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Thread: True urbanism vs new urbanism

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    True urbanism vs new urbanism

    Yesterday I got my issue of “Planning” and read the article on True Urbanism and wondered about what your thought were, and more so do you feel that there is a resurgence of the Urban Core Community in the United States.

    Some of the interesting points that they presented were the diversity of ethnic, racial, ages, sexual preference, and life style choices all with in a dense core is one of the most important aspects of a true urban area, and are typically all things that are lacking in an New Urbanism community.

    I personally agree with the article, and that New Urbanism communities are more like play back drops than real cities.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian spunky2's avatar
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    I think you are the only one who has the June issue of Planning. It isn't even up on the website. So until we can all read the article it is difficult to have a meaningful discussion. Who do you know at APA that you get the APA rag so quick?

    However, I do agree that New Urbanism is quite fake and that the most of it looks no better than Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland. If that. But with the advent of the automobile and "everywhere communities", there is no going back. Most cities have lost the ability to develop a functioning mass transit system, which is the main driver of True Urbanism in my view. True Urbanism functions well where it can and where it must (e.g. Hong Kong) but it just isn't going to happen for most cities in the US. At least the ideal that APA is looking for.

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    So, this is how the APA wages a war of ideas?

    I too received my Planning magazine yesterday and browsed through that article. It appeared to be critical of New Urbanism.

    Perhaps the thread about New Urbanist Egotism has much to do with this thread and the Planning article you reference? I think gkmo62u said it best. Do not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors:

    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    None of this resolves what I believe is a true identity crisis in the Planning Profession.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    IMO the article is a little fluffy.

    And I am by no means a defender of New Urbanism's attitude whom the author is critical of...

    But the author premise is pedestrian: real urban enclaves, cities, like Portland (Pearl District), Seattle (Belltown), NY (East Village) are better (read: more diverse etc...) than new urbanist suburban neighborhoods.

    Fine.

    I never get the impression from the new urbanist movement that they claim to take the place of urban neighborhhods like the east Village or soho.

  5. #5
    Cirrus's avatar
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    I haven't read the article because APA can't keep my registration straight.

    ... But assuming it's all stuff we've heard before, I don't think one can fault New Urbanism for being too homogeneous since it’s all new. Everything is homogeneous when it’s new. Once NU neighborhoods age and new waves of development & infill mix with the initial development, they’ll be just fine. The problem isn’t New Urbanism, the problem is that New Urbanism so often has nothing to build on and has to start from scratch. Yes, I am aware there are many inner city neighborhoods just crying out for more investment and that that would be a better use of money, but we all know the system is set up to make greenfield development easier and as long as there is such a thing as greenfield development, New Urbanism is the best alternative for it we have at this time.

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by spunky2
    I think you are the only one who has the June issue of Planning. It isn't even up on the website. So until we can all read the article it is difficult to have a meaningful discussion. Who do you know at APA that you get the APA rag so quick?
    I got it on June 1.

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    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    You know those big fuzzy dice you can hang from your rear-view mirror? Last night I installed a pair of those. This morning I noticed my car is running better than ever before. I think fuzzy dice are an essential component of any properly functioning car.

    michaelskis, I haven’t read the article you refer to, so I’m just responding to what you say it says. If it says that cities are more interesting when they have diverse populations I say amen. If it says cities have grown more diverse in the last quarter century, I say halleluiah. If it says immigrants, gays and others are revitalizing our cities, I say that’s right.

    But if it says that diversity is an essential component of urbanity, I say hogwash. Diverse populations in the world’s cities are largely a recent phenomenon brought on by transportation, immigration, communication, greater tolerance, etc. All of these are good things. But back when none of these existed, and urban populations were largely homogenous outside Paris and Timbuktu, cities were still cities, and they were no less urban.

    Diversity is a good thing to have in a city, as fuzzy dice are nice to have in your car. But where there’s no diversity you’re still likely to find cities. There’s already enough muddle-headedness in people’s thinking about cities; we don’t need more.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian PlanBoston's avatar
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    Amen, Cirrus.

    Greenfield development, like it or not, will continue to be the predominant pattern for the foreseeable future. If greenfields are developed, I’d rather see a New Urban style development than the typical disjointed strip mall junk.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cirrus
    I don't think one can fault New Urbanism for being too homogeneous since it’s all new. Everything is homogeneous when it’s new. Once NU neighborhoods age and new waves of development & infill mix with the initial development, they’ll be just fine. The problem isn’t New Urbanism, the problem is that New Urbanism so often has nothing to build on and has to start from scratch. Yes, I am aware there are many inner city neighborhoods just crying out for more investment and that that would be a better use of money, but we all know the system is set up to make greenfield development easier and as long as there is such a thing as greenfield development, New Urbanism is the best alternative for it we have at this time.
    Exactly.

    And if you think about it, there's nothing really new about New Urbanism; it's the way cities were built before we wilfully forgot how to build cities.

    If you want to let people walk, there isn't a big range of options.

