can add to quality of life in a car-oriented suburban landscape.” explains Rob Steuteville, Public Square. The 305 acre Village of Providence intentionally rebalances the previously fragmented, single-use sprawl at the northwest city limits of Huntsville with infill, housing diversity, shared amenities, and useful commercial. By providing the region’s missing ingredients in a walkable environment, it has become a preferred place to live and a popular evening hang-out.

Link to 2018 CNU Charter Awards announcement:

The Bipartisan Cry of ‘Not in My Backyard’

A view of suburban Houston. Credit: Josh Haner/The New York Times

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, wants to spur construction of mixed-income, multifamily housing. With more built, the Department believes that housing will become affordable, and there would be more options of where to live. The approach is not without its challenges. The kind of housing described is often impractical, doesn’t accord with regulations, or simply too costly to build in suburbs and big cities alike. While many see rolling back regulations as a way to open up opportunities, nimbyism continues to provide reason for tightly regulated development. Further, its homeowners of both political parties that support restricting development around them and they do so often in spite of their own ideologies. The fear that such development threatens property values motivates homeowners as voters to protect them. The instinct may simply be too deeply ingrained and politically sensitive in America to change.

How America Uses Its Land

These fascinating maps challenge our perception of sprawling America – the urbanized area seems compact in comparison to all other uses, 3.6 percent of the total. However, the urban area is growing at an average rate of about 1 million acres a year and sprawl is still winning the numbers game.

The U.S. is a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure. The above map shows the proportion that is urban. See link above for additional maps.

High prices in America’s cities are reviving the suburbs

“The last time Americans fled the cities for the suburbs, from the 1950s to the 1980s, they were driven primarily by fear of crime. This time the migration is the consequence of the cities’ success, not their failure. Housing
and rental prices in many of the country’s largest metro areas have soared, inspiring residents to pack up and move out.

As more young people decamp from the cities to the suburbs, … a hybrid might develop, where people who leave cities—especially the most vibrant and expensive ones—will gravitate to places with similar amenities. Or transform them—as is happening in San Marcos. Though it has its fair share of cookie-cutter homes and strip malls, its well-preserved old downtown boasts a brewery and beer garden, a yoga studio and, now, a bootcamp boutique.”

The Great Retail Retrofit

The abandoned Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Ohio Joshua Gunter/AP

Richard Florida describes how the “retail apocalypse” presents an opportunity to re-think and re-energize our communities in the wake of ongoing bankruptcies of chain stores, high-end retailers, suburban malls and metropolitan flagships. With hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, and more to come, Sprawl Repair presents a series of strategies for retrofitting communities at any scale.

“WeWork’s takeover of Lord & Taylor could be a good portent for urban economies. Work, not shopping, is the key to urban productivity and growth. … higher urban rents… are a function of higher urban productivity.

As talented people and high-paying jobs move back to cities, there is demand for more office space. But smaller companies and gig-economy workers need flexible coworking spaces that companies such as WeWork provide, and they need affordable living spaces as well. Both of these can be built in the shell of former retail spaces.

Educational and healthcare facilities, two land use types that are growing as retail shrinks, are a logical fit for these large, boxy spaces.

Mall retrofits can also help with resilience and sustainability efforts. Dunham-Jones and Williamson estimate that 10 such projects have been transformed into green infrastructure or parks.

Some of the most ambitious mall redevelopments are becoming mixed-use neighborhoods.

The Villa Italia Mall in Lakewood, Colorado, outside Denver, was almost completely demolished to make way for a new street grid lined with offices, arts facilities, parks, and residences, as well as new stores. The project is already generating four times the tax revenues that the old mall did.

Dunham-Jones and Williamson estimate that there as many as 650 mall retrofits in some phase of development across the country. From megachurches to indoor paintball parks, former malls and retail spaces are being converted to all manner of uses that better reflect the way we live.”

How a mall-turned-public park saved downtown Columbus

Columbus Commons hosts more than 200 events a year, including a Harvest Fair on September 30, 2017. Marielle Segarra, Marketplace

When mall repair is not economically or structurally feasible, sometimes re-greening a dead mall site in the form of a park or urban agriculture is the best option. The City Center mall in Columbus, Ohio has been reincarnated as a downtown park called Columbus Commons, and it’s driving the resurgence of activity and property value.

“Capitol South, a nonprofit development corporation created by the city, took over the property and started looking at redevelopment plans. The group considered turning the mall into an office building or a medical-research center. “Each one of the plans that we looked at either financially didn’t pencil out, or from a constructability point of view, it simply couldn’t be done,” said Guy Worley, CEO of Capitol South.

Instead, Capitol South decided to knock down the mall and build a park. The group was inspired by similar projects, like Bryant Park in New York City.

A big lesson, said Worley, is that on its own, creating a green space isn’t enough. You needed to bring people there. So Columbus Commons has an outdoor stage and a café, and it hosts more than 200 events a year — many of them free — like yoga classes and concerts.

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/

Roundtable: Sustainability in the Urban Context – Is urbanism the key to a sustainable future?

For more than two decades the work of our firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), has gained renown as a counter-proposal to suburban sprawl. While recognized for an emphasis on place making and for outperforming conventional suburbia, DPZ’s urbanism is less known for advancing the principles and techniques of sustainable planning. Beginning with Seaside in the early ’80s, DPZ employed green practices long before they were required by legislation or were fashionable in the media, including light infrastructure and innovative storm water-management. More complex environmental projects eventually followed – regional plans, urban infill and suburban redevelopments.