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Thread: More new urbanism [Broadband Recommended]

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    More new urbanism [Broadband Recommended]

    BIRKDALE VILLAGE

    Two miles or one exit up the Interstate from Vermillion is another Huntersville (NC) foray into New Urbanism.



    This one seems a bigger success, because it’s more urban. Folks cruise in to hang out.



    Birkdale Village is bustling instead of somnolent.



    With a much higher FAR it achieves the appearance of a smallish city.

















    It comes complete with a cryptic obelisk as centerpiece. No inscription on the obelisk: should it perhaps say ‘homage to Leon Krier’?



    Here you will find a fairly high residential density by Sunbelt standards.



    And a relationship between dwelling and street that most people in this part of the world must find novel:



    Commercial life is healthy, with the usual assortment of upscale chain stores:





    The main street sports a central landscaped mall and leads to the movies.



    This keeps it bustling till late evening.


    When is a parking lot not a parking lot? When it’s disguised as angle parking on a Main Street.

    Cruising is done at 6 mph.





    As in all urban places, a parking space is not easy to find—at least on the main drag.





    Yuppies congregate un-diversely in the landscaped mall.





    White people are so boring! (There, I said it; now you don’t have to.)





    Teens look bewildered wherever you find them.



    Soccer-mom drives a paramilitary vehicle.


    She is a rugged individualist and wears combat boots. She is ready to kick some ass.



    Café society with kids; the nuclear family dominates as social unit. It is still hard to strike up a conversation with a stranger. This is, after all, the suburbs:



    Hard, but not impossible. It helps if you own a dog. The upper middle class version of sunbelt street life looks like this:


    Do people come here to walk their dogs, or are these Birkdale residents?

    Baby-stroller tango:




    * * *

    The principal architects of Birkdale Village, Charlotte’s Dalton, Moran, Robinson, will tell you on their website, http://www.dmra.biz/desc_birkdale.html, that they wanted this place to look like Nantucket. Here it actually does, a little:





    The plan of downtown Birkdale Village:



    The four principal blocks that surround the main intersection seem hollow. In fact they are chock full of structure parking, but for residents only.



    You can catch glimpses of the parking decks through occasional gaps in the street wall.






    Some have upper level bridges for the residents.




    Suburbia at walking distance: the single-family detached subdivisions begin just beyond the parking decks.



    I actually observed one couple walking into town from there (better than none). The architects of Birkdale’s master plan attached some importance to this kind of connectivity (notice the arrows):



    Good for them!

    The architects made few mistakes. A minor error is grass in an obvious circulation route.
    Grass generally doesn’t belong in urban places, except collected into parks. Here is a man demonstrating why:



    Here is the upshot:


    Brick would have been nice, or Belgian block.

    A much graver mistake is this seriously misguided building, probably by another architect, and a throwback to old-think, use-based zoning:



    The footprint here is wa-a-ay too big; throwing the building grossly out of scale; too large a piece of land has been developed here as a single building. This is what planners attempt to prevent with height limits, but height has nothing to do with it; this building is no taller than its neighbors. It’s the footprint that throws it out of scale; that’s what the zoning should prevent.

    The large footprint also encourages bureaucratic repetition: too many windows, like a mill building, and too much concentrated blankness. Popping out the center section doesn’t help, and neither does the (slighty absurd) balustrade; all that does is provide yet another opportunity for surplus repetition.

    Believing that height is the principal component of scale is the most common mistake of nimbys, and explains why they never get the satisfaction they crave. Heck, a single-story building with this footprint would be out of scale here (imagine a standard supermarket). A good alternative would be to replace this building attractively and profitably with three buildings, one of which could be a miniature skyscraper, befitting its role.

    Here’s an example from Turin, providing welcome contrapuntal relief for a square that is a tad too regular and symmetrical. It functions compositionally like the Campanile in the Piazza San Marco:


    Thanks to MSPtoMKE of SSP for the photo.

    The other two could be revenue generators, and also taller.

    Two miniature skyscrapers from the Boston area:

    .
    Beacon Hill, 11 stories, left; Quincy, 10 stories, right.

    And an example from a Birkdale Village of a bygone era, Forest Hills, Queens, NY, dating from last century’s ‘teens:

    .

