Cotuit

What is New Urbanism anyway?

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New Urbanism

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New Urbanism is an urban design movement that burst onto the scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. New Urbanists aim to reform all aspects of real estate development. Their work affects regional and local plans. They are involved in new development, urban retrofits, and suburban infill. In all cases, New Urbanist neighborhoods are walkable, and contain a diverse range of housing and jobs. new Urbanists support regional planning for open space, appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe these strategies are the best way to reduce how long people spend in traffic, to increase the supply of affordable housing, and to rein in urban sprawl. Many other issues, such as historic restoration, safe streets, and green building are also covered in the Charter of the New Urbanism, the movement's seminal document.

-Congress for New Urbanism

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Principles of the New Urbanism

The heart of the New Urbanism is in the design of neighborhoods, which can be defined by 13 elements, according to town planners Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, two of the founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism. An authentic neighborhood contains most of these elements:

[*]The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.

[*]Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly 2,000 feet.

[*]There are a variety of dwelling types

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How would the New Urbanism movement consider the importance (or not) of designing adequate room for cars. I know in some urban areas they truly limit providing adequate room for cars while other cities mandate that all new construction (condos,etc) make room on their property for at least one car/condo. Battery Park City Authority in NYC, in their recent development, Solaire, provided only 20% space for parking for all the units in their building.

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I think it really depends on who you talk to. There are purists who would prefer that there be no cars at all, such as the people at Car Free. Most New Urbanists at least don't want to see the cars. Putting garages or driveways in the back of homes, or clustering parking into garages. Making sure that stores don't have parking facing the street, but rather parked behind or to the side. However, street parking is seen as a way to promote a lively streetscape.

Most New Urbanists realize that we live in a car culture and ignoring cars will not allow for a successful development, especially in suburban areas. Hopefully a well done New Urbanist project will allow people to reduce their car usage, being able to walk to shops and entertainment, but acknowleding that many people need to drive to jobs in adjacent suburbs.

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How would the New Urbanism movement consider the importance (or not) of designing adequate room for cars. I know in some urban areas they truly limit providing adequate room for cars while other cities mandate that all new construction (condos,etc) make room on their property for at least one car/condo.

Like Cotuit said, I think New Urbanists do want to affect parking in some respects, but it's all really about parking design, rather than parking numbers. New Urbanists essentially just want hidden parking, so large lots and ugly garages don't blight a neighborhood.

In most cases, I think New Urbanists take a "hands off" approach to designing numbers of parking spaces. In fact, what they really want, is for cities to abolish all mandatory parking requirements, and let private developers decide how much parking is truly needed for their projects. They feel that in a less regulated situation, developers will typically opt to put in less parking than they currently are required to do. Remember, that in a New Urbanist vision, mixed use zoning is allowed, therefore residential units can be built within walking distance of office and retail. Given that rentable space is so much more profitable than parking space, the market would naturally take care of the rest.

For example, take my current town of Jacksonville, Fl. A current suburban office is usually zoned to offer 8 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, basically to allow for the fact that 100% of employees drive their own personal car to work (since almost all suburban office buildings have huge vacancy rates, this leaves a sea of empty parking, leaving the average person with the impression that suburbia offers free and ample parking.) Conversely, downtown offices often offer 2-4 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet in garages - less spaces offered because garages are obviously more expensive, and the buildings have much lower vacancy rates. Sometimes downtown offices don't offer any parking. You have to find your own. However, now imagine Jacksonville - or any city - with a new urbanist zoning overlay. If developers were allowed the chance to build high density residential units within walking distance of offices, the need for large parking lots would naturally decline. We already know by example that 4 spaces per 1,000 sqft is enough to attract tenants in this market, so if given the opportunity, don't you think developers would love to convert half their parking lots into more profitable uses? But as things stand, they can't. Most American zoning prevents mixed-uses and mandates a high-number of parking spaces.

ok, enough of my ranting ...

