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Principles of “New Urbanism”

In a nutshell “new urbanism” is rooted in the idea that cities are gathering places where residents and visitors alike live, work, run businesses and play in locations that are close to one another. Today, that means trying to reshape and bring life to older cities and newer suburban communities to make them more attractive and more accessible to everyone, especially pedestrians. New urbanism also takes into account the diversity of a place and the contribution of diverse thoughts and opinions to the quality of life.  As a black urbanist I am particularly interested in an approach to development that recognizes the richness in diversity.

Here are the principles of new urbanism as spelled out by the folks at newurbanism.org:

1. Walkability

-Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work

-Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)

-Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

2. Connectivity

-Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking

-A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys

-High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

3. Mixed-Use & Diversity

-A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings

-Diversity of people – of ages, income levels, cultures, and races

4. Mixed Housing

A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity

5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design

Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

6. Traditional Neighborhood Structure

-Discernable center and edge
-Public space at center
-Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
-Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
-Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the
design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

7. Increased Density

-More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
-New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

8. Smart Transportation

-A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
-Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

9. Sustainability

-Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
-Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
-Energy efficiency
-Less use of finite fuels
-More local production
-More walking, less driving

10. Quality of Life

Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.

BENEFITS OF NEW URBANISM

1. BENEFITS TO RESIDENTS

Higher quality of life;

Better places to live, work, & play;

Higher, more stable property values; Less traffic congestion & less driving;

Healthier lifestyle with more walking, and less stress;

Close proximity to main street retail & services;

Close proximity to bike trails, parks, and nature;

Pedestrian friendly communities offer more opportunities to get to know others in the neighborhood and town, resulting in meaningful relationships with more people, and a friendlier town;

More freedom and independence to children, elderly, and the poor in being able to get to jobs, recreation, and services without the need for a car or someone to drive them;

Great savings to residents and school boards in reduced busing costs from children being able to walk or bicycle to neighborhood schools; More diversity and smaller, unique shops and services with local owners who are involved in community; Big savings by driving less, and owning less cars;

Less ugly, congested sprawl to deal with daily;

Better sense of place and community identity with more unique architecture; More open space to enjoy that will remain open space;

More efficient use of tax money with less spent on spread out utilities and roads

2. BENEFITS TO BUSINESSES

Increased sales due to more foot traffic & people spending less on cars and gas;

More profits due to spending less on advertising and large signs;

Better lifestyle by living above shop in live-work units – saves the stressful & costly commute;

Economies of scale in marketing due to close proximity and cooperation with other local businesses;

Smaller spaces promote small local business incubation; Lower rents due to smaller spaces & smaller parking lots;

Healthier lifestyle due to more walking and being near healthier restaurants;

More community involvement from being part of community and knowing residents