    You can tell people hereabouts don’t have much experience with parallel parking:



    Because they are right in the middle of things, curbside spaces are the preferred parking, though hard to come by; you have to circle the block a few times, adding to the bustle at 6 mph. If you strike out, there are plenty of peripheral lots, heavily landscaped. These will make excellent building sites in the future, when Birkdale Village expands.



    The Leasing Center is styled to look like a three-decker…





    …and the inside, like the lobby of a boutique hotel:




    You can stop in and play a little chess among the boxes.

    “Birkdale Village is complete,” intoned the realtor-lady inside, when I inquired about expansion plans. Nonsense. No real urban place is ever complete, even if that is the line put out by the marketing men at the Crosland Company.

    As the bucks roll in and the greed factor kicks in, some sharp marketeer will spy his chance to multiply profits by building more of a good thing—regardless of what the market surveys say. The truth is a place like this creates its own market. There are fewer people at the big mall this Sunday because of Birkdale Village.

    And when the time comes, there are all those outlying parking lots, each one just begging for nice four-story residential or office buildings with ground floor retail and mid-block structure parking—only this time with more levels and open to the public as well as residents.



    Outside the Leasing Center, the ecologically-sound novelty vehicle waits to whisk you to your intended leasehold. The Leasing Center is cagily located right at the edge of Birkdale’s suburbs, where the uninitiated will feel at home before they venture into the urban wilds. A background parking lot provides familiar comfort, and you can relax because there's no sidewalk on the suburban side of the intersection beyond:



    Just outside and to the right, the suburbs start. Here the Walgreen’s has shot itself in the foot. Inaccessible from downtown Birkdale Village, this positions its entrance towards the state highway beyond, with its own dedicated parking lot on reassuring display.



    No one from Birkdale Village shops at this Walgreen’s except after getting in a car, because a block is too far to walk in the suburbs, with only grass and bushes to keep you company.



    Nothing will convince Walgreen’s that they could have made more money as an integral part of Birkdale Village; their marketing theory tells them otherwise. Theories are much too durable to discard. When my camera’s batteries gave out, I replaced them at a premium price in-town at the camera store.

    Most people are here to shop; this is after all -–among other things--a substitute for a mall.



    Parting shots:














    Waiting for the graffiti. Just kidding, there’s no graffiti in Charlotte.


    A stretch of street waiting for them to allow curbside parking.




















    A Charlotte Area Transit System bus with actual passengers (on a Sunday!!).























    Leaving Birkdale:



    On the state highway to the Interstate:



    The usual suburban crap:



    And an abandoned farm. Waiting for…what?





    Birkdale Village: better at making money than Vermillion. Less orthodox and dogmatic.
    Therefore better than Vermillion, in spite of the world-famous architect’s absence. Or maybe because of it.


    * * *

    The bottom line: Birkdale Village does some good by concentrating a few residents and by getting people to like the experience of quasi-urban shopping.

    Like Vermillion and dozens of other New Urbanist fragments, it is ultimately almost ineffectual in solving our environmental dilemma.Until all these disconnected New Urbanist fragments get linked up by continuous urban fabric, no city will come into being. The fragments are miles and miles apart; it will take centuries for them to congeal into a whole.

    I am really impressed by California’s overall land use. The most populous state preserves huge swaths of incredible scenery in a natural state in perpetuity by virtue of public ownership. Development is concentrated in certain areas, some of which are quite urban. When you cross the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you immediately encounter publicly-owned undeveloped land which rapidly becomes quasi-wilderness.

    If the government were to stop spending its gazillions on pointless wars and start buying land to conserve, the time would come when development could be concentrated in smaller and more urbanized areas. Then New Urbanism would start to make more of a difference.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Here's the real difference between 'New' Urbanism and old urbanism: this place is so new and clean, it's creepy!

    The obelisk without inscription is weird, it kind of symbolises thia as a place that's been manufactured, right down to the 'memorials'...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Barf! Thanks For Have So Many Pix Of Crap That One Cannot Navigate!

  4. #4
    spokanite's avatar
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    The Truman Show?

