Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2005

City steps toward New Urbanism

Pedestrian-friendly development designs may be wave of future

September 29, 2005


Hilda Enoch says now is the time for the city to get serious about making Lawrence much more pedestrian-friendly.

"It seems the time to strike is now when gas is $3 a gallon," Enoch said.

"People might be more willing to listen."

Ready or not, Lawrence residents are going to begin hearing a lot more about walkability and new ways to design neighborhoods and commercial centers. Enoch was one of about 40 people who attended a city study session Wednesday about New Urbanism, a planning concept that encourages building developments in an "old style" way that places more emphasis on pedestrians and less on the automobile.

City Commissioner Sue Hack - who is on a committee of planners, commissioners and residents studying the concept - said she would like to have a consultant hired by the end of the year to help the city create a new set of codes allowing New Urbanism development.

But first, Hack said, the community must become more comfortable with what New Urbanism means. She said her committee had plans to make presentations to key community groups to familiarize them with the concept.

"Our idea is to go on the road with this idea and try to put some of the people's fears to rest," Hack said. "We want to avoid the idea that this is something churning below the surface."

Hack said any New Urbanism code would be in addition to the city's current code, which allows for more traditional suburban development. In other words, the city wouldn't mandate that all new developments be built in a New Urbanism style.

"We want people to understand this is not about us saying we don't like big boxes or we don't like some other type of development," Hack said "This is about people having choices."

On Wednesday, commissioners, city staff members, developers and neighborhood representatives heard a presentation from Cliff Ellis, an assistant professor in urban planning at Kansas University. Ellis told audience members that key characteristics of New Urbanism included buildings that were oriented toward pedestrians, narrower streets that were part of a traditional grid system and a mix of uses in a neighborhood. That means single family homes, apartments, and retail and office uses could all be located in a single neighborhood.

New urbanism developments also tend to be much denser than traditional suburban neighborhoods. In some cases, New Urbanism projects could have three to four times the amount of homes on a single acre of property compared with a traditional suburban neighborhood.

City Commissioner David Schauner said that meant it was particularly important that the city understand the issue well. Dense neighborhoods that aren't planned properly could produce troubling results, he said.

"I'm in favor of going forward with this, but we have to think very hard about how we would actually implement it," Schauner said. "I think it could be a Trojan Horse for developers to achieve greater density than they could otherwise."

Reaction from audience members Wednesday was generally favorable. Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Assn., said her group's membership was open to the concept. Flory said she hoped that the city would scrutinize how New Urbanism could help address the issue of affordable housing. She also said it was key that the concept be voluntary rather than mandatory.

Melinda Henderson, a Lawrence resident who says she closely follows neighborhood issues, said she thought the idea could prove to be a way for developments to be more environmentally friendly. She also said design guidelines that generally come with New Urbanism projects could produce aesthetically pleasing developments.


Todd 12 years, 7 months ago

Step 1, get a grocery store downtown.

TruthSeeker 12 years, 6 months ago

L.D. Andres Duany is a leading New Urbanism architect who immigrated from Cuba in 1960. From what I have read so far is that he is trying to preserve Old World Architecture in Havana before it is bull dozed to the ground by greedy North American Developers and ignorant Socialists.
Please enlighten me how he is a Fidel Castro supporter.

mcoan 12 years, 7 months ago

New Urbanism is Old School! In addition to increased density and "mixed use" development, it means building neighborhoods like they used to be, and which Lawrence has many of. Example: Sidewalks on both sides of narrow streets. Alleys so parking is behind the homes. The idea is that, if you want it so, you your job, your grocery store, and your house could all be within walking distance. I say bring it on!

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

"new urbanism" is the same damn thing as "smart growth." how convenient to leave that out.

yes, build a downtown in the middle of a corn field. it will be great for the downtown. how pitiful the ignorance.

bring on new urbanism = bring on more expensive roundabouts.


lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

New Urbanism is Smart Growth. It is one and the same thing.

Come on reporters. Report the truth.

Kizzy 12 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence probably doesn't have the best quality of curbs and sidewalks in older neighborhoods - perhaps that is because of the underutilization of present infrastructure. We are sprawling people! Smart growth and New Urbanism principles will optimize infrastructure (without overburdening)- which in turn will allow for money to be directed toward maintenance of sidewalk and curb infrastructure already in place. It can be more efficient and less wasteful than much of the development in west lawrence. This is a good thing!!