    The diversity thing's the issue of the hour and a big red herring. I can direct you to Urbino, where the density is high, the sprawl is zero, everybody walks, the kids play soccer in the town square. They all speak Italian and have since Federico de Montefeltro had his nose hacked; there isn't a black or Asian face to be seen, and the gays are all in their closets. And not even a fool would say it isn't urban.

  10. #10
    Cirrus's avatar
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    I don't define urban diversity as racial or social heterogeneity only. Urban diversity means different size buildings of different ages fulfilling different functions, and in that sense diversity is extremely important to good urbanity.

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    Cyburbian spunky2's avatar
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    Ok, well I finally got the Planning magazine. I’m extremely frustrated that San Diego is included in this “true urbanism” category. I used to work there, and granted downtown San Diego has been redeveloped, but it has a long way to go to becoming “true urbanism”. I don’t think it is even their intention to develop a true urban environment as defined in the article. They are trying to develop a tourist destination and a housing source for rich people .

    For example, developers in downtown San Diego have never integrated affordable housing into their condo developments. They pay a fee to the Centre City Development Corporation, who in turn builds a few SROs. But with all the rich-bitch people moving in downtown, they complain about the noise and the homeless people. They use their $$ and lawyers to prevent the SRO developments, get bars that have been there for decades closed down, and basically do everything in their power to get San Diego downtown to be like the little suburban environments from which they came. It’s disgusting.

    I guess if I shelled out $2 million plus $700/month in association dues for a 1500 sq ft condo, I’d probably have the desire and the means to control everything around me as well. As long as CCDC lets developers get out of providing affordable housing downtown, it is going to become just as sterile and boring as most of San Diego County. Ok, there… I’ve said my peace.

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    In my opinion, True Urbanist areas, when first built, probaly resembled New Urbanist areas in their style of construction and architectural hertiage. It was only urban infill and an evolving streetscape that transformed real estate speculator's tidy plots of land into distinct neighborhoods in many cities that exist today.

    History of Beacon Hill
    Before the Revolution, Beacon Hill was pasture land with a few notable exceptions, including John Hancock's country estate, which was demolished to make room for the western addition to the Massachusetts State House.

    The South Slope was developed in the 1790's by the Mt. Vernon Proprietors for Boston's richest families, who by the late 1800's were being called Brahmins. South Slope streets were spacious and carefully laid out.

    One of the proprietors, who also designed several Beacon Hill houses, was Charles Bulfinch. For a time, he was immortalized at 84 Beacon Street in the Bull & Finch Pub, which was the prototype for the television show, Cheers. The bar is now just called Cheers.

    The North Slope developed more organically than the South Slope did. It grew up and down alleys and into nooks and crannies. Its residents were former slaves, sailors, poets -- people who were, as one wag put it, the morally emancipated. In the late 19th century, the North Slope became home to immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and many of the homes were remade into tenements.

    The Flat of the Hill originally was part of the Charles River. After it was filled, it became home to blacksmiths, shoemakers, stables and later, garages of the homes on the South Slope. Now almost all these buildings have been renovated into living quarters.

    http://commpres.env.state.ma.us/phot...nHillscape.JPG

    http://www.hosthomesofboston.com/gal...l_1829_jpg.jpg

    http://www.terragalleria.com/images/us-ne/usma6590.jpeg

    http://www.nimbustier.net/photos/200...1-07-27-20.jpg

    http://cache.boston.com/bonzai-fba/G...61929_8088.jpg

    http://cache.boston.com/bonzai-fba/G...61930_6474.jpg

    http://cache.boston.com/bonzai-fba/G...61929_6845.jpg

    As you can see, Beacon Hill's homes are similar in design and apperance. The developers created an architecturally intreiguing streetscape and formed a sort of 'outdoor room' that people are inherently arrtacted to.

    I believe that with community investment in a New Urbanist town, a more realistic street can be created. In the meanwhile, I don't think people should fret over a neighborhood's similarity. It will eventually gain the authentic patina of age that Beacon Hill exudes, but it will take time.

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    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Since I'm not very familiar with Boston and the area, thanks for the detailed descriptions. Can you tell me the age on these buildings: http://cache.boston.com/bonzai-fba/G...61929_8088.jpg

    This is a great picture!

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    i have read articles on the so-called new urbanism. I think it's better than big box stores and strip malls. Mind you, some of this new stuff is a little tacky and fake. Just like a few users pointed out.

    So what to do?

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaswant_icke
    i have read articles on the so-called new urbanism. I think it's better than big box stores and strip malls. Mind you, some of this new stuff is a little tacky and fake. Just like a few users pointed out.

    So what to do?
    New Urbanism is better than the any of the Shopping Corridor for the community I work in. But I also think that some proponents of New Urbanism have marketed it as “better than the real thing” when compared to traditional downtown development. Even though it is new, I think that there is still a lot that could, and should be done to promote the efforts to go into downtowns first, then redevelop 1960’s vacant mall areas and strip malls, and leave vacant suburban or farm land for last.

    In reality there the concept is good, but we should look for a better way to apply it.

    Off-topic:
    After seeing those pic's, I want to move to Becon Hill
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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