    Quote Originally posted by JNL
    Here's the real difference between 'New' Urbanism and old urbanism: this place is so new and clean, it's creepy! The obelisk without inscription is weird, it kind of symbolises thia as a place that's been manufactured, right down to the 'memorials'...
    I feel like I just finished watching "The Truman Show".

    Replace the scene where Jim Carrey sails his boat to the edge of set and hits the white wall with:
    • a scene of a shopper driving his car to the edge of the development...and promptly bumps into a painted mural of an intersection

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by spokanite
    I feel like I just finished watching "The Truman Show".
    Cute little, sterile community. It is nice to see developers actually trying to re-create a pedestrian friendly community. It just needs to get a little dirtier.

    OT= When I saw the movie "The Truman Show", I saw it in Celebration's movie theatre. It was too apropos.

  6. #6
    I see you noticed the same flaws with this place that I did when I posted about Birkdale Village here earlier in the year. (this thread) It lacks the places that people need for day to day living.

    I agree with Vermillion as well. It was a much better conceived plan when it was originated, but the developer and the city council ended up parting ways and the development has failed for now.

    The only really promising development in Huntersville, and a good deal of Charlotte for that matter, is the Rosedale neighborhood. It is interesting that little is said of it, but it is turning out to be a nice mixture of housing, greenways, stores, schools etc. It is still missing a few elements, but I believe the town has plans to address some of those issues. They have seen Birkdale Village and don't want another repeat.

    Unfortuately, the city of Charlotte has embraced this type of development. And the developer responsible for Birkdale Village, Peter Pappas, can do no wrong in the eyes of city. He is currently asking for a taxpayer handout to develop mid-town square into the same type of development. Hence, the bad news is that more "Birkdale Villages" are going to show up in the Charlotte.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    I am really impressed by California’s overall land use. The most populous state preserves huge swaths of incredible scenery in a natural state in perpetuity by virtue of public ownership. Development is concentrated in certain areas, some of which are quite urban. When you cross the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you immediately encounter publicly-owned undeveloped land which rapidly becomes quasi-wilderness.

    If the government were to stop spending its gazillions on pointless wars and start buying land to conserve, the time would come when development could be concentrated in smaller and more urbanized areas. Then New Urbanism would start to make more of a difference.
    Well, I don't have quite your rosy opinion, ablarc (Wow. I'm being MORE negative than you!!). California has plenty and plenty of sprawl, as I'm sure you know.

    The East Bay Regional Park District and the National Park open space lands are pretty impressive, but some of the towns below are pretty bleak (Hayward, anyone??) Look at Contra Costa County or the Sacramento Valley.

    Solano County is mostly disappointing new sprawl as well, but the County has specifically outlawed non-municipal urban development. To build a subdivision, you have to be annexed into a city. Several of the municipalities have gotten together to form Joint Powers Authorities to preserve open land between the cities, and there is incerasingly talk about creating a regional park district.

    So, the problem is, we in California ARE restricting the vast spread of American sprawl (which the vast majority of people want and demand) while not really providing attractive alternatives, outside of San Francisco, the urban East Bay, and a few pockets elsewhere. (This project looks far nicer than most of what is built out here in the suburbs). Few Charlotte residents have to drive 70 miles to find "affordable" housing. Of course, that is partly because the American Dream is solely defined as a single family house in a subdivision, for most people.
    The result is hyper price inflation and ultra-long commutes on the second worst congested freeways in the USA.

    Quote Originally posted by Trail Nazi
    Cute little, sterile community. It is nice to see developers actually trying to re-create a pedestrian friendly community. It just needs to get a little dirtier.

    OT= When I saw the movie "The Truman Show", I saw it in Celebration's movie theatre. It was too apropos.
    How can any brand new community be anything but "sterile."?

