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Southron

New Urbanism and Smart Growth in Alabama

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Several New Urbanist/Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) residential projects have been built or planned in Alabama over the past few years. I pulled this list from The Town Paper:

Birmingham

Mt Laurel

Metropolitan Gardens

The Preserve

Trussville Springs

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach

Bon Secour Village - more info (Gulf Shores)

Tannin - more info (Orange Beach)

Huntsville

Providence - more info

Montgomery

The Waters - more info (Pike Road)

Hampstead

Hudson

Lafayette (Pike Road)

Chanticleer

Gorham's Bluff (Pisgah)

Does anyone know of any other New Urbanist developments in Alabama, or have any thoughts about these developments or New Urbanism in general?

---

Some websites with New Urban and Smart Growth info:

Urban Planet

Principles of New Urbanism

Charter of the New Urbanism

Smart Growth

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^^ Other than the HOPE VI project in Birmingham, I'm not sure that any of these should really count. Though they are good traditional neighborhood designs, most of these are being built out at the furthest extent of far-flung sprawl.

Until developers and financial institutions get on board with real urban or inner ring development, these suburban TND projects may be the best we can hope for -- at least some developers are warming up to the idea of using traditional development practices. Now if we can just get them to take the next step and tackle infill and renovation needs in our cities...

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I'm a member of the CNU and yes I guess you could call me a New Urbanist. I've been an "urbanist" all my life. I grew up wanting to live in walkable urban major cities all while living my life in the 'burbs. It wasn't til I read Andres Duany's Suburban Nation did I put it all together. New Urbanism isn't really new, it's simply a resurrection of the way we have built our cities for thousands of years.

We should not fear urbanism, we should embrace it. Urbanism gives us more freedoms, freeing us from our cars and giving us options in terms of housing and transportation. I long for the day when I can walk out of my condo/house/apartment and simply walk or take a bike to work without feeling awkward or fearing for my life.

Montgomery, AL is the largest city in the nation to adopt the SmartCode, land use regulation compiled by DPZ and friends.

I'm hoping New Urbanism and urbanism in general keeps growing here in Alabama. With increases in housing prices, commute times, obesity, and energy prices, urbanism and New Urbanism will only continue to expand.

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^^ Other than the HOPE VI project in Birmingham, I'm not sure that any of these should really count. Though they are good traditional neighborhood designs, most of these are being built out at the furthest extent of far-flung sprawl.

Until developers and financial institutions get on board with real urban or inner ring development, these suburban TND projects may be the best we can hope for -- at least some developers are warming up to the idea of using traditional development practices. Now if we can just get them to take the next step and tackle infill and renovation needs in our cities...

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I agree, most of these "New Urbanism" neighborhoods are built in the burbs. They feel artificial (because they are). Providence here in Huntsville would be really neat if it were built downtown, but it seems weird to me out in the burbs. It feels like the Stepford Wives movie out there. Although better than most cookie cutter neighborhoods, I want to see some of these developments being built in blighted areas close to downtown. Hopefully we can get a smaller scale version when Searcy and/or Council Court projects are demolished. I think the best of these types of developments blend into an already existing urban environment, not when they try to create their own exclusive "urban" enclave.

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The cost and risk for a developer to do urban infill is much greater than that of a greenfield new urbanism development.

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I appreciate the principles of New Urbanism, but I only hold one thing against it, and that is that it is still a mass produced product. Traditional urbanism is the result of several different architectural styles over a long period of time. However, I'm at least glad that NU preserves the principles of true urbanism.

As far as suburban NU projects, I do agree that infill NU projects are better, but at least we're seeing quality developments out in the suburbs. Also, eventually, those areas will grow up, and those NU projects will become a part of the fabric.

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I appreciate the principles of New Urbanism, but I only hold one thing against it, and that is that it is still a mass produced product. Traditional urbanism is the result of several different architectural styles over a long period of time. However, I'm at least glad that NU preserves the principles of true urbanism.

As far as suburban NU projects, I do agree that infill NU projects are better, but at least we're seeing quality developments out in the suburbs. Also, eventually, those areas will grow up, and those NU projects will become a part of the fabric.

