New Urbanism is a movement launched in the early 1980s by planners and architects such as Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk in Miami. One of the earliest projects to demonstrate the principles of the New Urbanism was the village of Seaside in the Florida panhandle, near Ft. Walton Beach. These developments are compact neighborhoods, often with densities of eight to ten units per acre, with front porches so neighbors can actually see and talk to each other. They are also very walkable, with key amenities such as a grocery store and a transit or bus stop within a few hundred yards. A typical New Urbanist plan, in this case for Normal, Illinois, shows how to design these elements.
Conceptual design of a New Urbanist town center for Normal, IL, from Farr Associates, Chicago. (Image © Farr Associates, reprinted with permission)
The New Urbanism is often linked to a related movement toward Transit-Oriented Development: building homes, offices and commercial development at or near light rail stations or other major transportation hubs, to make it easier for people to avoid using the single-occupant vehicle to get to/from work, home, recreation, etc. A growing body of research indicates that people are healthier in places where they can walk or bike to basic services instead of using a car for every errand. Think of your own experiences, living, working or visiting great cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston or Chicago where you can (and do) walk or take transit to most places.
In new communities, New Urbanism today is particularly expressed in several key concepts:
- Connecting communities by locating shops and basic everyday needs within walking distance.
- Neighborhood location, so that people can walk to transit and also walk separately from roadways.
- Traffic calming — using various methods to slow down cars — to make streets safer and street life more viable.
- Land-use patterns that respect natural drainage contours, wildlife corridors, etc. by increasing density in built-up areas to allow for more open space in a development.