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Thread: Mixed use development in rural areas

  1. #1
    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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    Mixed use development in rural areas

    Hey, I'm doing a project on trying to find examples of traditional mixed use but in small/rural town setting at the edge of an MSA.

    Just about all the stuff I have found thus far has been examples for large cities or major suburban counties; not appropriate for a small ruralish setting on the metropolitian fringe.
    Do any of you know some examples more in line with my target; mixed use in small towns that augments and reinforces the small town charm/character as opposed to "spoiling it?"

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Here is a small-ish mixed use development in downtown Wooster, OH. This is small city in NE OH that is the county seat of a mostly rural county.

    Merchant's Block - this was done as a public-private partnership and developed by a small development firm from Medina, OH - Washington Properties

    I hope this is the kind of case study you're looking for?
    Last edited by mendelman; 06 Apr 2015 at 8:04 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by rover View post
    Hey, I'm doing a project on trying to find examples of traditional mixed use but in small/rural town setting at the edge of an MSA.

    Just about all the stuff I have found thus far has been examples for large cities or major suburban counties; not appropriate for a small ruralish setting on the metropolitian fringe.
    Do any of you know some examples more in line with my target; mixed use in small towns that augments and reinforces the small town charm/character as opposed to "spoiling it?"
    i assume by traditional, you mean established main streets with mixed use buildings in genuine rural areas, as opposed to purpose built new urbany stuff that only pretending to be rural?

    Truly dense rural mixed-use clusterings are rare, of course..around the world, they tend to emerge out of defensive requirements, and the rural fortress town is pretty uncommon in the US, of course, and those that may have once existed have either been swallowed up by urbanization or just lost to the wilderness. Supposedly, 17th century Melilot, Georgia had a stone wall, castle and a very dense area inside its perimeter, but it ceased to exist over a century before the US came to be. Locke, CA may be your best surviving bet for a mixed-use rural town center, with dense mixed-use buildings and narrow streets surrounded by defensive canals. It has some unique building types. Locke's a hidden gem, located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and it's kind of a wonder why it survives economically today...but not for long, because reportedly in people's perpetual quest for quaintness it's destined to be converted in a Mackinac-style tourist hub by 2020 (a Hongkong developer bought the town last year)... so it's days are numbered as a genuine historical mixed-use town.



    In terms of land value-driven, as opposed to defensive-driven rural towns with mixed-use components, here's a few candidates:

    - Downtown Americus, Georgia has an unusually high density mixed use core that seems to be flourishing - lots of residences above shops, for example
    - Scotia, California is one of the country's last surviving company towns. It has an interesting horizontally-mixed use commercial-residential core.. not really possible to generate organically though, PALCO owns all the cute little businesses
    - Downtown Half Moon Bay, California has a dense little downtown that has a few traditional mixed-use buildings with residences on top of shops
    - Arcata, California has a dense mixed-use center around its town square, but its also a college town, so you may not want to count it
    - Taos, New Mexico.. touristy, but I think it does have at least four or five mixed use buildings in it
    - Downtown Mackinac Michigan has a touristy but flourishing core with several mixed use buildings in it.. the whole island is car free

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 03 Apr 2015 at 7:35 PM.

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Great post, Cismontane!

    I'll throw your standard small mill town in Pennsylvania and West Virginia into the mix of dense rural clustering. Density resulted in large part to geography - deep, narrow valleys. Demographics were also a factor - mainly working class, without the means to afford freestanding houses. Small rowhouses became the norm.

    For newer development, I'd look to ski and mountain towns in Colorado, like those between Denver and Grand Junction along the I-70 corridor. Geographically constrained, very expensive land, and in a state where the latest trends in planning are embraced. On the Front Range, Berthoud -- a small town between Longmont and Loveland -- has more than its fair share of TND-based subdivisions around the village.

    Texas: look at Plum Creek in Kyle, and Georgetown Village outside of Georgetown. Both are on the exurban fringes of Austin.

    Ontario: The Village, next to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Smaller project, outside a village that is surrounded by provincially protected "tender fruit land".

