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Thread: My thoughts on new urbanism (comments welcome!)

  1. #1
          perryair's avatar
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    My thoughts on new urbanism (comments welcome!)

    Right now I am reading a book about Celebration, and having just read the online interview with Duany on Planetizen, I just wanted to sound out some thoughts that I have about New Urbanism. Any additional thoughts or comments would be more than welcome.

    One of the main pillars of New Urbanism is that you should be able to live in an environment where you could theoretically be car free and able to walk to either your job or local retail. There is no way to ensure that where residents would work would be nearby unless you build next to a downtown, or an existing office park area. As far as proximity to retail, if you build any development on a greenfield site, the only existing retail market within a short travel distance will be an existing strip mall or big box development. This either requires you to:

    A: Partner with an existing strip mall/big box location to somehow integrate it into the development.

    or

    B: Build your own retail/commercial space within the development.

    Option A is nearly impossible, as most strip mall locations are not oriented towards the neighborhoods, they are oriented towards the streets. Option B isn't possible unless you have a huge development population base to draw from or you change the focus of the development away from housing and towards retail (instead of a housing development, a mall with some housing space in it).

    Perhaps the same end results of what New Urbanism tries to accomplish can be achieved with some municipal code changes? If you set up a zone with minimal side yard setbacks, on-street parking, and ability to have commercial/retail along with residential in the same zoning area, you could achieve a higher density along with the flexibility to later integrate retail or commercial as the appropriate market develops for services. (I really would like to see what would happen if zoning became less separational, allowing for more uses in any given location)

    Or maybe New Urbanist developments can work, but only if placed (very) near to some existing markets/job centers/existing residential sites? I am much more into the idea of higher density redevelopment in existing city/suburban space as a means to create more vibrant areas.

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with your last point on locating the NU neighborhoods near existing business centers. It almost brings to mind the concept of a "company town" in the sense that most residents would work in the same place.

    Is New Urbanism about place or lifestyle? I don't think that it is so much about lifestyle since we are dependent on the auto and most families are two income. Who is home to enjoy the neighborhood? I guess people like the idea of living there, maybe a nostalgic feeling, but things just aren't the same as "the old days".

  3. #3
    I nice BIASED introduction to NU. I know you know all this, but since I'm no planner I wanted to refresh my memory (yes I knew about the concept...).
    I apologize.



    THE PRINCIPLES OF NEW URBANISM

    The principles of New Urbanism can be applied increasingly to projects at the full range of scales from a single building to an entire community.

    1. WALKABILITY

    -Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
    -Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
    -Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

    2. CONNECTIVITY

    -Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
    -High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

    3. MIXED-USE & DIVERSITY

    -A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
    -Diversity of people - of ages, classes, cultures, and races

    4. MIXED HOUSING

    A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity

    5. QUALITY ARCHITECTURE & URBAN DESIGN

    Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

    6. TRADITIONAL NEIGHBORHOOD STRUCTURE

    -Discernable center and edge
    -Public space at center
    -Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
    -Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
    -Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to asses the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

    7. INCREASED DENSITY

    -More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
    -New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

    8. SMART TRANSPORTATION

    -A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
    -Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

    9. SUSTAINABILITY

    -Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
    -Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
    -Less use of finite fuels
    -More local production
    -More walking, less driving

    10. QUALITY OF LIFE

    Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.



    BENEFITS OF NEW URBANISM

    1. BENEFITS TO RESIDENTS

    Higher quality of life; Better places to live, work, & play; Higher, more stable property values; Less traffic congestion & less driving; Healthier lifestyle with more walking, and less stress; Close proximity to main street retail & services; Close proximity to bike trails, parks, and nature; Pedestrian friendly communities offer more opportunities to get to know others in the neighborhood and town, resulting in meaningful relationships with more people, and a friendlier town; More freedom and independence to children, elderly, and the poor in being able to get to jobs, recreation, and services without the need for a car or someone to drive them; Great savings to residents and school boards in reduced busing costs from children being able to walk or bicycle to neighborhood schools; More diversity and smaller, unique shops and services with local owners who are involved in community; Big savings by driving less, and owning less cars; Less ugly, congested sprawl to deal with daily; Better sense of place and community identity with more unique architecture; More open space to enjoy that will remain open space; More efficient use of tax money with less spent on spread out utilities and roads