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Much of what goes under hte name of "New Urbanism" is anything but. I suggest desiring to know more about The New Urbanism (yes, it should be capitalized, and properly preceeded by "The" with a capital "T") check out the Congress for New Urbanism website at http://www.cnu.org/index.cfm. There is an interesting essay, "New Urbanism And Natural Law" by Phillip Bess on "the moral authority of the urban transect" found at Veritas et Venustas. This essay came about because of Andres Duany's interest in moral law and urbanism and a promise by Bess that he would speak to it if Duany spoke at the Andrews School of Architecture at Notre Dame. Duany, as you undoubtedly know, is one of The New Urbanism's guiding lights.

Frank

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Duany has done two design charrettes of Downcity Providence, the most recent this spring. I attended the wrap up session of the last charrette. The man has a way of capturing an audience, I swear if he passed out kool-aid, we all would have drank it. He got standing ovations and gasps of awe, people were almost in tears at the potential that was unearthed during the charrette.

Now the city needs to find funding for some projects, and untangle the red tape for others. The good thing for Providence, is that our urban base is basically what New Urbanism strives for, we are a model for what should be done (at least the structure of the city is, we've made some blunders along the way). Unlike a lot of southern and western cities that boomed in the automobile age, Providence boomed at a pedestrian scale. We just need to fill in the holes, not make a wholesale restructuring of the city.

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There is an interesting essay, "New Urbanism And Natural Law" by Phillip Bess on "the moral authority of the urban transect" found at Veritas et Venustas.

Thanks for this link. I also read the Charter for the New Urbanism and was not impressed by the lack of actual good policy to create incentives for communities and localities to adopt environmentally friendly design and development. This is what bothers me a lot about the environmental movement and other movements in general (cultural support, arts-funding, etc).. is that the advocates of these causes believe that everyone should share the same view as they hold. This is just unreasonable and impossible to expect. To advance our movement(s) we all need to speak a common language. And today that language is money and the market.

Market-Oriented New Urbanism by Chris Fiscelli touches briefly on the way the movement should move. (http://www.rppi.org/marketnewurban.html). Yes, these plans of development should have a market for them before they are developed. Otherwise, results are disasterous and do not actually give the people what they really want.

I believe that cars are here to stay. I have worked in many low-income communities in urban centers and these areas are so devoid of any business or resource that any way to escape is with a car -- Public transportation is a shame and no cabs hardly ever venture into these areas. Plus, cars and the production of cars is a culture -- so much so that Discovery Channel(!!) has non-stop car shows (drives me crazy -- pardon the pun :lol: ).

In my neighborhood, I believe that any new develop *should* provide adequate car space for each unit - otherwise, cars will continue to infest the streets and make parking a nightmare.

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You kind of have to make parking a nightmare though otherwise there is no incentive for people to find alternatives.

Boston has terrible parking problems, it's not unheard of for there to be mildly violent confrontations over parking. The city restricts the building of new garages in the CBD.

It's a delicate balance though. You have two options when confronted with Boston's lack of parking. 1. Forget the car and use mass transit. 2. Move to some other city where parking isn't such a hassle. Luckily Boston has enough going for it, that the lack of parking is overshadowed. The same can't be said for all cities though.

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Car free is the way to go, every day I wish we were more like Europe in that way, less pollution, more rapid transit, better land usage.

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You kind of have to make parking a nightmare though otherwise there is no incentive for people to find alternatives.

Boston has terrible parking problems, it's not unheard of for there to be mildly violent confrontations over parking. The city restricts the building of new garages in the CBD.