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new urbanism is not new and it is not urban. look at the demographics. i'm not so much against it as i am just simply for urbanism, period.

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But I totally agree that it's good that we're seeing quality suburban development. Just remember, if the suburbs weren't building this, they would just be building more subdivisions.

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I agree, most of these "New Urbanism" neighborhoods are built in the burbs. They feel artificial (because they are). Providence here in Huntsville would be really neat if it were built downtown, but it seems weird to me out in the burbs.

Just like Bessemer near Birmingham, Providence is making a real town center near Huntsville.

It feels like the Stepford Wives movie out there. Although better than most cookie cutter neighborhoods, I want to see some of these developments being built in blighted areas close to downtown.

Problem is, if you want to build close to downtown, it has to get blighted enough that the property value goes to close to zero in order to make the economics work. In Huntsville, that's nowhere close to happening.

Hopefully we can get a smaller scale version when Searcy and/or Council Court projects are demolished. I think the best of these types of developments blend into an already existing urban environment, not when they try to create their own exclusive "urban" enclave.

The problem with the New Urbanism is that people want real community so bad that they bid up the prices from the moment the lots are first offered. Remember what happened with Providence? They set up a tent on the roadside and sold out their first offering of lots in three hours. No matter how much a developer wants to be inclusive, when the market demands something so strongly, they have a dilemma on their hands.

The only real solution is to build enough New Urbanism that it becomes the normal way of building in a place. I'm also an Expat Alabaman, and in years past, the Huntsville planning department was dead-set against anything other than the suburban model, but I understand that in recent years, they're slowly beginning to come around. That's great, because if Huntsville has any hope of continuing its legacy of leadership in the mid-South, it desperately needs to get beyond its almost entirely suburban past and embrace the future of development in America. Because Huntsville is so strongly engineering-based, I'm optimistic they'll do so, because engineers end up finding the rational solution most of the time, and this stuff simply makes sense.

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Understood. However, the long term cost to the community by allowing the growth to continue further and further from the city center could end up being much greater. But you can't expect individual developers to care about that.

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I can get by the mass produced nature of it as long as it is quality development. Architectural conformity can be a good thing... to a point. In a development or in a city in general, it's nice to have motifs and themes that still allow for creative variation.

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You are exactly right. The problems many have with New Urbanism developments, are the same problems people have with any other greenfield development, the faux feel, more sprawl, and being in many cases far from downtown. This is more or less an issue that can only be solved with a urban growth boundary. There's going to be greenfield fringe development, the question is, would you rather have your conventional auto-oriented sprawl or New Urbanism.

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Montgomery, AL is the largest city in the nation to adopt the SmartCode, land use regulation compiled by DPZ and friends.

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This Montgomery TND should have been on the list:

Hampstead - planned by DPZ, the first TND approved under Montgomery's SmartCode. News articles are available here and here.

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An organization called SmartCoast is at work in Coastal Alabama, promoting Smart Growth and the SmartCode in Baldwin and Mobile counties. SmartCoast has worked with the cities of Spanish Fort and Magnolia Springs on how to use SmartCode tools, and sponsored Chad Emerson's (Jones School of Law professor and national SmartCode expert) visit with Spanish Fort officials this past spring.

In April of 2008, SmartCoast and the U.S. Green Building Council are hosting a two-day green building conference at the Mobile convention center. For more info, visit the conference website: GreenCoast 2008

website: SmartCoast

news article: Gulf Coast Newspapers Explain Smart Growth

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The Atlantic & Pacific Lofts development in Montgomery's Old Cloverdale neighborhood won a 2008 Charter Award in the "Block, Street and Building" category from the Congress of the New Urbanism. Congratulations to City Loft Corporation for an excellent infill development!

Check out the details here: CNU Charter Award Winner

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A little bit of it has occured along the river in Decatur.

The Waterfront at Rhodes Ferry

DecaturApr08051.jpg

DecaturApr08045.jpg

DecaturApr08058.jpg

DecaturApr08049.jpg

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