    2. BENEFITS TO BUSINESSES

    Increased sales due to more foot traffic & people spending less on cars and gas; More profits due to spending less on advertising and large signs; Better lifestyle by living above shop in live-work units - saves the stressful & costly commute; Economies of scale in marketing due to close proximity and cooperation with other local businesses; Smaller spaces promote small local business incubation; Lower rents due to smaller spaces & smaller parking lots; Healthier lifestyle due to more walking and being near healthier restaurants; More community involvement from being part of community and knowing residents

    3. BENEFITS TO DEVELOPERS

    More income potential from higher density mixed-use projects due to more leasable square footage, more sales per square footage, and higher property values and selling prices; Faster approvals in communities that have adopted smart growth principles resulting in cost / time savings; Cost savings in parking facilities in mixed-use properties due to sharing of spaces throughout the day and night, resulting in less duplication in providing parking; Less need for parking facilities due to mix of residences and commercial uses within walking distance of each other; Less impact on roads / traffic, which can result in lower impact fees; Lower cost of utilities due to compact nature of New Urbanist design; Greater acceptance by the public and less resistance from NIMBYS; Faster sell out due to greater acceptance by consumers from a wider product range resulting in wider market share

    4. BENEFITS TO MUNICIPALITIES

    Stable, appreciating tax base; Less spent per capita on infrastructure and utilities than typical suburban development due to compact, high-density nature of projects; Increased tax base due to more buildings packed into a tighter area; Less traffic congestion due to walkability of design; Less crime and less spent on policing due to the presence of more people day and night; Less resistance from community; Better overall community image and sense of place; Less incentive to sprawl when urban core area is desirable; Easy to install transit where it's not, and improve it where it is; Greater civic involvement of population leads to better governance


    WAYS TO IMPLEMENT NEW URBANISM

    The most effective way to implement New Urbanism is to plan for it, and write it into zoning and development codes. This directs all future development into this form.

    New Urbanism is best planned at all levels of development:

    -The single building
    -Groups of buildings
    -The urban block
    -The neighborhood
    -Networks of neighborhoods
    -Towns
    -Cities
    -Regions

    Increasingly, regional planning techniques are being used to control and shape growth into compact, high-density, mixed-use neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities. Planning new train systems (instead of more roads) delivers the best results when designed in harmony with regional land planning. At the same time, the revitalization of urban areas directs and encourages infill development back into city centers.

    Planning for compact growth, rather than letting it sprawl out, has the potential to greatly increase the quality of the environment. It also prevents congestion problems and the environmental degradation normally associated with growth.


    OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME

    The most important obstacles to overcome are restrictive and incorrect zoning codes currently in force in most municipalities. Adopting a TND ordinance and/or a system of 'smart codes' allows New Urbanism to be built easily without having to rewrite existing codes.

    http://www.newurbanism.org/pages/416429/index.htm


    I'm all for New Urbanism, (have been for years) but it's not always practical

    "Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work"

    Right...


    I think the major problem for most New Urbanism projects is the high risk associated with NU projects. This imposes high Required Rates of Return. This in turn requires that these projects generate Cash Flow quickly* to be financially attractive to investors. Hence a lot of valuable projects will be rejected.



    * because of the higher discount rates being used...

  4. #4
          perryair's avatar
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    THE PRINCIPLES OF NEW URBANISM

    The principles of New Urbanism can be applied increasingly to projects at the full range of scales from a single building to an entire community.

    1. WALKABILITY

    -Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work

    Well, theres that very first main pillar that I was talking about. I also believe that the basic tenets of New Urbanism are a good, but that the actual execution of those tenets sometimes doesn't work out, especially in greenfield site development. I just want some feedback on ways that walkable, mixed use communities are feasbile based on my earlier post.

