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New Urbanist new strategy

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
I'm new to this forum, so please forgive me if this has already been asked:

Why haven't there been any New Urbanist attempts at infill development of central cities? As long as NU communities continue to be entirely new neighborhoods or towns, they will always be likened to exclusive gated communities. I know that acrimony awaits any developer who wants to build around existing properties, but true NU believers ought not be deterred, don't you think?
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,078
Points
33
I think you are wrong in suggesting that there have not been New Urbanist (re)developments in cities. I can think of at least a couple of them in Chicago.

In general, though, you will not see them because there are very few large tracts of land available for development in cities. In their place you see something better - a continuation of the existing fabric. This takes the form of individual lots or small sites that are developed or redeveloped with "urban" buildings, from single-family homes to multi-storied apartments, as well as commercial, industrial and civic buildings.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,110
Points
26
oulevin said:
Why haven't there been any New Urbanist attempts at infill development of central cities?
Just a thought: Assuming you have a pre-WWII traditional town layout in the central city, then what does New Urbanism have to do with the infill development? The traditional physical setting is already there, so the infill development would preserve the character of the central city, right? Perhpas I have misunderstood your question. Could you possibly elaborate?
 

Runner

Cyburbian
Messages
566
Points
17
Developers are still in it to make money, even those producing higher quality developments. Greenfield developments, unfortunately, typically face much fewer delays in the approval process, finding financing, and NIMBYism from neighbors. Remember: time = money.

One example, admittedly on the high end, is Federal Realty's (developer of Bethesda Row, Pentagon Row, and Santana Row) decision to pull out of mixed use "Main Street retail" developments and go back to the easier commercial strip mall construction.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,110
Points
26
Runner said:
Developers are still in it to make money
Yes, always were, always will be. If they don't make $$$, then what's the incentive?

The developers need incentives to be lured into the city, and if the central city understands the obstacles to the feasibility of an infill project, then they will adopt policies that are friendly to developers.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Beaner, let's say this: we have sixteen square blocks composing a neighborhood; there are five 1910-1020-era brick buildings scattered around. The rest of the area features grass and weeds as tall as preschoolers. Through urban renewal and careless property owners, this spot in the northern side of downtown (and bordered by a historic neighborhood to the north), is in decay. Have we seen an NU-minded developer tackle a job like this?
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,078
Points
33
Where is our Chicago contingent? What is the name of the development where Mayor Daley lives?

You might also check out the information on the HUD website. Several former public housing complexes have been redeveloped as "New Urban" neighborhoods.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,110
Points
26
oulevin said:
...rest of the area features grass and weeds as tall as preschoolers. Through urban renewal and careless property owners, this spot in the northern side of downtown (and bordered by a historic neighborhood to the north), is in decay...
Ahhh, now I understand! The quick response: Looks like you need a developer, any developer to get interested in that area. Forget New Urbanism, just get a developer in there to do do something!

The long answer, if the goal is to get that area redeveloped while preserving the integrity and character of the site (or area or neighborhood), can include the following. This is just my opinion, and I'm sure others could approach this opportunity differently.

1) The municipality could draft a separate plan for this small section of town. The plan should include statements about the preferred design and character of the site. Of course, the existing master plan and zoning map may differ from the desired outcomes determined from this planning process. The municipality could be in a position to change the master plan and zoning ordinance based on this site-specific planning process. If so, then that's good! But the downside is that time, energy, and money would be spent on a part of town that might not be attractive for the politicians and decision-makers.

2) Make the site attractive for the politicians and decsion-makers. What significance, historically, architecturally, or otherwise does this site have? Is there a growing or stable population in the area? What are the local demographics? Are they changing? If so, how? These questions should help you determine the potential of the site. From here, you should be able to determine a vision for the site, something that is appealing to decision-makers and developers.

3) Once the decision-makers are on board, then comes the part on identifying the land-owners. Is the property tax-reverted? Can the municipality get clear title on the property? If everything is in favor of the municipality to get control of the property with little difficulty, then the prospects of a specific type of redevelopment are much brighter. But if speculators and other goons control the property, then getting something that is neighborly and at human-scale may be difficult. If the existing master plan allows plasma centers, check cashing windows, liquor stores, and porn shops in this area, then you are not going to get an attractive redevelopment.