    Is it realistic to expect all the population growth in a place like Charlotte to be accomodated only in "infill" locations in "interesting" neighborhoods? Does Charlotte even have anything that dense or interesting anyway? I just remember different generations of suburbia surrounding a spine of bank towers. I also remember a downtown neighborhood (Fourth Ward?) that purported to be urban infill. It was quite pleasant, but equally as sterile and shiny and cute, if a little denser and more housing-oriented.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 11 Jul 2005 at 3:59 PM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Well, I don't have quite your rosy opinion, ablarc (Wow. I'm being MORE negative than you!!).
    Lol, BKM, I'm not negative; I'm just a realist.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    [please don’t take the wrong way]

    OMG, there is nothing but white people!:-P I guess I noticed this because in one of my classes we are talking about urban multiculturism vs. suburban segregation . This could be there slogan,

    “New Urbanism: Cities for white people”

    WTF, is this the new era of white flight??? :y

    “we’ll just build our own cities darnet”

    [rant]WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE OLD URBANISM![/rant]

    [/please don’t take the wrong way]

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Many find that new urbanist projects like Birkdale Village look sterile. They realize that over time the landscaping will mature and the buildings will become a little more weathered, but the projects always look a little too perfect when first completed. And did you notice that there isn't a bit of litter in any of the photos? It isn't due to street sweepers (I didn't see any); people just don't litter in this place.

    “This thing is ALL new,” others complain, “It looks like they took the local strip mall and moved it to the road and reconfigured the parking. Its ok they guess, “but REAL urbanism is when new developments are mixed in with old ones and there’s public transit to use like shuttles and trains rather than cars.

    ”A manufactured downtown. There’s a level of detachment that’s really creepy there.”

    All true and built right into the idea of a manufactured downtown in a suburban place. In other words, it’s endemic to all New Urbanism practiced somewhere besides right next to existing urban fabric. These criticisms are raised even against places like Poundbury, which is an extension of existing urban fabric.

    Why is everyone white? Maybe it’s because outer suburbs of most U.S. cities are white. Maybe it’s because nonwhites have different interests from those catered to at Birkdale. It’s certainly not a conspiracy or policy. There are some Asians in some of the pics, and one African-American crossing the street—but maybe he doesn’t count since he’s wearing a tie!

    Why is it hard to find a white face in some neighborhoods? Why are there all-black churches? I guess this is still a racially-divided country. The very question suggests this.

    “Some of it looks somewhat cheap with a little too much use of vinyl siding, but I think it's a step in the right direction. I, for one, like what I see,” ventured a respondent on SSP.

    It’s not vinyl, and it’s not cheap, but I agree siding is the wrong material because it’s not associated with urban places. You could make the case that all the architecture’s wood-based vocabulary misses the mark; the architects got carried away with the Nantucket analogy and the developer went along with it to save money. Anyway even Nantucket relies more on brick in its downtown core.

    To others, it appears to be just another fad like the regional mall was in the 60's & 70's. They have very little hope for "new urbanist" developments to make any difference in the American culture. Only when our reliance on the car subsides will Americans develop land more intelligently out in the 'burbs. In the meantime they do find these developments interesting, but you won't find them spending any money there.

    Our reliance on the car could end rather abruptly due to a major catastrophe such as a global war or an economic embargo. When that last happened in the Seventies, we got as a response CAFE fuel-economy standards, higher gas prices and the double-nickel speed limit—all since rolled back in one way or another. Maybe another response was greater awareness of what suburbia was doing to us, and the long-term reawakening of interest in urbanism and city-living. Seen that way, even Birkdale is a small step in the right direction if it encourages tolerance of outdoor walking in surroundings that mimic a real city.

    Is it a fad? I hope not, but only time will tell. Greater Charlotte has two or three such quasi-urban stage sets with multiplex cinemas. Since these all show the same movies, selection of the multiplex to attend is done on scenographic (not geographic) grounds: the “New Urbanist” multiplexes are thriving, and the two big-mall cinema complexes have both closed. The main streets of these Potemkin villages now teem in the evenings with teenagers hanging out. For some reason, they think it beats the Mall.

    Others think “that’s one impressive suburb. They basically created a whole other city, especially with all the commericial retail. All they need are some offices and their own gov't and they will never have to go to the CBD ever. The rich will just get to live in their suburban, almost urban, oasis.”

    That’s about the gist of it.

    Here's a scene you'll never see in Birkdale:


    Photo by Chris DeWolf at L'Urbanite.

    You see, it's not really a public place.

    .
    Last edited by ablarc; 21 Sep 2004 at 11:03 PM.

  11. #11
    Well this isn't white flight.