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    Alot of times when planners try to build new urbanist developments, or infill within the city they run into regulations and zoning. Unless you are walt disney and can trump most of the local regulations, the compromises can ruin your attempts. When developers try to make streets a reasonable width, planners counter that a fire truck must be able to make a 180 degree turn down all streets, and navigate them quickly. When they try to have residents walk to their car on the street, they run up against the off street parking laws. Some communities do not let you park on the street after 1am to keep out unwanted strangers. Want to put in streets that connect to each other? There's laws against that too. Streets are supposed to be planned so that they do not impede traffic flow. You are supposed to avoid intersections, such as those that occur on the grid. Also roads with a lot of traffic, (arterials) are supposed to have few intersections, and so be separated from the neighborhood and pedestrians. these are the logical places to build mixed use housing and retail, but they are zoned in wide swaths for retail only. When you try to increase density, or rental housing, or a mixture of incomes, most suburbs won't want any part of it. Set backs, mixture of uses are all encoded. It was not an accident that suburbs look the way they do. If you examine what NU developers wanted, and what they end up with, you will find that all new urbanist developments are compromises with the local authorities.Maybe you can still build porches and some townhouses.

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    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    [

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Originally posted by green22
    Alot of times when planners try to build new urbanist developments, or infill within the city they run into regulations and zoning. Unless you are walt disney and can trump most of the local regulations, the compromises can ruin your attempts. When developers try to make streets a reasonable width, planners counter that a fire truck must be able to make a 180 degree turn down all streets, and navigate them quickly. When they try to have residents walk to their car on the street, they run up against the off street parking laws. Some communities do not let you park on the street after 1am to keep out unwanted strangers. Want to put in streets that connect to each other? There's laws against that too. Streets are supposed to be planned so that they do not impede traffic flow. You are supposed to avoid intersections, such as those that occur on the grid. Also roads with a lot of traffic, (arterials) are supposed to have few intersections, and so be separated from the neighborhood and pedestrians. these are the logical places to build mixed use housing and retail, but they are zoned in wide swaths for retail only. When you try to increase density, or rental housing, or a mixture of incomes, most suburbs won't want any part of it. Set backs, mixture of uses are all encoded. It was not an accident that suburbs look the way they do. If you examine what NU developers wanted, and what they end up with, you will find that all new urbanist developments are compromises with the local authorities.Maybe you can still build porches and some townhouses.
    WOW!!

    Finally someone who thinks along the same lines as I do. I got sick of all these graduate school names for different types of development a long time ago. My feelings are, if you want to live in the city, move to it. Do not try to recreate it because you can't when you are doing it one parcel at a time over the course of 50 years.

  8. #8

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    What's amazing to me is what an opportunistic arogant f%^$#k Andres Duaney is. For an environmentalist magazine, he sounds like an anti-suburban greenie. American Enterprise, I'm surprised he's not running on the Libertarian Party ticket. He'll say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. At least Kunstler is consistent in his rantings.

    All of these folks ignore economic reality: chain retail, dispersed job centers, lack of public transit. You can build all the pretty little front porches and traditional homes you want-it won't make a single bit of difference. UNless and until the great collapse that Kunstler keeps talking about. Given the ensuing chaos, I think there will be more important worries than zoning standards for porches (such as handling the huge Bushvilles (shantytowns) that will spring up )

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    Note how all those New Urbanist "mantras" didn't deal with one critical element - the "people" factor. It leaves little room for spontaneity, much less flexibility. While the recognition of density and urban design issues are laudable, there seems to be a general ignorance towarards the ends of urbanity.

    To me, at least, it's orthogonal planning all over again (under the guise of urbanism, of course).

    GB

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    For those who still "don't get it", (but they will, trust me) here's some information on the alternative CSD:

    SUV Heaven
    Cheers,
    UrbanRunner
    :)
    _____________________________
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    "What Would Jane Jacobs Do?"

  11. #11
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    Runner For those who still "don't get it", (but they will, trust me) here's some information on the alternative CSD:

    SUV Heaven
    I went to that site, and looked up the information on Florida, (naturally it's where im from), and it says that in order to stop sprawl, Florida needs to limit population growth. I have some sort of problems with anyone that suggests that areas should somehow make it less desirable to live there in order to solve sprawl. Plenty of places have accomodated huge population growth in smart ways, developing infrastructure and allowing smarter development in order to house more residents.

