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New Urbanism: buzzword for new suburbanism


My latest Planning Peeve? I've grown more than a little weary at the use of the term by some architecture critics/publishers/ developers in describing new suburban developments (especially here in the South) as "New Urbanist". Just because a SUBDIVISION was designed by the New Urban "design gurus", doesn't make
it New Urban. The projects I'm referring to are sprawling, leapfrog developments,pure and simple. Criminy!

Super Amputee Cat

New Urbanism: buzzword for new Suburbanism

I agree with you to a great extent, but still find some use for new urbanism in planning. You certainly are right in one regard: New urbanism, as idealistic as it can be, is, in most cases, still sprawl. Maybe "good sprawl" if there is such a thing, but sprawl nonetheless. Sure, new urbanism is preferable to the cookie-cutter crudscapes of jive-plastic bunker houses with four car garages and 100' wide cul-de-sacs, but if these projects are being built while the city is decaying then that's not helping anyone.

One of the most sucessful new urbanism projects, many will argue, is Seaside, Florida: A well planned community of nicely designed wood framed houses and cottages, pedestrian oriented streets and sidewalks, and a well planned central business district. But in one glaring aspect Seaside has failed miserably: It has become an overpriced yuppie theme park: Cottages as small as 700 S.F. are selling for over $200,000 and pampered, high-maintenance, tourists have bid up cottage rental rates to over $200/a night in summer. Who can afford that?!!

Maybe the developers of Seaside intended it to be a middle class community, with apartments above garages for waiters and stuff, but that's not the way Seaside turned out. Without price controls, it is, sadly, nothing more than a haven for consumptive yupps. Yeah, you'll find stores in Seaside that sell overrated, overpriced token merchendise that the yuppies seem to shell out their Titanium Mastercard in droves for, but if you want a gallon of milk for $2 dollars, or a loaf of bread for a buck, you'll have to go to Fort Walton Beach. (I also question developent of any sort along the beachfront, especially in such a hurricane prone area as Florida, but that's another matter entirely)

A travesty even worse than Seaside has become (at least it is designed well), is all the "copycat" developments out there that basterdize the true new urbanist philosophy with "phony colony" architecture and vinyl siding. (No names mentioned, but I'm thinking of a place in Central Florida contolled by that evil empire that uses a mouse as a mascot). As you say, these projects may call themselves "new urbanism", but are in reality nothing more than "leapfrog" out-of-control sprawl masquarading as a well planned development. It is, as you say, really "New suburbansim"

My point is this: If New Urbanism Communities are being built in areas where little attention is being paid to the health of the established community, or are being built only for a bunch of rich yuppies, then that is as evil as the worst strip mall or big box development. If on the otherhand, a new urbanist development is built in a already healthy community, experiencing controlled growth, and offers a wide variety of AFFORDABLE housing for both rich and poor alike...then new urbansism can be wonderful indeed.

Putting it another way: If a so called "new urbansist" community only has driveways with BMW's, SUV's and other yuppiemobiles, then its absolute crap. But, if you see a new development with a few AMC Pacers or Ford Escorts in the driveway (or better yet bicycles) then, I'd start packing and move in tomorrow!


New Urbanism: buzzword for new Suburbanism

My understanding of "new urbanism" is that it isn't just a housing form. It has to do with densities, infilling, proximity to work and shopping, community facilities etc.

I hate jargon, "new urbanism", "sustainable development" whatever. I think if you take a look at the parameters of the development you will see that alot of it is not "new urbanism" depsite the fact that the developer calls it that.