Archive for Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Developments promoting ‘destination walking’ touted

In step with new urbanism

November 8, 2005


Walking along a bike or recreational path is fine, but City Commissioner Sue Hack is betting a lot of people would rather walk a sidewalk leading to a nice store or restaurant.

If the city adopts a new set of codes that allow New Urbanism style developments, more people will have the chance, Hack told a crowd Monday at the Lawrence Rotary Club meeting.

"We have a lot of opportunity for recreational walking in this town, but we don't have that much opportunity for destination walking," Hack said. "We need more of that."

Hack and Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioner Marguerite Ermeling conducted what they hope are the first of many public presentations to educate civic groups and others about New Urbanism. Hack said she hopes city commissioners will consider hiring a consultant within the next month to help the city write new codes that would allow New Urbanism projects.

Joe Patterson, Lawrence, rakes leaves in front of his mother-in-law's rental house at 612 W. Seventh St. Old West Lawrence is a good example of a neighborhood with destination sidewalks, a key ingredient in New Urbanism.

Joe Patterson, Lawrence, rakes leaves in front of his mother-in-law's rental house at 612 W. Seventh St. Old West Lawrence is a good example of a neighborhood with destination sidewalks, a key ingredient in New Urbanism.

Hack told the crowd that New Urbanism, more than anything else, is about walking. Neighborhoods are designed in a way that walking is not only made easy, but that residents have something nearby to walk to. That means neighborhoods often have small commercial areas and a mix of uses. That could mean apartments are located above retail stores and three- to four-unit multi-family residential buildings can be located next door to traditional single-family homes. That type of mixing currently is discouraged in the city's codes.

The developments often use strict design guidelines that make all the different uses feel compatible. Streets also are usually built on an old-style grid system instead of using cul-de-sacs that create a myriad of dead-ends and allow motorists only one or two ways in and out of a neighborhood.

Hack pointed to downtown and Old West Lawrence as areas that have strong New Urbanism characteristics. Hack said she expects downtown to take on even more of a New Urbanism feel as the Lawrence Public Library is rebuilt. Officials with the library board announced last week that they were seeking ideas for public-private partnerships related to the library development.

"I'm very hopeful the library project will be the catalyst that will bring more mixed uses and New Urbanism type of projects to Vermont Street," Hack said. "I think it will be something that brings more residents to downtown."

The development community is approaching New Urbanism with an open mind, said Marilyn Bittenbender, an executive with the commercial real estate firm of Grubb & Ellis/The Winbury Group. She said developers were pleased that the city was not discussing making New Urbanism development mandatory, but rather an option. She said she thought it was an option some developers would choose, in part because they had seen downtown's Hobbs Taylor Loft projects embraced by buyers.

"I think that shows that people are willing to consider a different lifestyle," Bittenbender said of the New Urbanism project at Eighth and New Hampshire streets. "We just really haven't had the choices before. Choices are always good."

More views

The Lawrence Rotary Club will host two more speakers this month who will discuss the issue of New Urbanism. Lawrence architect Michael Treanor will discuss his New Urbanism efforts at 12:30 p.m. on Monday at the Hereford House, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Lawrence builder and developer Bo Harris will speak about the subject at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 28 at the Hereford House. The Rotary is allowing members of the public to attend both presentations.

But Bittenbender said the city could have to consider offering some incentives to spur as many New Urbanism projects as commissioners may want. She said the projects could be more expensive than traditional developments.

Ermeling said New Urbanism proponents also would have to convince the public that the density of a New Urbanism neighborhood didn't mean that residents would be packed like sardines in a can. New Urbanism neighborhoods can have upwards of 15 living units per acre. That's compared to about five living units for a traditional suburban style neighborhood.

"We have to convince people that 'density' isn't a bad word," Ermeling said.

Hack and Ermeling are seeking invitations from other civic groups interested in hearing a presentation on New Urbanism. Hack can be reached at 842-6608.