    But anyways, I think that something being alluded to here rings true for me. Any set of buildings does not exist in a vaccuum, nor is it possible to to plan and build every single building that it would take to sustain a community. Part of smarter development has to be being more involved with what's around you, and developing accordingly.

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Other discussion on New Urbanism

    NU has been discussed before on this thread:

    Is New Urbanism Just for the Affluent?

    http://cyburbia.org/forums/showthrea...=&threadid=297

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    No nu is not just for the affluent. urban infill projects are probably cheaper than most new housing. Of the big greenfield developments I've seen. I think most cost more than regular housing. Ofcourse battling with the local suburban zoning officials probably wastes time and money, and to make things work well despite the regulations probably takes more time and money. Just my guesses as to part of the reason.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    I posted that link to redirect posters to an already on-going disussion about NU. On that thread, you will find healthy discussion and debate on the merits of NU.

    Perryair opened this thread with some criticism on NU. Then SouthSideSlayer came and said something about the introduction of NU on this thread being biased. Well, this thread isn't an introduction to NU. (No offense to Perryair.) You can find an earlier discussion on the thread link I just posted. NU isn't neccessarily good, in my opinion, nor is it the final answer to our suburban ills and sprawling developments. I think many planners take NU at face value and are so endeared towards its lofty principles that they fail to look at NU in a complex and nuanced perspective. My opinions on NU are on that thread, and I have no problem pointing out nagging issues that tarnish the supposed golden lustre of NU.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have to agree with Mike and Green22. It is often the same planners who talk New Urbanism who then push for double frontage lots because we can't have driveways opening onto that street, or require buildings set back seventy feet from the road in case we ever want to expand it and need a 200' right of way!

    I see New Urbanism as a development choice. Its ideas have more merit than many others, just because it tries to build in flexibility and options, not just for transportation, but for land uses, densities, recreation, etc. On the other hand, there are problems, and the commercial component is the biggest one. Retail won't come until there is a critical population mass. It has been the most difficult component of New Urban developments. In smaller developments it will never come, and perhaps should not. In that case, yes, locate near an existing center. Elsewhere I posted the example of my community - there are greenfields (and a brownfield) within a ten minute walk to the downtown. Why not permit/promote a New Urban residential neighborhood, such as the 120-year old one it would abut?

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    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    I see New Urbanism as a development choice. Its ideas have more merit than many others, just because it tries to build in flexibility and options, not just for transportation, but for land uses, densities, recreation, etc. On the other hand, there are problems, and the commercial component is the biggest one. Retail won't come until there is a critical population mass.
    I could not agree more. I think we planners fawned over New Urbanism because it encapsulates so many of our principles and preferences for development. Yes, NU increases density, preserves open space, encourages housing diversity and promotes a more walkable and possibly more orderly environment. But ultimately, "pure" NU fails the real world test because it doesn't recognize existing land use and development realities.

    Increasingly, I see NU as a subset of Smart Growth. I see NU as an outcome of the Smart Growth policies that would promote it in any given area. And the same Smart Growth policies might urge another developer (who's not so taken with NU) to think of other, but just as effective, development options.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by pete-rock
    Increasingly, I see NU as a subset of Smart Growth. I see NU as an outcome of the Smart Growth policies that would promote it in any given area. And the same Smart Growth policies might urge another developer (who's not so taken with NU) to think of other, but just as effective, development options.
    I'll go one further. New Urbanism is one technique of Smart Growth, which is itself one component of Sustainable Development.

  18. #18

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    I question whether any "development" is "sustainable" over the medium to long term if development means catering to our (definitely mine) modern lifestyle ( i.e., sports car or SUV, large single family home, plenty of consumer goodies made for very little money in distant polluted Asian cities and shipped at great cost in fuel and carbon production, etc.)

    Not sure I find the buzzwords very convincing anymore.

    New urbanism does appeal to my sense of aesthetics. Not sure it really improves environmental stewardship, though.

    Can 7 billion people in the world be supported at anything beyond subsistence? A China with 500 million cars is a scary thought.