Dayna Lee 12 years, 7 months ago

I thought this town was trying to get people to use the "T"? What happened to that idea? I'm all for walking to places near by, but these people are crazy if they think someone is going to walk more than a couple of blocks when they are in a hurry. The city's climate just won't support that idea. If it's not too hot, cold, wet, or icy - go for it.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

Bla, bla, bla... please city poobahs, before you get more sprawl under the name of "new urbanism" or whatever, please start a real program to fix the sidewalks that already "exist" often only in history. much of lawrence has terrible or nonexistent sidewalks! you want a more walkable city, there ya' go!
you want to get peds off the street to be safer, there ya' go.
thank you for caring.

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

why doesn't the city do a study about how high the cost of living is in smart growth new urbanism communities????????

it's a helluva lot higher than communities that let people live the american dream - like in a single family house with a backyard (sprawl).

also, retrofitting old infrastructure to accommodate this new urbanism (which really means - live like they did in the 1800's) - is a helluva lot costlier than building infrastructure in a new area. remember the cost of fixing the water main break on mass. street this past year?

educate yourself people, instead of swallowing the b.s. of the tax and spenders. the T bus - that thing makes negatives every year. the living wage that hasn't brought any jobs to lawrence. what's next on the agenda? implimenting congested living areas to town. oh, goody!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 7 months ago

it's all b--- s---, enuf said. Thank you, Lynn

TruthSeeker 12 years, 6 months ago

Before the ignorance and complaining I think you should all get some education on "New Urbanism". Of course most of you who complain will refuse to listen to a better idea because it feels so good for you to spout off about something you know nothing about. Here is the website you should read:

TruthSeeker 12 years, 6 months ago


  1. Walkability

-Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work -Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets) -Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

  1. Connectivity

-Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking -A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys -High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

  1. Mixed-Use & Diversity

-A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings -Diversity of people - of ages, classes, cultures, and races

  1. Mixed Housing

A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity

  1. Quality Architecture & Urban Design

Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

  1. Traditional Neighborhood Structure

-Discernable center and edge -Public space at center -Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art -Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk -Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to asses the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

TruthSeeker 12 years, 6 months ago


The Transect More information on the transect

  1. Increased Density

-More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live. -New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

  1. Smart Transportation

-A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together -Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

  1. Sustainability

-Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations -Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems -Energy efficiency -Less use of finite fuels -More local production -More walking, less driving

  1. Quality of Life

Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.

lunacydetector 12 years, 6 months ago

one person in particular seems to be quoted on your eco-religious website - Andres Duany, a fidel castro sympathizer.

perhaps your ignorance needs to be enlightened with truth. the truth shall set you free you know.

some homework for you: give me a list of cities that have embraced 'new urbanism' 'smart growth' or whatever else it is called this year, that has an affordable cost of living.

i challenge you.

TruthSeeker 12 years, 6 months ago

L.D. Your arguement about Andres Duany is .............. and the relation to New Urbanism is .................?

Check out these examples of New Urbanism at the bottom of this page. I do not know how affordable some of them are but some I am sure are pretty pricey. Some were expensive places to live before New Urbanism. But is Lawrence already an affordable place to live? Why not make it a better place to live.

Ahhh It feels sooo good to be open minded and free.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 6 months ago

yeah, and then we can walk in the streets since the sidewalks suck!
the infrastructure in older neighborhoods is "under utilized" get a grip, it is under utilized because it often is USELESS!

lunacydetector 12 years, 6 months ago

get with the real world sean. do you know the cost involved in trying to retrofit old infrastructure so congested areas can expand? you need an open mind and you will see the light. get real. become a realist.

growth pays. if cities that are bigger than lawrence can make it -and they are NOT going bankrupt, then why can't lawrence? lack of building creates higher prices but NOT a better standard of living.

look at boulder colorado. look at their demographics and their salaries. do you want lawrence to become a city of haves?

new urbanism (actually smart growth which is actually NO growth) is a thing of the past and people are starting to catch on across the country what a social disaster it is. lawrence is behind the times. why should lawrence be playing follow the leader? we should be the leader.

it's just like those outlet malls that went bust. those kind of places were on the outs yet lawrence let them build here. it wasn't the business leaders who wanted them, it was the pre-smart growthers. that was their first failure.

living in the 1800's wasn't like living in Eden. THAT is a ridiculous goal.

again, get real. research a little instead of swallowing the 'growth never pays' party line. it's a fallacy.

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