Three places where New Urbanism is working

By now, everyone has seen The Truman Show and no, that wasn’t a Hollywood set where Truman Burbank lived his artificial life. It was Seaside, Fia., a New Urban community designed by the New Urban prophet, architect Andres Duany. Seaside is a resort (which some of us think is an artificial town anyway) populated by lots of part-time residents intent on recreation. Not the kind of place that most of us consider “real life.” But New Urbanism has worked in lots of “real life” places. And why not? After all, the tenets of New Urbanism are no more complicated or much less controlled than Nickelodeon’s reality. Here are some examples of where real life has become the good life:

Reston, a community in northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, across the Potomac river from Washington, D.C., is built on the shores of Lake Audubon. Founded in 1965, Reston was initially planned by Robert Simon, a New York developer who wanted to create a community with the amenities of a city in a country setting where residents could live, work, and play. There are four man-made lakes in Reston altogether, so recreation is easy to blend with business.

Kentlands, Md., was one of the first neo-traditionalist developments planned by Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk’s firm, DPZ. Designed in 1988, the community is only loosely built on the urban grid (considered an essential element of New Urbanism)-it is more suburban than urban in many ways. For instance, the town still has plenty of confusing cul-de-sacs. Homeowners in Kentlands, like those in most New Urbanist towns, automatically become (dues-paying} members of the community association.

Not far from Kentlands, which is in Gaithersburg, is Columbia, Md. Columbia was founded in the early ’60s-it’s had a whole generation to prove the simple idea that quality of life counts. Now it has a population of nearly 87.000 residents living in a series of nine self-contained villages over a spread of 14,000 wooded acres. There are several shopping centers. The mix of housing choices means that residents can move up without moving out. Like most New Urbanist communities, Columbia has a non-profit community association to manage recreation centers, summer camps, after-school programs, and to promote other community activities-there’s always a festival, performance, or some other village event going on. The community does break with the creed a little-there is a shopping mall, even in Columbia.


I. The grid street plan

II. Modest retail, instead of the big box (like WalMart) or a mall

Housing mix (modest apartments to big houses in close proximit

Garage apartments or granny flats

V. Smaller lots to ensure denser single family population

XI. Sidewalks

XII. Narrower street widths

XIII. Street parking

IX. Neighborhood schools

X. Neighborhood parks


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