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Thread: New Urbanism Comes to the Heartland: A Rant

  1. #1

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    New Urbanism Comes to the Heartland: A Rant

    New Urbanism comes to Indy (in a City where a $300,000 home is still very expensive.)

    "We needed a place that people viewed as their center where they could meet their neighbors, that would be a focus for community events," Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. "New urbanism and the City Center fit so well because we were trying to create a traditional downtown."

    Brainard's suburban Indianapolis community grew in the past three decades from a small bedroom community to a city of nearly 40,000 people -- without a recognizable downtown.

    "It became necessary to manufacture one so we would have a town that has the look of having evolved," said Rich Roesch, president of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission."

    Any comments?

    My comments: the traditional downtowns fail because the average suburbanite knows that he can save money by going to the big box store. Heaven forbid that we be inconvenienced in any way in parking, or we'll drive down the road to the next freeway cluster of the same box stores.

    Unless these new downtowns can find a few people to operate hobby businesses, how will these new downtowns be anything but leisure centers with marginal economics?

    And, the "manufactured" architecture will almost always look very cheap, made out of modern industrial materials with few details. Maybe they'll slap some fake brick veneer or choose a "country theme" designed by "architectural theming designers" from Chicago or New York. Yippee!

    Plus, the entire point of Carmel, Indiana, is exclusivity. I am skeptical that this will be anything more than a niche market. As the article itself made clear: WE DON'T WANT TO LIVE NEAR ANY OF THOSE POOR PEOPLE (i.e., people earning less than $100K household incomes).


    Sorry, sick of NIMBYism, sick of suburbia, frankly skeptical of much of modern American culture-particularly the built environment (I am a suburban resident, so sue me).

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Manufacturing new downtowns in the wasteland of suburbia is catching on. These new downtowns may be commercially viable if they are done correctly, but I am skeptical as to their ability to recapture the true sense of place that a traditional downtown often has. Some reasons:

    - Built at once instead of over time, they are too homogenous and (sorry) "planned"

    - Brick veneer can't make a building feel old. I have more respect for a new downtown using attractive modern architecture.

    - The stores are all chains and the place just feels like a version of a mall. There is none of the unique and eclectic nature of a true downtown.

    - A suburban mentality dominates many of these new downtowns, with too many concessions to setbacks, parking, etc.

    - The parking still surrounds the commercial uses and there is little of the blending of uses you would find in a real downtown where, especially on its edges, it is hard to firmly state where commercial ends and residential begins.

    - Everything is too neet and perfect. Where is the crumbling brick? Where is the building that was imperfectly renovated? These add character that is missing from new downtowns.

    I could probably add several more ideas about new downtowns, but I will put in a plug for the old ones. Very few really fail. Most have at least some thriving businesses. Even struggling ones often play an important role as informal business incubators, offering cheap space for start-ups. I think they all have potential, and often more than their manufactured counterparts.

  3. #3

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    Michael: I agree with many of your points wholeheartedly. I always argue with the traditionalists on staff (planners are so conservative as a whole) that good modern architecture trumps bad faux traditionalism every. Not to deny that modernist architecture as a whole produces more bad architecture than traditionalism does. But, I still prefer a good, creative human-scaled modern building with glass and steel over foam stucco and fake brick veneer. I hate the lack of craftsmanship.

    On the other hand, these projects do represent some improvement over the strip mall fronted by parking. But, as was posted on another forum I participate in, do such projects allow people to participate in a facade of urbanism while really rejecting all of the unplanned chaos of real cities?

  4. #4
    Nope.

    The problem with so-called "New Urbanism" is that it trys to take the problems out of real downtowns, but it fails miserably. Sure, suburbanites can shop happily w/o being harrassed by those terrible jobless bums that are the scum of our society, but suburban downtowns still have traffic congestion, air pollution, and the like. In fact, the suburban downtown is worse in my opinion because it worships the automobile. The walking downtown is completley forgotten.

    One positive thing about suburban downtowns is that it causes competition for real downtowns in major cities. This can be good or bad, but when suburban developmend prompts large-scale projects and residential migrations to real downtowns, you know it's good.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Way off topic

    <HIJACK>
    I once worked in both the Carmel and the Indy 82nd Street Steak and Shakes one summer while I was in College back in '83. Carmel was artificial then too. But they did have the babe market cornered. Indy Chicks couldn't hold a candle to the Carmelites.
    </HIJACK>

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Enough about New Urbanism. I'm waiting for the next big thing - New Favela-ism. It's not just a fad, I'm sure!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    favela chic

    HI JACK!

    New Favela-ism is here to stay

  8. #8

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    Re: Way off topic

    Originally posted by El Guapo
    <HIJACK>
    I once worked in both the Carmel and the Indy 82nd Street Steak and Shakes one summer while I was in College back in '83. Carmel was artificial then too. But they did have the babe market cornered. Indy Chicks couldn't hold a candle to the Carmelites.
    </HIJACK>
    I've spent some time in Indy, too. Carmel chicks might have been babes, but the women in Broad Ripple were MUCH friendlier.

  9. #9

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    New Favellaism Rules!