The Rotary Club will have two more speakers this month about New Urbanism. Lawrence architect Michael Treanor will speak on Monday and Lawrence developer Bo Harris will speak on Nov. 28. Both presentations will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Hereford House, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


trinity 12 years, 4 months ago

or it sounds as though in looking back the powers that be finally can see and acknowledge that the way things were done moons ago-are viable and do indeed work.

neopolss 12 years, 4 months ago

Sounds like another disaster in waiting ...

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

I think Hack has been spending too much time in NYC.

Question: A majority of the buildings downtown have been designated as historically significant or something like that, and the entire area is a historic district. How does converting the downtown to an urban high rise area fit in with historic preservation?

lunacydetector 12 years, 4 months ago

..yes Godot....and what about building these mini-downtowns everywhere? won't they, in the long run hurt the downtown more? i think the answer is an easy one. it is yes.

...and when ms. ermeling ran for county commission, wasn't she in favor of one home for 40 acres, or is my memory not working? if it is, i wonder what has changed.

new urbanism (smart growth) is a thing of the past. it is from the 1800's.

new urbanism is the same thing as smart growth. what is the deal with changing its name? trying to put some confusion out there? - perhaps the reporter should look it up because i am correct.

look at every smart growth (new urbanism) community out there - the cost of living exceeds lawrence's by far, and lawrence is high already.

when incentives are mentioned, does this mean the city will be subsidizing these smart growth communities? i thought that was a big no-no. will this new urbanism pay for itself? re-doing old infrastructure costs far more than putting in new infrastructure.

i guess the answer is yes to everything i've questioned.

lunacydetector 12 years, 4 months ago

except for the new urbanism paying for itself.

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

"We have to convince people that "density" isn't a bad word."

Is that why Ermeling has a house on a 1.1 acre lot out in the country? Do you think she has plans to add 14 more living units there to demonstrate her solidarity with density?

A building code that requires dense development will make properties that have lots of land even more desirable and valuable. Given the choice, most people will choose to have as much space as possible between them and their neighbors.

jwmound 12 years, 4 months ago

Hmm, build more of these so you can push every last mom and pop business out. Then we can build 10 more starbucks on every corner, and drink coffee to get pumped up for the destination trails.. Sounds neat right... ? ahem..

hawkbygod 12 years, 4 months ago

New Urbanism is not about adding high-rises to downtown. It is simply an alternative to the cookie cutter strip malls and neighborhoods that typically dot suburban america. Think areas like Brookside and "downtown" Overland Park. These are areas where the commercial district is intigrated into the residential area. It is not about raising density, it is about giving people choices and allowing market forces to have more control over housing. There will still be traditional R-1 zoned neighborhoods, but code changes will simply allow developers to design communities with more of a mix of housing and business types.

lunacydetector 12 years, 4 months ago

okay hawkbygod, BUT when you say 'communities' are you referring to these mini-downtowns? new urbanism and smart growth go hand in hand. they are one and the same. they have driven the cost of living up in every community they are implimented. look at boulder colorado as an example. what is the grand total costs of all these roundabouts -part of the smart growth religious formula? the article said 'incentives' may be needed. 'incentives' mean taxpayer subsidized.

smart growth is just a socialist experiment. congested communities in areas that need rebuilt taxpayer subsidized infrastructure.

kansas is always a few years behind the times. when other communities are abandoning smart growth/new urbanism because of its high cost - locally we go full bore into something that is or has become a proven failure. why?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 4 months ago

If I see more spew from the city poobahs about this, without a plan to fix the sidewalks in 'older neighborhoods' I think i will not be able to restrain myself from throwing something at the city hall--perhaps I'll pick up an old sidewalk paving brick! they date to the '20s and are pretty sturdy.

in my neighborhood, I walk every day, and almost every block has some completely impassible area! and, 'ol city chiefs, try these sidewalks in a wheelchair hhhaaahahahaha.
instead of all the damned consultant fees and planning costs, just put that money into fixing the walking environment of 'existing' neighborhoods first!
okay, TOB...more "walkings" walking-the-dog-walking, utility-walking, exercise-walking, borrowing-the-pound-of-butter-from-the-neighborhood-walking, thoughtful-walking, angry-walking, etc.

"destination walking" hahahahahahahahahahahahah. as opposed to 'aimless walking' or lost walking' or misdirected walking!'

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