I haven’t written in this blog in a very long time. I’ve been very busy, moving across the country, starting grad school, and various other things. I’ve also been getting a little tired of focusing just on New Urbanism. I think part of what’s wearing me out is that I’m tired of dealing with different people’s definitions of New Urbanism. To some (myself), it’s compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-centered development. But to many planners, New Urbanism is Calthorpe and Duany building greenfield development with kitsch, traditional decoration. I’m not wild about greenfield development, and I’m especially not fond of Calthorpe, who more often builds uses adjacent to each other rather than truly mixed or even vertically mixed. Duany has done great theoretical work and some wonderful projects on the ground, but many have been greenfields that aren’t connected to transit and central cities. Norquist, on the other hand, is an urban, central city New Urbanist, and I find myself very much in line with his rhetoric. And as far as architecture goes, I feel that it’s secondary to true urbanism. Although I probably want a porch on the house I finally live in, I don’t feel that everyone else should have one.
I want to comment on things not related to New Urbanism, both things still related to planning and things related to architecture and other topics. I also want a place to just spout off every once in a while. With that in mind, I have started a new blog, Munson’s City. I hope that those who have been reading my blog for a while will visit my new one and continue to take interest in my opinions on architecture, urbanism, and everything else.
Mike Snyder brings us this report on Houston‘s babysteps toward TOD. Houston is well known for being America’s largest city without a zoning code, but their development patterns wouldn’t reflect it at all. According to this article, they require 25 foot setbacks and only 4-foot sidwalks, which is actually against the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires five feet, the space needed for two wheelchairs to pass each other or for one wheelchair to turn around. Well, in their effort to encourage TOD, they have increased that standard to five feet, and six feet along transit corridors. This is for sure an improvement, but if you look at the transect, a 6-foot sidewalk is for principally residential areas, not a large city. Houston’s sidewalks should be no narrower than 12 feet, to allow for street trees, street furniture, and window shopping. They also neglected to change their parking requirements, because they felt that even if they changed them, the retailers would demand more parking. That’s why minimum parking is a problem, and some, such as Andres Duany, encourage maximum parking standards. Houston’s TOD probably won’t work, because by allowing loads of parking, you still encourage people to drive instead of taking the train. I hope this isn’t the case and that TOD’s can change Houston, but I don’t have high expectations.
Rachel Parker Dickinson brings us this report on the goings-on of Hendrix College. The great Andres Duany is heading up a project there known as The Village at Hendrix, which will include single-family homes with porches and rear-loading garages, townhouses, live/work units, and mixed-use facilities. Duany said that he is really glad that he can work on this project in a college town because “The college town is what gives this place culture. It also mixes up the ages. Because of the constant renewal (by the college), this will be one of the few communities that’s continually mixed in age. If I really had to live in one of my own towns this is a very good candidate. The college is the greatest amenity the town has, and the town is the greatest amenity the college has. You’ll be able to lead your life here without feeling compelled to leave all the time.” I have written previously about other colleges (Sacramento State and the University of North Carolina) and their towns supporting New Urbanism. I just wish my college town would. I think that it’s funny that Duany specifically mentioned “feeling competted to leave all the time,” which is a frequent sentiment from BYU students. As the latest round of contention in the Joaquin Neighborhood shows, Provo cares very little for the needs if its 35,000 students. We have a lot to learn from Hendrix.