    Sadly, the favella photos are warmer and much more human than the garagescapes I have to drive through every day. ( I know that the socal conditions etc etc are bad in favellas, but. . .)

  10. #10
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    carmel transformation
    City Center project gets a growth spurt
    Plan would expand retail, housing units


    Part of a proposal for the new 50-acre Carmel City Center. -- Matt Detrich / The Star

    New plan for Carmel's City Center

    More shopping space: from 112,000 square feet to 170,000-plus, about a quarter of the size of Circle Centre mall
    More housing units: from 200 to more than 500
    More office space: from 30,000 square feet to 60,000-plus



    By Bill Ruthhart
    bill.ruthhart@indystar.com
    February 16, 2005


    CARMEL, Ind. -- This aspiring city's quest to build its skyline grew bigger, taller and more expensive Tuesday.

    Months before construction starts, a key developer in Carmel's sweeping City Center project said he would increase his original $60 million investment to more than $100 million, adding two stories to its signature building and sharply expanding housing, offices, shops and underground parking.

    After encouragement from city officials, architects and the public, Pedcor Investments chief Bruce Cordingley presented new plans for his 12-acre development at a joint meeting of Carmel's City Council and Redevelopment Commission. The commission unanimously approved the preliminary design of the project.

    Compared with initial plans Pedcor announced in July, retail space in the development has increased from 112,000 square feet to more than 170,000, or close to a quarter of the size of Circle Centre mall.

    Cordingley said his preliminary plans have created a buzz among possible retail tenants, which he hopes will include specialty stores from California and New York -- stores that would be new to Indiana. He declined to offer specifics.

    While retail space increased significantly, so did the number of housing units -- from 200 to more than 500. Office space also has increased, from 30,000 square feet to more than 60,000.

    Cordingley said he added housing in part because of public demand -- in fact, he said, three of the penthouses are spoken for.

    "This really is a better plan than we ever thought we'd get for this area," Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. "It's going to be a true downtown for Carmel."

    As part of the new plan, Brainard said the city will spend $10.7 million on infrastructure and parking, which the city-owned performing arts center would share. That's up from $7 million. City officials estimate Pedcor's project will generate $1.3 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

    Since his election a decade ago, Brainard has pushed to transform Carmel from fast-growing suburb to a city in its own right.

    Cordingley's mixed-use project -- including penthouses, luxury condominiums, apartments, shopping, restaurants, offices, underground parking and a hotel -- aims for a high-end contrast to Indianapolis and other communities.

    "I'm sure most communities would like this," Cordingley said.

    "But in Carmel, there is more affluence to pay for the restaurants, pay for the retail and visit the facilities that are not going to be inexpensive. The disposable income in Carmel helps allow something like this to happen."

    According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, Carmel's 1999 median household income was $81,583; Indianapolis' was $40,051.

    In July, Cordingley revealed his original plans, a core of five-story buildings with retail on the first floor and apartments above.

    That plan also included a hotel built on 400 underground parking spaces with a pair of nearby office buildings.

    The revamped plans released Tuesday show dramatic changes, including a seven-story tower with condos and penthouses. Also among the changes are a two-story hotel building with a lobby and ballroom connecting to Carmel's planned $80 million performing arts center.

    The plan also incorporates a multistory restaurant overlooking a planned outdoor amphitheater and the Monon Trail, which runs through the project.

    With condos and penthouses connected to the hotel, Cordingley said, "if someone is living there and wants to order dinner from the hotel, it could be easily wheeled to their residence."

    As the project's density has increased, so has the amount of parking. The original plan called for 400 underground parking spots and 500 above ground; Cordingley's new proposal calls for nearly 2,000 spaces -- all underground.

    Cordingley said the development's design is based on some of his favorite neighborhoods, such as Paris' Left Bank.

    Chris McComas, who has invested in a bank and second office site in City Center, was encouraged by the new plans.

    "I applaud you, and I think it's absolutely amazing," McComas told Cordingley. "As a landowner in City Center, you just made my property value go up significantly."

    Council and commission member Rick Sharp also lauded Cordingley's work.

    "He has taken an initial concept, pursued it and exceeded the commission's expectations," Sharp said. "The level of design quality is far beyond what we could have imagined. How can you not be thrilled about a project like that?"

    The project still is subject to a final development agreement with the redevelopment commission, although Pedcor already has purchased much of the land from the city for $1.7 million. Cordingley said he hopes to break ground on the project this spring and complete it in four to six years.

    "It's something people are greatly anticipating, and we're trying to complete something that the mayor has helped lead the community to accept," he said.

    "This is what this city wants."

  11. #11
         
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    LOL, with that thread title I thought this was going to be about Kansas City and the new greenfield development of Zona Rosa, where a recent addition of new urbanist apartments and lofts [sic] has begun. Zona Rosa, for those that aren't familiar, is a NU greenfield development about 13 miles north of downtown Kansas City - an attempt to give the place-less Gladstone a little Country Club Plaza so that the 'burbanites won't have to be hassled by people with brown skin and panhandlers or embarrassingly rub elbows with old money. Of course it eschews a finely grained mixed use/mixed income organic urban environment for the clean break antiseptic NU model, but hey, as long as Old Navy performance fleece is on sale who's gonna notice?

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