4) If the municipality gets control of the property, than an RFQ/RFP can be issued. Developers repsond to these, and from there, the officals can then select an appopriate proposal. If these decision-makers have not bought into the New Urbanist approach to infill development, then you probably won't see anything that even remotely feels like a traditional neighborhood. Maybe you'll get a gated community of townhomes, a civic center, a parking garage, or a brand new sports stadium. If the Cleveland officials are like the ones in Detroit, then it's all about the Big Project: casinos, Comerica Park, Ford Field, and the new Compuware headquarters. But now that Dennnis Archer is out, and Kwame Kilpatrick is in, who knows what's next in Detroit. What's the political climate like in Cleveland?

5) Intangibles: new quality jobs created in the area, proximity to transportation services, infrastructure, quality of life, pollution, road network, strength of commmuntiy development organizations, etc, etc.
 

swm

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
Michael Stumpf said:

You might also check out the information on the HUD website. Several former public housing complexes have been redeveloped as "New Urban" neighborhoods.
Yes, HUD (and consequently public housing authorities) had latched onto NU philosophy in its urban redevelopment since the mid90s, Cisneros-before-becoming-Univision-President days.

Like with most NU developments, time will tell how successful these city NU public projects are. Come to think of it, I worked on a NU-ish public housing project in Peoria.... wonder how that's doing.....
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,078
Points
33
That's good advice from Beaner. I'll add just one thing. Start with a good market analysis and make sure that whatever plans you come up with fit into the reality it paints.
 

adaptor

Member
Messages
123
Points
6
Comparisons between Cleveland and Chicago really don't work. There isn't the demand for housing and there are plenty of easier areas to sprawl into. Indianapolis or Lexington may have more similar dynamics and even some infill development.

There are lots of complications with this type of thing and some come from local government. Cleveland relies a lot on its Community Development Corporations to put the deals together and some are better than others at selling the site. The area you're talking about also has a lot of old and scary public housing to the south and the closest new development has been in the corrections industry. Not many people are going to be interested in alleys, small lots and through streets when they remember that was the scale of the neighborhood that was burned/torn down 30 years ago.

Mill Creek, at the south end of the city is a sort of new urbanist neighborhood, but the group that put it together had to work long and hard to control the site, find the builder, sell the first models and get a trashed ravine turned into a park. And that was an attractive site by comparison.

With Cleveland's new Maor and new Planning director there may be another attempt to rebuild neighborhoods near downtown.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Beaner, you surprised me with the thoroughness of your answer! I see every step you suggested. Incidentally, this was a half-hypothetical situation, and not in Cleveland. The area I described is actually the Midtown section of downtown Oklahoma City, with details made up.

What prompted me to ask this question are the developments usually highlighted by the media when discussing New Urbanism: Celebration and Seaside in Florida, and the Kentlands in the DC area. The casual observer would think that NU was confined to developments that are entirely new. You don't hear of NU developments in existing neighborhoods.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,078
Points
33
You may want to check out Urban Land, the magazine of the Urban Land Institute. They often cover this type of development and infill.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,110
Points
26
oulevin said:
What prompted me to ask this question are the developments usually highlighted by the media when discussing New Urbanism: Celebration and Seaside in Florida, and the Kentlands in the DC area. The casual observer would think that NU was confined to developments that are entirely new. You don't hear of NU developments in existing neighborhoods.
I think that's exactly right. New, stylish, and innovative development is sexy! Urban redevelopment is not. How does new growth in previously abandoned areas become appealing for half of America who now live in the suburbs? It doesn't, and the media knows this. Only to planners who care about the reckless abandonment of our great cities does this matter. Sure, that's a small exaggeration on my part, but in a country where private space is valued over public space, anything that unabashedly reinforces our notions of the American Dream seems to be grist for the mill for the media. Urban areas in America ain't sexy, except if it's New York City.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,110
Points
26
Michael Stumpf said:
You may want to check out Urban Land, the magazine of the Urban Land Institute. They often cover this type of development and infill.
And yes, Michael is right. In grad school I had an instructor who was a real estate developer who praised Urban Land and was a fanatic about redeveloping sites in downtown Ann Arbor. The man was phenomenal promoter of downtown living in Ann Arbor, but when pressed why he hasn't touched anything in Detroit, he had to admit the risks were too high and felt more comfortable staying local with a market that was familiar.
 
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