    Charlotte as a whole has had a much better record of no racial problems than most cities in the USA where there is a significant Black populaiton. Instead, Huntersville's growth is coming not at the expense of Charlotte, but rather the relentless migration into the county. Mostly from people leaving the Midwest and Northeast. In 1990 Huntersville had a population of 3000, it was somewhere close to 35,000 by 2000 and projected to hit 100K by 2020. Huntersville is just where the new housing tends to be. Many people are choosing to live there due to the proximity to Lake Norman.


    Quote Originally posted by H
    [please don’t take the wrong way]

    OMG, there is nothing but white people!:-P I guess I noticed this because in one of my classes we are talking about urban multiculturism vs. suburban segregation . This could be there slogan,

    “New Urbanism: Cities for white people”

    WTF, is this the new era of white flight??? :y

    “we’ll just build our own cities darnet”

    [rant]WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE OLD URBANISM![/rant]

    [/please don’t take the wrong way]

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc

    Here's a scene you'll never see in Birkdale:


    Photo by Chris DeWolf at L'Urbanite.

    You see, it's not really a public place.

    .
    Well, ablarc is right. The average person is somewhat afraid of "street life" (unlike some, I will not assign this to a particular class or ethnic group).

    My favorite is the 16th Street BART station in San Francisco, where you have different religious crazies fulminating different faiths in two or three different languages. Of course, you also have daytime heroin deals, but them's the breaks.

  13. #13
    Well to be fair you would not see a sign such as this in Tokyo either. (which I will remind you is the most urban pedestrian friendly place on the earth) Seems to be a bit disingenuous to somehow fault Birkdale Village simply because it consists of one demographic. My guess would be if Jews did move there, they would be well received and treated as is anyone else that moves to the area.

    As I said earlier Huntersville is not mostly white (89%) because of white flight from Charlotte (a la detroit), but because of the vast majority of growth is occuring from migration from the NE and MW.


    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    ....
    Others think “that’s one impressive suburb. They basically created a whole other city, especially with all the commericial retail. All they need are some offices and their own gov't and they will never have to go to the CBD ever. The rich will just get to live in their suburban, almost urban, oasis.”

    That’s about the gist of it.
    .....
    .
    Maybe you did not realize that BV is in Huntersville, not Charlotte. It does have its own government, offices, and businesses as well. While BV is an expensive place to live, Huntersville itself is not an oasis for the rich as the town also contains trailer parks, low income housing, etc. If you like I wll certainly post some photos of these areas. Jumping to the conclusion that Huntersville is a bedroom community were everyone goes to work in Charlotte during the day then returns does not do the area justice. You focused on one small segment (which I agree is not good development) and neglected to look at the other 62 sq miles that make up the city and its EJT.
    Last edited by metroboi; 23 Sep 2004 at 8:50 AM.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally posted by metroboi
    You focused on one small segment (which I agree is not good development) and neglected to look at the other 62 sq miles that make up the city and its EJT.
    To beat it to death....

    Maybe I am too cyncial from what I see passes for development in most of the country-especially out here. But, for a suburban community experiencing rapid population growth, I STILL argue that this is darn GOOD development.

    Criticism is fine and the way we learn. But, don't damn the good or even the above average for not being the perfect.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    ablarc wrote: "Grass generally doesn’t belong in urban places, except collected into parks. Here is a man demonstrating why:"

    Funny and correct.

    Perhaps my family's roofing business prejudices me, but some of those exposed faces of shingle roofing are tremendously ugly. Would this not have been the PERFECT place for America to experiment with mansards once again? Even the dormers are there, all you have to do is split the single, moderate roof slope, into one extreme slope and one shallow slope.

    I feel similarily with others in this thread about the sterility of the development, but not for the landscaping reasons suggested. The trees and shrubs will grow in sooner than we think. But I can't shake the farcical side of this. It mocks more than accomplishes, maybe. Possibly its just that I can't stand that southern-ish pastel colour architectural "style" that seems to have spread with renewed enthusiasm since Seaside and Celebration tumbled out of their wretched wombs.

    Just writing now, I think I figured out why it looks sterile. It's because all of the street walls are built in the same style, using the same materials. There is no smattering of brick building here, stone building there, stucco over yonder, wood sided down the street - like a normal city would have. Even where materials vary, they are used in the same way as other materials with the same common design elements present throughout - effectively destroying any visual diversity. It's not so much that its new. New is new is new, no matter where you are and what you build with.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    ablarc wrote: "Grass generally doesn’t belong in urban places, except collected into parks. Here is a man demonstrating why:"

    Funny and correct.