    Back to topic at hand: as a poster on another forum put it, denser suburbia just means 50 SUVs per square mile instead of 20. (Not to pick only on SUVs, my Subaru is no Honda Insight )

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    DPZ planners ARE a bear to deal with

    had to fight it out with them in NC over NU communites and they were so pie in the sky they lost touch with the real people

    never mind they thought they should just get whatever they wanted becouse they had DPZ on their cards.

    i dont like them, they dont like me-we are even.

    i was not impressed with their ability to deal with anything but theory

    but im VERY biased

    D
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

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    More thoughts on NU

    I just had a wonderful slide show lecture in my planning course yesterday, with an emphasis of the difference between NU and older pedestrian cities.

    The two NU communities shown are both "master-planned" by DPZ; Cornell in Markham, Ontario and Seaside in Florida. In the case of the former, one very obvious problem, which NU is supposed to deal with, is the prevalence of cars - in particular, the tendency for them to congregate at the front of the housing, in spite of the fact that the parking lanes exists at the rear. The supposed clear distinction between public and private space is somewhat non-existent, and encroachment of the private on the public, in the form of expanded porches, shacks, etc, is shocking. Given the slides are taken on a weekend, one would expect an abundance of pedestrians - they are nowhere to be found, even in areas (such as the main streets) where such is intended. There is indeed a variety of housing styles, but as such, it is superficial and of a rather low quality (the structures are aging badly).

    In the case of Seaside, the same problems exist - prevalence of cars, lack of pedestrians. The only "saving grace" is the relative quality of the buildings - but then, considering each property costs in the order of $US 500000+...

    Oh and another funny thing about Seaside - there are all these "wardens" for the community riding around in electric golf-carts, checking on things. My prof commented that his son insisted he take a photo of a pile of garbage - the only "evidence" that people actually live there.

    It just reinforced my experience, that NU for all its' worth, is a stylistic posturing towards pseudourbanism - when in fact, such communities, and its' residents, are far more committed to the suburban lifestyle than they are willing to admit.

    GB

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    Good points, GeekyBoy.

    I might note, however, that almost all the postwar tracts built out of "modern materials" that homebuilders assure us are so superior are aging badly There is stuff built here in the 1980s that already looks really bad.

  22. #22
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    A quote from Duany in the book about Celebration that I just finished:

    "Americans work awfully hard to get such a raw deal. It's really not a good deal that's being dealt to these people. They're so hard working--husbands, wives, sons--and for what? Crap food, second-rate shopping experiences, a second-rate public realm, and an automatic commitment to purchase of an automobile. That car costs six thousand dollars a year to run on average. You can go to Bali for your holidays for that, for God's sake. And it's not a choice, it's part of a contract. As an American, part of my contract is owning one car per adult. I think it's a raw deal."


    Now, I don't think wrongly of him to offer up those thoughts, but it just shows where he is coming from.

    I never signed on to a deal where I expected "Great" Food and "First Rate" Shopping experiences in my everyday life, nor could I afford to go to Bali if I didn't have a car, I would just have to pay off some of my outstanding bills.

    Also, I'm going to assume that because of that quote that the main goal of his designs are non-ownership of cars, if at all possible. I still don't see how greenfield development can lead to that end, unless it is actually attached to a mass-transit project or existing service.

    Which brings me back to my original point of.. How can you actually provide for being close enough to walk to work and/or shopping unless you actually build next to existing centers of retail and/or business?

  23. #23

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    perryair:

    You can't. Again, there seems to be the thinking that one can simply "master plan" a self-sufficient community, in the format of a town, within a metropolitian catchment area (be it rural, exurban, suburban, etc). People will inevitably drive to job opportunities in the central city (or its' surrounding nodes) - and even if they don't at first, cycling of the population will eventually leads to such.

    As Jane Jacobs noted - one has to plan according to the pecular nature of the city - instead of falling into the fallacy of neighbourhood units and isolated townships.

    GB

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    the 27 principles of new urbanism

    Can someone tell me what all 27 principles of new urbanism are? Or where to find that info online? I can't afford the text on the subject. Thanks!

  25. #25
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by FutureArchitect
    Can someone tell me what all 27 principles of new urbanism are? Or where to find that info online? I can't afford the text on the subject. Thanks!
    Start with newurbanism.org. there's a plethera of information there.
    Last edited by RandomPlanner; 20 Oct 2005 at 3:48 PM. Reason: double post...
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

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