It's a delicate balance though. You have two options when confronted with Boston's lack of parking. 1. Forget the car and use mass transit. 2. Move to some other city where parking isn't such a hassle. Luckily Boston has enough going for it, that the lack of parking is overshadowed. The same can't be said for all cities though.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I like the idea of The New Urbanism. My only complaint is the manifestations we're seeing our cities: huge buildings which mimic what a group of many buildings would once have served in order to provide for mixed uses. It is not a durable way to build a neighborhood, because old and obsolete buildings can't be removed and replaced piecemeal as time goes by. When that huge neighborhood-mimicing building becomes old and obsolete, the only way to replace it is by tearing out the whole neighborhood and displacing hundreds of peoples' dwellings or jobs.

I assume that the only way thy were able to get the big developers on-board was to offer large tracts of land to develop into these NU villages, but I don't think they will age as well as blocks of independent, individually-built buildings do in older neighborhoods which the NU model covets.

MM

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In my neighborhood, I believe that any new develop *should* provide adequate car space for each unit - otherwise, cars will continue to infest the streets and make parking a nightmare.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That article on market oriented new urbanism (http://www.rppi.org/marketnewurban.html) was great. A very clear notion of what NU should aim for instead of falling into the trap of just preaching to the choir.

But your point about parking goes completely against it i think. The point is that it is perfectly reasonable to let the market sort this issue out. Instead what we have today is government mandated requirements that are illogical and cause more harm than good. (there's a great new book on this- http://www.planning.org/bookservice/highcost.htm)

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>>I like the idea of The New Urbanism. My only complaint is the manifestations we're seeing our cities: huge buildings which mimic what a group of many buildings would once have served in order to provide for mixed uses. It is not a durable way to build a neighborhood, because old and obsolete buildings can't be removed and replaced piecemeal as time goes by. When that huge neighborhood-mimicing building becomes old and obsolete, the only way to replace it is by tearing out the whole neighborhood and displacing hundreds of peoples' dwellings or jobs.

<<

If you look at older buildings within downtowns, you often find many old buildings on a single city block crammed together, each with a tiny footprint. You unfortunately don't see much of that anymore. Most new developments tend to consume at least 1/4 of a city block, if not more (unless that city has unusually large city blocks). It would be nice to see more new buildings on plots of land less than 30 feet wide, but probably because of economics, you don't see much of that anymore.

As for parking requirements, all they do is needlessly inflate the price of real estate to the point where some people can't afford to live in an urban area who would otherwise be able to because a single space in an underground garage can cost $20,000+ to build.

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Mass-transit is definatly the ultimate solution. however, i live in tallahassee florida... we dont have the mass to transit. We do have a few areas outside of the city that could utilize a rail system for working in our city, but with major infill of downtown residence just beginning to develop in our downtown, lots of peole are talking about traffic troubles from students (fsu, famu) state employees (yeah, it is the state capital-ish) and the commutors. as a city that was left alone thanks to our lacking coast, we have grown slowly. but nowadays the projections a horrifying. Without completely eliminating the personal automobile, what could we possible do to protect our downtown charm while moving traffic at a stressfree southern pace? I believe we have a few years to apply some changes before people start crying for a smaller town whilst stuck in an exitful/exitless wannabe logical city.

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I understand the basics of New Urbanism- recreate the city as it was before the post-WWII suburbanization movement in that you mix residential, commercial and civic functions within a "neighborhood" so you can minimize the burden placed on the transportation grid. I like the idea of having your basic needs within a 5 minute walk- but a 5 minute walk here in Florida's 100+ degree humiture cannot be a 5 minute walk elsewhere. I also like the idea of destroying Wal-Mart- which would be a requisite for the widespread adoption of New Urbanism.

However, I don't believe that simply re-arranging cities is enough. My version of New Urbanism would also take demographics into account so neighborhoods would have a cohesive human society. My version would also address human ecology- how we use natural resources (water, sunlight et cetera) and how we deal with waste products (storm water, sewage, msw et cetera).