    Personal experiences:

    Years ago, I worked in an exurban/rural county in Northeast Ohio. I wrote comprehensive plans for several of its towns and villages. I pushed the idea of mixed use TND as a model for development next to long-established villages. It was a very hard sell. In the eyes of community leaders, the concept of an interconnected grid of streets, corner stores, and housing variety was inextricable from "Cleveland".

    I now work in a "donut" town that surrounds a small city in a rural part of upstate New York. We recently adopted a comprehensive plan that does a 180 from the previous suburban-oriented plan. The land use plan calls for dense (8-16 du/ac gross) TND-based neighborhoods in areas next to established neighborhoods over the town/city line. There was a lot of opposition to the plan -- the area is a hippie/countercultural mecca, and the idea of TND goes against anti-urban/permie/back-to-the-land ideals that are very strong here. Still, in the long run, it'll put a brake on the rural sprawl that's now the biggest threat to the natural lands so many cherish.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    I'll throw your standard small mill town in Pennsylvania and West Virginia into the mix of dense rural clustering. Density resulted in large part to geography - deep, narrow valleys. Demographics were also a factor - mainly working class, without the means to afford freestanding houses. Small rowhouses became the norm..
    Yes, absolutely.. I hadn't thought to much about the hollows towns in WV, especially in Kanawha and Mingo Counties.. I worked on a project there years ago.. coal site rehabilitation and redevelopment. You're absolutely right that geographic constraints can be a source of rural density and mixed-use urbanisms.. producing some interesting linear towns in that area. Logan, WV is a great example of one. I think this is complicated by the requirement that the towns had to be within a certain distance of and accessible by water to the coal mines... combined with steep hills, this meant that some of the towns developed with a lot of relative density. This being said, mixed-use building types are pretty uncommon there, to my recollection, unless you count the lean-to shanties that still exist in some areas far back in the hollows. It's an interesting area.. with quite a bit of rather shocking poverty combined with immense wealth.

    This brings me to a really bizarre linear town I stumbled across while working on a regional tourism plan in Baja California Sur, Mexico. There's a barely accessible place called Santiago, located in the mountains about 100 km south of La Paz and 70 km north of the Eastern Cape. It's accessible only by a 4 km trunk road off Mexican Highway 1 (which itself is little more than a path when I first visited, but was since improved following a fire in the town in 2006), that washes out for part of the year. The village was founded in 1723 and its main industry is the cultivation of palm leaves for use in construction for area villages. The village is a giant oval 1.25 north-south and 1 km east west, with all the buildings arranged along a raised perimeter street that forms the edge of a bowl. The middle of the oval - the bowl- is a lush, green plantation area for the palms. The only thing beyond the circle are badlands and the high desert (although I think they have another area for fields about a km further west of the oval). A town square built densely around a plaza (a zocalo) anchors the oval on the east side, near the entrance to the causeway leading out of town. The only mixed use program is around the zocalo, but other programs, including the parish church, are distributed throughout the giant circle. Absolutely no idea why they laid out their village this way or when in their almost three centuries of history this happened. The motive was possibly defensive, but nobody I spoke with there really seemed to know.

    I found this image of the oval online:

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jameshansenbc's avatar
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    CoulterBerry Building in the small village of Fort Langley is still under construction, designed to fit in with the heritage theme.

    http://www.coulterberry.com/

    The developer had a very tough time with the neighbours getting it approved, a lot of controversy over the height and size. I personally supported the building.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally posted by rover View post
    Hey, I'm doing a project on trying to find examples of traditional mixed use but in small/rural town setting at the edge of an MSA.

    Just about all the stuff I have found thus far has been examples for large cities or major suburban counties; not appropriate for a small ruralish setting on the metropolitian fringe.
    Do any of you know some examples more in line with my target; mixed use in small towns that augments and reinforces the small town charm/character as opposed to "spoiling it?"
    Ages ago, the people who developed the old world had no issue creating mixed use density in rural places. Americans still wrack our brains trying to reinvent the wheel and ponder how such a thing could be possible. I wish it was as obvious to us as it was to them...

    Cadenet:




    Eguisheim:



    Lourmarin:



    Dinan:



    Biot:



    Collonges la Rouge:








    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk

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