    Perhaps my family's roofing business prejudices me, but some of those exposed faces of shingle roofing are tremendously ugly. Would this not have been the PERFECT place for America to experiment with mansards once again? Even the dormers are there, all you have to do is split the single, moderate roof slope, into one extreme slope and one shallow slope.

    I feel similarily with others in this thread about the sterility of the development, but not for the landscaping reasons suggested. The trees and shrubs will grow in sooner than we think. But I can't shake the farcical side of this. It mocks more than accomplishes, maybe. Possibly its just that I can't stand that southern-ish pastel colour architectural "style" that seems to have spread with renewed enthusiasm since Seaside and Celebration tumbled out of their wretched wombs.

    Just writing now, I think I figured out why it looks sterile. It's because all of the street walls are built in the same style, using the same materials. There is no smattering of brick building here, stone building there, stucco over yonder, wood sided down the street - like a normal city would have. Even where materials vary, they are used in the same way as other materials with the same common design elements present throughout - effectively destroying any visual diversity. It's not so much that its new. New is new is new, no matter where you are and what you build with.
    Which is one reason why those who cheered the New London decision are wrong. Good urbanism cannot generally occur in big blocks all at one time built by one developer or development team. Economic development that needs condemnation for economic reasons alone (not just true blight) always seems to produce the awful chain hotel, the failing festival marketplace, the clicheed chain store mall. . San Francisco's generally awful Mission Bay is a perfect example.

    Build cities a little bit at a time, with many little people. I know this is an obsolete dream in the wrold of centrally controlled everything, but one can only hope or think of alternatives. At least Pittsburgh, PA pulled back from the precipice of destroying its character for formulaic design.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by metroboi
    Well to be fair you would not see a sign such as this in Tokyo either..(which I will remind you is the most urban pedestrian friendly place on the earth)
    Hmm I am confused.. That's now 4 month I'm living in Tokyo and either its irony or I am really blind. Tokyo is just not pedestrian friendly AT ALL (at least compared to Europe and especially Paris where I come from).
    Just look at those f***** pedestrian crossing bridges all over the city that replace traditional pedestrian crossings: they are the symbols of the car oriented policy of Japanese cities.

    Sorry about this litle digression..

    Nice thread and nice pics of some interesting attempts of New Urbanism Principles. Much more indeed is needed to stand against urban sprawl as it was said.

    By the way, the word "urbanism" in japanese is "life of the city". So true and much nicer isn't it ?

  18. #18

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    As always, thanks for the pics. My computer could not digest them all. I think posts like this need to be split up.

    I am pleased to see ablarc pointing to open space protection as the key to better forms of development. Just think if we had the money it takes to run the war in Iraq for a week for conservation.

    I think the refrain about how sterile this place is, is an interesting form of reverse snobbery. Using the criterion that it needs to get "dirtier," you would have to say that 1960's strip malls are better places. I realize that's not the intent of the comments, but this place will evolve, and as others have pointed out, it is just unreasonable to expect a new project to look old. I also point out that the trees filling in will not be the only change. Unless someone exercises a really harsh form of architectural control, the buildings will evolve, too. We issue lots of permits for changes like that here in a town where most commercial development is 15 years or less old. A little patience would be in order. In fact, to be fair, you have to give these new towns the same amount of time to evolve as the older places you are comparing them, too. Decades, at least.

    As for white folks being boring, the lack of street life, etc., it is all a matter of perspective. I enjoy wandering around downtown Berkeley, Boulder, or Burlington where the street life is most definitely not boring. I also enjoy wandering down our terribly "boring" bike paths out here in the 'burbs. We all need choices. And the choice to be a boring white person living (or at least shopping) in this project needs to be one of them.

