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FromCityToRural

Walkable communities

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I agree much of the momentum comes from good infrastructure either planned or existing.

Living in Southern California in a community where I park my car for days on end and can walk to just about everything-shopping, coffee houses, pubs restaurants and even downtown- is living large in my book- almost unheard of here. I'll take my small but sweet house, nearly non-existent garage and great neighbors and neighborhood over the sterile exurbs and big garages, no sidewalks any day.

An article about political fortunes being held by the older denser suburbs (becoming increasingly Democratic) and the newer spread-out exurbs (Republicans) in the NYT today had an extraordinarily revealing photo of a lone girl on a tricycle in a Colorado exurb in the middle of a lonely street with no sidewalks or another soul, with looming large houses set well back from everything that looked absolutely horrifying to me.

If your car broke in one of these areas you would simply starve to death-from loneliness and from lack of sustenance. ;-)

I think some folks (developers and residents) are starting to see the light.

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I'm a college student, and just came home from a spring semester abroad in Strasbourg, France. I stayed in a little town about 10 KM outside of the city itself called Lampertheim. I was completely amazed with the amount of density that exists in the exterier towns in europe. A real livable community is formed, with plenty of transportation options, mixed-use developments, and open public spaces. The income level was varied, with lower class in apt buildings, and upper class in large (but reasonable) houses with small gardens in the back.

This is really and option that US developers need to look into. I'm not saying that a complete European model would ever work in the States, but places like Stapleton in Denver and Seaside, FL provide a good mix of space saving and healthy living condition, while still affording a shot at what we now consider to be "the American Dream."

New urbanist developments are imperative, especially when gas climbs to 5 bucks a gallon, and childhood obesity is 30 %.

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No where in the South. They don't build sidewalks here. Pretty sad.

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^^^

I know, for real though, Nashville sidewalks system has recently, and almost complete, gone through a renovation and more have been built, thanks to the mayor, even if it was a political move, it bettered our city, more cities need to take this up

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No where in the South. They don't build sidewalks here. Pretty sad.

The neighborhood I grew up in had sidewalks and lots of other old neighborhoods have them. It really seems like the newer subdivisions, the sidewalks are missing. The TND subdivisions seem to have addressed this issue decently, though.

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I gotta admit that where I grew up in California, you probably could walk it. There was a 7-11 down the street, and a small strip mall with some other stuff down beyond it. Going the other way, there was a supermarket, but it was a little over a mile there. We used to ride bikes there now and then , but not too often. But, there were nice sidewalks the whole way.

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I do think that it is picking up momentum. However I also think that some factors will improve it

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I am very fortunate to live in a walkable area. I live in downtown, (midtown) Sacramento. This part of the city was built in the late 1800 and early 1900's. We purchased our home in 1980 at a time when most people thought we were crazy for moving downtown. "OH my god, why would you live there?"

Now 26 years later people have seemed to re-discover downtown. The long commute, having to GET IN YOUR CAR to do ANYTHING. Ugh. Now people say "Oh my God, I wish I lived there."

Today we have over 150 restaurants, about 50 art galleries and at least a dozen live theaters within one mile of home.

A lot of newspaper articles talk about the importance of the front porch, I think it is the importance of people living close together, close to work, shopping and entertaninment that leads to the good life.

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I've been noticing that a lot of municipalities now (mostly suburban) are instituting by-laws that require all new subdivisions to have sidewalks built in them. The problem is, the arterials connecting to all these subdivisions usually don't have sidewalks, so once you're out of your neighborhood, you're screwed.

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I found the Cotswald Shopping Center area of Charlotte a good walkable community during my 4 day stay out there.

The best walkable community by far is Highland Park, NJ! For the most part, everything is right there plus the NJ Transit Bus Line goes right through Raritan Ave (HP's main street).

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One thing I find funny about Richmond is that inside the city where in many places there are sidewalks, yet people like to walk in the street and in the suburbs where sidewalks are going in, you hardly see people walking about! Plus the sidewalk is on one side of the street... what is that about?

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It's funny how many of the neighborhoods that are trendy and thriving (with high property values) now because they are "walkable" were planned several decades ago in the days before the auto culture predominated. Despite the success of these neighborhoods, only a tiny percentage of new developments are walkable to the same degree.

I'm sure if a few developers took the risk to build a tightly knit community with small yards and broad, well-lit sidewalks where walking to commercial develoment (grocery store, restaurants, post office, etc) was feasible they would get a much higher price per SF and definitely a better return on the land. Sure a lot of people don't want this but there are enough that this kind of smart development would have its set of buyers. I know there are a few people out there doing this, just not many at all.

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It's funny how many of the neighborhoods that are trendy and thriving (with high property values) now because they are "walkable" were planned several decades ago in the days before the auto culture predominated. Despite the success of these neighborhoods, only a tiny percentage of new developments are walkable to the same degree.

