Although the ideas that root New Urbanism are nothing new, the term only emerged during the 1980s and 1990s. The idea of taking the convenience of commercial retail and finding a balance with residential life so that destinations are close and easily navigated on foot can be traced back through generations and different cultures continuing to be relevant today.
This idea is continuing to evolve as developers try to recreate the feel of city living in the surrounding suburban settings outside major U.S. markets as homebuilders look to develop new residential dwellings.
In a Sept. 7, The Washington Post article entitled ‘Can city life be exported to the suburbs?’ Jonathan O’Connor looks at both sides, both for and against the success of recreating city life in suburbs, and mentions, “Instead of building more typical suburban developments, in the past two decades builders increasingly have been bringing city life to the suburbs and exurbs. Street grids are plotted around central plazas surrounded by condos, apartments and shopping. Public transportation is arranged, parking garages are hidden from view, and all the things that people love about D.C. and cities like it are layered on: public art, sidewalk performers, outdoor movies, street festivals, block parties and food carts.”
Most interestingly, O’Connor observes that the “spread of ‘town center’ projects…make it harder to distinguish what makes a city a city. What I enjoy most about New Urbanism is how, when done correctly, it doesn’t forget about the rural settings…”
In the same Sept. 7, Washington Post article, Patrick Phillips, president and chief executive of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group that studies cities says that “just as planners are doing today in the exurbs, Pierre L’Enfant ‘planned out the streets, and builders came in and bought lots and built the houses [of D.C.]. All of these places were contrived in that they were consciously planned and built.”
As developers continue to innovate in their quest to bring neighborhoods closer to the local movie theater, elementary school, athletic fields and shops, prospective young homebuyers will continue to look for options to suit their desired lifestyle and that location may just be 20 minutes north of their favorite urban center, with much of the same feel.
What are your experiences with New Urban development? Are developers and builders taking advantage of the growing trend in your region?