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monsoon

Failure of New Urbanism (Part I)

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This concept is probably a good start wih higher density in its small area.. It should be built near existing higher density areas. It has to de-emphasize car parking and access. It needs a public transportation system that is part of a comprehensive plan for at least part of the city. Little islands of density like this are likely to fail, at least until other islands grow into them.

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I like shopping and dining at Birkdale, but I have to admit it probably wasn't the best idea in hindsight.

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Yeah, unforunately it takes time and a lot more of these similar style developments, along with an effective mass transit solution to make the cars go away. They just don't disappear because you have residential on top of commerical.

However, if nothing else I think it's the start in a right direction. It just needs to be followed up with additional development. Building in an already urban neighborhood helps as well.

If nothing else, maybe people will stop driving their cars from one store to another (a concept that cracks me up). Nothing like watching a suburbanite get in a car to drive to the otherside of the shopping center.

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The problem here seems to be that it is just a denser version of a typical mall development. It is still car-oriented. Where's the transit? And it doesn't appear to be near any other densely developed areas. It needs sidewalks connecting it to the other parts of the community. I could go on and on and on, but the point is that although this type of development is a start, it still needs to be greatly improved in many areas before the development can work as it was originally intended.

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First of all, wonderful shots... that goes for both the good and the bad sides of Birkdale Village. Second, it normally takes a long time before a development becomes successful, and many times it may become successful for the wrong reasons. Bringing true urbanity in an area that hasn't been accustomed to it may feel like a threatening move, and sometimes even get boycotted by the nearby neighborhoods; in other words, a development may fall victim of a misconception, so urbanity needs to be built in stages to be effective.

The key is to remember what our cities are accustomed to and then realize that a MUCH worse project could have taken place. In the case of Birkdale, the project seems to have lots of strong points. I have to admit, I've never been there in person, but I have followed much of the development on the Internet... so, no real experience. However, the pictures show something that is FAR more attractive than what I've seen so far in most ne developments. Sure, there are some projects that may stand out more than others, but Birkdale Village doesn't strike me as one of the negative ones.

One more important thing to remember is that every developer builds shopping centers for a lifespan of 30 years, the maximum. Although some places mey feel disconnected, today, in the future things may change, depending on the demand. If Crosland took that in consideration, then I am sure that the ugly side of Birkdale Village may be converted to more urban when people are ready for some drastic changes. The same holds true with EVERY new development.

As far as New Urbanism is concerned, I am sure we can all agree that there are good sides and bad sides to it. New Urbanist communities offer a fresh look, with newer achitecture and ammenities, not an older feel. I do not expect many new projects that emphasize older-style urbanity, as they will always look like cheap copies. I think that some of today's New Urbanism practices may turn out to be great later on. A lot of experimentation has taken place, but I will be happy if developers learn from those mistakes and focus on better planned developments in the future. The term "New Urbanism" has been used and abused a lot lately. It almost seems to be the new nightmare that will substitute the one which followed all the suburban development that plagued our cities. Quite frankly, I would take every "New Urbanism" project with a grain of salt, until it proves to be otherwise.

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Is this project done? I ask because there is a very similar type of 'new urbanist' development on Cape Cod called Mashpee Commons. Mashpee Commons was a typical strip mall anchored by a grocery store that is attempting to be transformed into a new town centre for the town of Mashpee (a town that never really had much of a distinct centre and is now the fastest growing town in Massachusetts).

The first phase of Mashpee Commons was to build rather cutesey looking 'new england' style shops around a street grid. It looked nice, and felt nice, but was surrounded by parking lots and retained the malls one curb cut onto the main road. Slowly however (as the economy allows) the village is filling in. Parking lots are being replaced by more buildings. The town actually does use the development as it's town centre holding town events including 4th of July fireworks there. Also the town located a new high school, and the public safety complex nearby, and a library and a church have moved in in recent years.

What still needs to be done is finish the full housing plan, which includes mixed income housing and areas of mixed housing and retail, also a performance arts centre is scheduled to be built, and with the final phases, the development's street grid will mesh with itself, and have multiple crossing points with the main roads through the site.

The most difficult part will be mass transit, it will take some kind of miracle to get people from other parts of the Cape to use mass transit to get to Mashpee Commons. It is a very popular destination with a movie theatre and restaurants.

Mashpee Commons Website

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Is an LRT line planned for Birksdale? Those first shots are nice, at least the place looks attractive, whether it comes to resemble a real urban environment in atmosphere, only time will tell, I guess.

As far as offering an older urban look, the "authentically" old urban areas looked new and fresh when they were built, not like we see them today, so maybe time will help that as well.

I guess the real problem with a lot of these developments, particularly if they are located in an old urban area--is Birksdale?--is that you have people who basically want some sort of suburban lifestyle in the middle of the city, and that frequently means being surrounded by people just like themselves, without the diversity and unpredictability of a city.

Here's an example of that, SouthBluffs in Memphis, developed on old railroad yards. It's a development about 10-15 yr. old that's downtown, yet is off the downtown street grid, has only one entrance--not quite gated but close, and full of basically suburban housing which is totally out of character with the surrounding townhouse/loft/warehouse residential. The only positive is that it connects to two streetcar lines.

