Each neighborhood has a center and an edge. The center should be a public space, whether a square, green or an important intersection. The optimal size of a neighborhood is a quarter-mile from center to edge. For most people, a quarter mile is a five minute walk. For a neighbor- hood to feel walkable, many daily needs should be supplied within this five-minute walk. This includes not only homes, but stores, workplaces, schools, houses of worship and recreational areas. People within a quarter mile radius will walk to a major transit stop. Those who live far- ther from a transit mode are less likely to bother with the train or bus. If there is one thing that reduces the livability of most postwar suburbs, it is the fact that streets do not feel like pleasant, shared spaces. In New Urbanism, streets are safe, comfortable interesting places for people to walk and meet. Buildings open onto sidewalks, rather than parking lots. Windows and doors facing the sidewalk make streets safer, and more interesting, for everyone. New urbanism streets use buildings to provide a consistent and understandable edge. This accommodates buildings of all styles and functions. Important locations are reserved for grand, attention-getting buildings; other sites require buildings to re- spect their context. New urbanism streets can accommodate cars while also providing comfort and convenience for pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheelchair users.
In the early 1990s, the movement was often termed “neo-traditional” planning. However, that term was a misnomer. As the new Urbanism evolved, its proponents recognized that good urbanism is possible with many types of architecture, town layouts and densities. It is a part of the comprehensive movement for livable cities and Smart and Sustainable Growth. Projects include redevelopment, transit villages and the revival of aging main streets, as well as new towns. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that has taken New Urbanist to heart with its HOPE VI program. Meanwhile the U.S.G.S., the nations’ largest developer, has adopted a New Urbanist agenda. Every year it becomes clearer that there is a tremendous market demand for real neighbor- hoods, for lively cities, and for regions with protected open space.
MICHAEL GRAVES & ASSOCIATES with DUANY PLATER-ZYBERK AND COMPANY