new urbanism

In skim­ming a book I just checked out from the library — Sim­plic­i­ty Lessons — I became curi­ous about a move­ment called New Urban­ism, and sub­se­quent­ly looked it up on the inter­net. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing move­ment of urban devel­op­ment that began in the late 80’s and which was a reac­tion to “urban sprawl”. Accord­ing to the move­ment, sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties are designed such that every­thing one needs is with­in walk­ing dis­tance, and is designed with pedes­tri­ans and bik­ers (instead of mere­ly cars) in mind. I think this is a won­der­ful idea…you may want to check out this nice arti­cle that explains the move­ment bet­ter than I. Here are the ele­ments of a new urban­ist com­mu­ni­ty accord­ing to this article:

1) The neigh­bor­hood has a dis­cernible cen­ter. This is often a square of a green, and some­times a busy or mem­o­rable street cor­ner. A tran­sit stop would be locat­ed at this center.

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

3) There is a vari­ety of dwelling types — usu­al­ly hous­es, row­hous­es and apart­ments — so that younger and old­er peo­ple, sin­gles and fam­i­lies, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.

4) There are shops and offices at the edge of the neigh­bor­hood, of suf­fi­cient­ly var­ied types to sup­ply the week­ly needs of a household.

5) A small ancil­lary build­ing is per­mit­ted with­in the back­yard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (e.g. office or craft workshop).

6) An ele­men­tary school is close enough so that most chil­dren can walk from their home.

7) There are small play­grounds near every dwelling — not more than a tenth of a mile away.

8) Streets with­in the neigh­bor­hood are a con­nect­ed net­work, which dis­pers­es traf­fic by pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of pedes­tri­an and vehic­u­lar routes to any destination.

9) The streets are rel­a­tive­ly nar­row and shad­ed by rows of trees. This slows traf­fic, cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment suit­able for pedes­tri­ans and bicycles.

10) Build­ings in the neigh­bor­hood cen­ter are placed close to the street, cre­at­ing a well-defined out­door room.

11) Park­ing lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Park­ing is rel­e­gat­ed to the rear of build­ings, usu­al­ly accessed by alleys.

12) Cer­tain promi­nent sites at the ter­mi­na­tion of street vis­tas or in the neigh­bor­hood cen­ter are reserved for civic build­ings. These pro­vide sites for com­mu­ni­ty meetings,education, reli­gion or cul­tur­al activities.

13) 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.

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