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Thread: Your thoughts on new suburban downtowns

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus pcjournal's avatar
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    Your thoughts on new suburban downtowns

    I'd be curious to get reaction to a post I just put up -- "We Don't Let Planning Get in the Way" (be sure to read both parts) -- about suburban West Hartford, Connecticut's new Blue Back Square project -- and the "anti-planning" approach the town takes (at least that's how one planner described it). Are there suburban downtowns you're familiar with? What makes some of them work well, and others not? And what do you think about the approach taken in West Hartford?

    Also, fyi, there's an interesting discussion of suburban downtowns on Don Reed's blog. Go to: "False city vs. suburbs debate ignores real issues."
    Wayne Senville, Editor
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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pcjournal View post
    I'd be curious to get reaction to a post I just put up -- "We Don't Let Planning Get in the Way" (be sure to read both parts) -- about suburban West Hartford, Connecticut's new Blue Back Square project -- and the "anti-planning" approach the town takes (at least that's how one planner described it). Are there suburban downtowns you're familiar with? What makes some of them work well, and others not? And what do you think about the approach taken in West Hartford?
    Is it really accurate to say that West Hartford's approach was "anti-planning"? Sounds like the town officials had a pretty clear vision of what they wanted to see happen and were able to articulate this to the development community, even down to the preference for certain architectural details. Just because they didn't engage in extensive studies of the redevelopment area doesn't mean they weren't engaging in planning, per se; they certainly didn't just say "have at it, build what you want" to the developers. The town was fortunate in that it appears that there were capable people in charge of overseeing the redevelopment process, these individuals probably had the trust of the powers that be, and they also likely earned consensus among the various stakeholders involved.

    A lot of communities are not as fortunate as West Hartford. They may suffer from poor/inept leadership and a political environment which it would be very difficult to move forward with a project like this without a public planning process and/or formal urban design guidelines. Also, it sounds like Planning Director had a significant influence on shaping this project. How many communities give planning staff this kind of power as opposed to citizen-led Planning Boards?

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