Monday, July 11, 2005

Placing New Urbanism

New Urbanism-styled developments are popping up all across Virginia and supporters tout the mixed-used approach as a tool for reducing traffic congestion. But location has a lot to do with that - and what defines the right place for these projects? Can you build them out in the countryside, or do they only work as infill projects in more urbanized areas?

One of the latest is the proposed 1,500-home New Post project just east of I-95 in Spotsylvania County. The Web site for the mixed-use project touts its 'smart growth' and anti-sprawl principles and invites potential buyers, "Imagine a time when your children could hop on their bikes to fetch a loaf of bread at the nearby market..."

The pitch has its appeal. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star says the developer - Tricord Inc. - has sweetened the pot with about $52 million in proffers, including $19 million in transportation improvements, $6 million to help build a VRE station (in case the county ever joins the commuter rail system) and $6.1 million toward Spotsylvania's new Purchase of Development Rights program.

The county's board of supervisors has a hearing tomorrow on Tricord's rezoning application on the 418-acre site, a former sand and gravel mine.


At 9:26 AM, Blogger Jeremy Hinton said...

I agree, placement is key. I would anticipate that many of these developments are likely in the wrong places. Brownfield areas often still have the critical mass of near-proximity jobs to support such communities, as well as pre-existing transportation infrastructure often under-utilized. Infill development closer to existing urban bases i would anticipate have a much better chance of long term success as "balanced communities".

Regarding this particular site, i'm not familiar enough with regional traffic patterns in that area, but i would anticipate that the former mine wasn't exactly a prior travel hub. It wil be interesting to see what happens if the development goes forward.

One thing (in my mind) that actually gives some of these communities a chance of success is the current environment of "short-term" employment that seems to abound. Having been with my current employer here for 10 years makes me something of a rarity for my (30 something) generation, especially in the technical field. People these days seem much more willing to change jobs/homes than previous generations. This could in theory change the dynamic enough to allow growth of a misplaced community to occur at a rapid enough pace to attract job growth as well, though i still think it unlikely.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger John said...

The typical trend in development has nothing to do with GOOD urban development, but more so how any given construction (or "Custom Home Builder" - the biggest oxy-moron of all time) firm can maximize profit.

Instead of adaptive reuse or smart building, these glorified strip mall centered neighborhoods create a string of areas along a already congested corridor that make mass transit difficult (as they generally ignore serious traffic considerations).

Infill development benefits more people as it provides ridership for expanded mass transit and for transit improvements in one area instead of multiple ones (e.g. roads, etc.)


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