    What planners should be working on is the basics. One issue here is that I can only enjoy the choices our region offers in a car. We need to link funky downtown and boring 'burb with better transit. I suspect the same is true of this example ablarc has given us. Another issue, to loop back, is open space. Whether we like the form of this urban "village" or not, it is pretty compact. That's good, but unless the region works to protect open space, it will just be an island in a sea of similar (or worse) development. If planners help build the framework, the rest will evolve without our having to intervene in matters like siding choice or roof shape.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    ablarc wrote: "Grass generally doesn’t belong in urban places, except collected into parks. Here is a man demonstrating why:"
    I'll second that, and add that trees don't belong either if you are just putting them at-grade in grassed-over or mulched pits. All the foot traffic compacts the soil and makes it very difficult for the trees. The current thinking is that you should put trees in raised planters or if they are at grade use pavers with open joints set in stone dust, or if underplanting is preferred, keep feet out of it with a low fence and curb.

    Nice set of pics and commentary, as usual. You know, maybe some of that noted sterility could be offset if the owners/developers were to have some street performers there like they do at some of these festival marketplaces. Add some Manic Street Preachers for good measure. Contrived? Yes, but isn't it all? Americans generally don't demand authenticity.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  20. #20
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Great pictures and narrative!!

    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    You know, maybe some of that noted sterility could be offset if the owners/developers were to have some street performers there like they do at some of these festival marketplaces. Add some Manic Street Preachers for good measure. Contrived? Yes, but isn't it all? Americans generally don't demand authenticity.
    Not a bad thought, but what about using materials in the architecture and amenities that weather naturally and fast. Steel and copper roofs and accents will rust and patina (sp?) in no time in the Carolinas and in my opinion add a lot of character. Even new bricks can be made to look old, but salvaged brick would be even better. And not to build an entire building with, but for specialty pavers in the walks or in the smaller amenities again.

    Living in extremely white-anglo Northern Colorado, with no 150 year old urban areas to revamp, we are forced to basically start from scratch on a blank palate and when developers are willing to think a little out of the box and maybe spend a little extra money, the projects generally come off much better.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    I'll second that, and add that trees don't belong either if you are just putting them at-grade in grassed-over or mulched pits. All the foot traffic compacts the soil and makes it very difficult for the trees. The current thinking is that you should put trees in raised planters or if they are at grade use pavers with open joints set in stone dust, or if underplanting is preferred, keep feet out of it with a low fence and curb.

    Nice set of pics and commentary, as usual. You know, maybe some of that noted sterility could be offset if the owners/developers were to have some street performers there like they do at some of these festival marketplaces. Add some Manic Street Preachers for good measure. Contrived? Yes, but isn't it all? Americans generally don't demand authenticity.
    Isn't everyone utterly bored by this point with street performers?

  22. #22
    Cyburbian PlanBoston's avatar
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    We here in Cyburbia will always find some fault with any new development, but overall this development is vastly superior to typical suburbian projects. This could have been a standard retail only lifestyle center with a standard apartment building on the oppisite side of a sea of parking.

    The important principal here is that people are rediscovering urban / village environments, even if they're un-authentic and "new looking". This is a step in the right direction. Add in open space preservation and a new suburbian model of villages, walkable residential neighborhoods, and continuous open space can emerge. IMHO, it's alot better than the standard suburban pattern we have today.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Isn't everyone utterly bored by this point with street performers?
    Ha! But you yourself waxed poetic of the "religious crazies" in the BART station! And have you ever seen a NYC performer face down a crowd of hecklers and others who seem intent on upstaging him? I highly recommend it!
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  24. #24
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlanBoston
    We here in Cyburbia will always find some fault with any new development, but overall this development is vastly superior to typical suburbian projects....The important principal here is that people are rediscovering urban / village environments, even if they're un-authentic and "new looking". This is a step in the right direction... IMHO, it's alot better than the standard suburban pattern we have today.
    Agreeed. I have to say -- I hate suburbs, I hate malls, I hate chain stores, I hate new construction (a bit too opinionated??). But I am strangely drawn in. While it's not the best, it's certainly not the worst - and for new development, I've got to give them kudos.
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by RandomPlanner...
    Agreeed. I have to say -- I hate suburbs, I hate malls, I hate chain stores, I hate new construction (a bit too opinionated??). But I am strangely drawn in. While it's not the best, it's certainly not the worst - and for new development, I've got to give them kudos.
    Dittos. For what it is, it is rather well done.

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