I'm sure if a few developers took the risk to build a tightly knit community with small yards and broad, well-lit sidewalks where walking to commercial develoment (grocery store, restaurants, post office, etc) was feasible they would get a much higher price per SF and definitely a better return on the land. Sure a lot of people don't want this but there are enough that this kind of smart development would have its set of buyers. I know there are a few people out there doing this, just not many at all.

Yes...if the politicians supported by the countless, often ignorant, NIMBYs would allow it. Most cities will not allow this kind of development - even if brought before them by sincere developers - Politicians (and their silent "planners" are much of the reason that little is done pro-actively to require good design. To say this is all about the short sighted developers is not fair - after all, what do these cities pay these "planners" to do anyway?

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There's a "community" advertised on tv here for a development in Chester, Va. They talk about building a community like it used to be... you know with well manicured lawns and being safe for children, plus you can walk to the library! The houses even try to recreate Richmond's old houses just to add to the atmosphere.

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I'm sure if a few developers took the risk to build a tightly knit community with small yards and broad, well-lit sidewalks where walking to commercial develoment (grocery store, restaurants, post office, etc) was feasible they would get a much higher price per SF and definitely a better return on the land. Sure a lot of people don't want this but there are enough that this kind of smart development would have its set of buyers. I know there are a few people out there doing this, just not many at all.

Those types of developments have their challenges, too.

Building a new "walkable" community typically requires having a large amount of land, and building it at fairly high densities. As noted by nthused, this usually generates a fair amount of local opposition (especially since large vacant lots tend to be outsite the urban centers). So these types of communities are difficult to build.

They also can be more expensive to build. Dense walkable communities have a lot of infrastructure outside the residential unit space - pocket parks, street furniture and sidewalks, more parking spaces, etc. Closing large numbers of smaller units is more expensive than smaller numbers of larger units.

They're also much more difficult to finance. These types of projects get looked at more like a multifamily building than single family product in terms of risk, because they're more difficult to phase. With a multifamily building, once you start building you're going to have all of your units coming on line almost at once - you have to get construction lending on all your units at the same time, which increases the risk for the bank issuing the construction loan. With single family units, you can draw on your construction loan one unit at a time, and never need to get negative. But integrated, walkable communities really need a certain critical mass before they get usable - and before any non-residential tenants commit to the retail/neighborhood space. Pre-sale requirements and financing costs go up.

Finally, no one's really sure how much of a market there is for new walkable communities. The "trendy" neighborhoods built before the automobile are not just walkable - they're also older, with a fair amount of history, and tend to be closer to the urban core than any new community could be. A brand-spankin' new subdivision doesn't have the history (sometimes translated into "charm") or location of those communities. They run the risk of coming off as a "faux" product.

Albaby

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places like... Seaside, FL provide a good mix of space saving and healthy living condition, while still affording a shot at what we now consider to be "the American Dream."

I drove through Seaside and the other communities of 30-A just a few days ago.

They're very neat to look at, but the real estate prices are incredibly high, by area standards.

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after all, what do these cities pay these "planners" to do anyway?

They pay them to reject mixed-use developments that don't include 14 acres of parking.

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I drove through Seaside and the other communities of 30-A just a few days ago.

They're very neat to look at, but the real estate prices are incredibly high, by area standards.

Ever been to Harbor Town in Memphis on Mud Island near downtown? That development is relatively inexpensive by area standards. The lots are smaller than is common in the South and that helps keep some of the cost down.

There's a proposal to build a similar neighborhood near downtown LR and I'm hopeful that will pan out.

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Check this out:

Morristown, TN in 1969 wanted to double the amount of sidewalk frontage available in their DT, so they built a second sidewalk, directly over the first one, 20 feet in the air. Kinda like a 2-story enclosed mall, but outdoors and in 1969.

Downtown32.jpg

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There have been major improvements in the last few decades to make my city more walkable. In the 1970s they removed all traffic lights from within the CBD. In the '80s they widened the sidewalks and upgraded them and had a huge tree planting campaign, and more recently they've created a biking/walking path that runs along the lake along with upgrading green spaces on the lake.

Parking downtown is free along the streets, and free in city lots for up to 3 hours.

Sidewalks are also well maintained in residential neighborhoods. Avenues are kept wider to promote the free flow of traffic while streets are narrower (with one side-parking only and then it's hard to get two cars by without slowing way down) with key streets widened (5th, 10th, 15th).

Here's a picture of downtown early in the morning:

pattersonscorner.jpg

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Gaslight Village in the upper middle class community of East Grand Rapids, Michigan is in the finishing touches of a major redevelopment that will give the area more of a downtown appearance, add retail, and high end condos to the area. Most of all it will add more ped friendly features to an all ready walkable community.

Here's Gaslight Village's official website which features numerous renderings of what's happening.

Link

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