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Don't get me wrong it's nice and all but it's not pedestrian friendly maybe they could do something like Horton plaza in San Diego just a thought

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Interesting topic... "newurbanism" is happening all across the country. I for one am all for urban renewal, cuz older cities need to redevelop themselves. The bad thing about it is if the projects are not blended in with the surrounding neighborhoods, you get this clash of suburban style projects with urban style projects.

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It is times like this that I wish I had a ton of money... I think that I could do much better building a true community than those developers ever will. It is a fact that there are lots of good people working on excellent ideas out there, but the lack of financial incentives (=big profits) forces many to create a less urban project in favor to a true one. What today is a parking lot, should present a future opportunity when the market demonstrates that people can appreciate the density. In my next visit to Charlotte I will DEFINITELY make the time and visit Birkdale Village. I saw an aerial picture of it, a few months ago, and I can see why monsoon is concerned. There are lots of positive things, about New Urbanism, but why in the earth these developers cannot build something urban AND friendly? I mean, I've seen lots of density and grid being wasted on non-mixed use projects. One center in the middle and all of the sudden we have a village that is called mixed use project. That's crap...

I wanted to share with you another project that I thought was interesting: Santana Row...

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It is located in San Jose (to the best of my knowledge) and while the above images do not show as much, a careful search on the Internet may reveal a lot of information for the status of this project. It seems to be nice and elegant, and so far I have not seen much of parking lots dominating this development... but I may be wrong.

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Yes exactly.  Birkdale Village was designed and constructed with utter disregard for the surrounding area.    The nearby movie theatre is a good example of that.

The movie theatre that you talked about that closed down... is it within walking distance of Birkdale Village? I could have sworn I saw another one, like right across the street, because I was thinking how many movie goers live in this area?! Now they are building another cineplex at the new Northlake mall. :huh:

Excellent shots though monsoon, and you make a good point. Although developers want to promote pedestrian friendly developments, it still causes adjacent areas to sprawl (i.e. that shopping center on the other side of I-77)

if not restricted. Traffic is a mess in that area I can say from first hand expierence especially on the weekends in the summers when people are flocking to Lake Norman. I have a question though, does CATS plan on adding Park and Ride lots around Birkdale Village and even up to Mooresville? What about future commuter rail stations along that corridor?

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The problem with New Urbanist communities like this is that they are in and of themselves separated communities far from the city with no transit access. There are three going up to my west and they are total wastes of time.

Why make a quasi-urban community in where you must travel miles just to get to real shopping, entertainment, and workplaces?

New Urbanism isn't bad - but the idea of building new urbanist communities as a separate part of an existing area is the problem. Its a gated small town in and of itself with no real jobs or shopping.

Add in no transit, and its horrible.

Then again, I've come to expect failure around here. That's why I'm moving. :D

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^So, true. The best example of new urbanism at work, that I know of, is City Place in West Palm Beach. With this project the developers took a run-down section of downtown, built new infill retail & housing, and restored existing buildings in the area. Now its probably the hottest inner city area in West Palm Beach, here are some pics.

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The City Place at West Palm Beach is certainly a nice project, well planned and well executed, from what I've read. Its proximity to downtown is a blessing and I wish they could do something like that here. I am not sure if City Place has been completed, as I saw a few components still being on paper... but that was a year ago.

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The same people who built birkdale are planning a similar community in my old hometown (Waxhaw, NC) in Union County. Town leaders are flipping over the tax boost but this development will kill what is currently an active and truly historic downtown. Waxhaw is a true American small town, bistros, small shops, and coffee places. Its downtown is strong as many Charlotteans come down to shop and eat. However the new development will be built 2 to 3 miles from Waxhaw's downtown and will stop all of those people from coming down any further into the downtown. I feel they should have incorporated Waxhaw's downtown into the development, and that these developments should build the residential neighborhoods around them in a block style fashion as opposed to a cul-de-sac style. I don't see any development filling in those parking lots either since the development is ringed by big-box stores like Barnes and Noble. Those big boxes aren

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I also read in the Charlotte Observer that the corporation that owns the movie theatre in Birkdale bought the other movie theatre and shut it down to so that there would be no competition.

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There are no transit plans that include Birkdale village. The good news, is that huntersville does have two much better developments of this type. Vermillion, and Rosedale. Of the two, Rosedale seems to be the most popular and a lot of work is being done to incorporate it as a natural part of the town. I am going to get some pics and present them here.

It will also pass right through Vermillion, and Rosedale will have Village Rider service to the the station. So it is not all bad.

For clarification, a new park and ride station will be built adjacent to Birkdale Village utilizing Express Bus service.

Also, commuter rail in Huntersville will not travel through Vermillion but it will be within walking distance from the first phase and "Garden District".

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Traffic is a mess in that area I can say from first hand expierence especially on the weekends in the summers when people are flocking to Lake Norman.

You should consider participating in the public hearings about the new NC73 plan. A charette will be organized, once the NC73 plan is approved by local municipalities, for the intersection of NC73 and US21. If you care about the form and function of this corridor and that specific location, please try to join the discussion.

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