I can handle the ecology aspect since I have a degree in biology and have spent some time researching the issue on my own. But, what about the sociological component? Does anyone know of anything that has been published recently on urban demographics? For example, how many people should a New Urbanism neighborhood have? Also how big should a grade school be to make efficient use of teachers, buildings et cetera without being big enough to encourage anonymity? If everyone in a school knows everyone else, then any one individual is less likely to cause trouble due to peer pressure. Someone who is just a face in a crowd could easily become a delinquent without suffering any general social stigma.

Also, how would an urban planner go about deciding what types of businesses and retail stores should go in a neighborhood and how large should the stores be?

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Sounds very nice, but the last point makes me very nervous:

# The neighborhood is organized to be self-governing. A formal association debates and decides matters of maintenance, security, and physical change. Taxation is the responsibility of the larger community.

So a "new urbanist" neighborhood should have a board to tell me that my relatives can't park their motorhome outside my house, or that I can't have ham radio antennas on the top of my house or in my backyard?

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New Urbanism:

Cars are icky, density is nifty.

It really is that simple and that simplistic. For all the high sounding principles touted by the CNU and others New Urbanism is about an emotional hatred of low density autocentric development patterns. Everything else is plannerese cover for an anti-suburban agenda.

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Does anyone know how The New Urbanism addresses pets? My wife and I are in the process of buying a home in a classic post-WWII neighborhood, mostly composed of ranch style houses. While a ranch style house would not have been my first choice, the home does have one very nice feature: it sits on a lot that is probably about half an acre. I'm very much looking forward to turning my dogs loose in that backyard.

Does The New Urbanism have an answer to this problem? A yard seems essential to me to give my dogs room to play, excerise and if nothing else, go to the bathroom. This seeming lack of pet-friendliness is the main thing that would probably hold me back from living in a New Urbanist neighborhood.

Please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing this aspect of The New Urbanism.

Edited by Relient J

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I guess the New Urbanist philosophy would address pets by saying that you should take them to public parks. Part of their philosophy is that instead of big backyards as private gathering places, you would instead have public parks where all can gather and interact.

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^ I suppose you're right. Thanks for the comment! I like the idea behind The New Urbanism, though I'm not sure that every aspect of it is for me. Maybe TNU plus bigger yards. :) I don't know.

Edited by Relient J

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^ I suppose you're right. Thanks for the comment! I like the idea behind The New Urbanism, though I'm not sure that every aspect of it is for me. Maybe TNU plus bigger yards. :) I don't know.

New Urbanism contains within it all areas, from the most rural to the most urban. For a consise description of the Transect (a tool for describing that range) go to http://www.newurbannews.com/transect.html .

I have worked on many New Urbanist plans that have a range of lots, from teeny to 5 acres and more. The important thing is the total overall density, not an even desity throughout the area. And the ideal is not just a 5 minute walk from the edge to the center, but also a 5 minute walk from the center to nature at the edge with a hour walk available there. see also this image -Transect200408121.JPG

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^ Thanks for introducing me to the Transect concept. That makes a lot of sense actually. It eliminated one of my biggest reservations about The New Urbanism concept.

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My dream would be to live right beyond the edge of a traditional neighborhood, so I could have a large lot (preferably at least 2-3 acres) while at the same time be within a short biking distance (or reasonable walking distance) of at least a few amenities.

The eastern part of the West Duluth neighborhood here in (you guessed it!) Duluth, MN, where our store is, was built around or slightly before the turn of the century (1900), and consists mostly of single-family dwellings on narrow lots with alleys, a big park, and some stores, usually having apartments on the second floor. The steep slope of the Duluth hill has traditionally blocked development past around 8th St., so when one goes "up the hill" to that level, and turns off a side road, they'll go almost straight from the denser SFD neighborhoods to what appears to be a rural area - a short dirt road, gigantic yard, etc., right on the edge of the hill. That's something of an example, although I personally would prefer to be farther up, since in the VHF+ ham radio / DXing hobby, elevation is usually a good thing.

By the way, Citydweller, that's a very impresssive map. Do you know where I can find other such maps and diagrams?

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