Archive | New urbanism

New urbanist Duany interviewed on smart growth manual

Published 10 January 2010

Andrés Duany and the co-founder of Miami architectural partnership Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, were instrumental in creating the new urbanist Florida village of Seaside in the 1980s, went on to found the Congress for the New Urbanism and, in 2001, wrote their defining argument, Suburban nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream.


Metropolis magazine contributing editor Jeff Speck co-wrote the 2001 book and teamed again with Mr Duany to produce The smart growth manual, out last October.


Articles & interviews in December on the Planetizen website, Metropolis magazine & Builder magazine outline why they wrote their new book and, according to Mr Speck, why “planners aren’t going to like it.”


They say the new book is a go-to resource for people who have joined the fight against sprawl, laying out how people should plan, circulate, live & work for a healthier life & climate.


Mr Duany, in the Metropolis interview: “This is a response to the empowerment of citizens in planning. The public process has become very broadly based – it’s expected now [that citizens will participate in charettes] and often the outcome is questionable. That has to do with expertise. So this manual is for elected officials & for citizens who participate in the [planning] process.”


Mr Duany again, on cars: “Cars are wonderful things. What we’re against is what makes them a rudimentary prosthetic device in which every single thing, including getting a cup of coffee, requires a car trip.”


And Mr Speck on the challenge of transforming towns: “The incredible thing is to look at the number of new urban or smart-growth communities that have sprouted up in the past decade and – probably more significantly – the way that our cities are becoming more populous, more bikeable. A lot of cities are building new railway systems – and the cities that are winning are the ones that are doing this. So cities that want to be the next Portland will do what Portland did: build rail and concentrate on street life.”


And in Builder magazine, Mr Duany on decision-making: “There is a theory of subsidiarity that considers at what level a decision is properly made. Most of today’s planning decisions – large & small – are made at the wrong level. Take transit. You do not ask the neighbour next to a 16-mile bikeway whether they want a bikeway in their back yard because they will say no. That’s a decision that needs to be made at the regional level.


“Citizen participation in the planning process is probably the biggest roadblock. If you ask people what they want, they don’t want density. They don’t want mixed use. They don’t want transit. They don’t even want a bike path in their back yard. They don’t want a grid that connects, they want cul-de-sacs. They can’t see the long-term benefits of walkable neighbourhoods with a greater diversity of housing types. This book is a quick read and is dedicated explicitly to them. It’s for the people, not for planning professionals.”


And on spreading the message: “There’s no shortage of elected officials betting their legacies on smart growth. Cities are increasingly embracing it as a way to curb sprawl, reduce greenhouse emissions and build healthier communities. But the big question most have failed to address is how to turn the grand vision into a reality that has both momentum & traction.”


Jenny Sullivan, a senior editor at Builder, drew Mr Duany further forward in a discussion on over-building: “You have the real estate crash, and the economic crash of over-consumption, and then the environmental crash, which is psychic. Together, these crises will change the marketplace. Developers have to know that in 3-5 years, this is going to be the new reality of the buyer. It will be as uncool to have a McMansion or a Hummer as it is right now to smoke cigarettes, which are no longer glamorous.


Ms Sullivan: What will happen to all those uncool McMansions?


Mr Duany: Some can be retrofitted, depending on the design. We just did a study for AARP & the Atlanta Regional Council on how to retrofit the suburbs for an ageing population. McMansions were one of the building types we looked at. We identified, for example, one developer who had a 4-bedroom, 4½-bath plan that we could easily turn into an 11-bedroom, 11-bath boarding house for senior citizens, all in the same envelope. We are writing this up in a book called Suburban retrofits.”


Links: Planetizen, Planning Utopia Metropolis magazine, Andrés Duany & Jeff Speck on The smart growth manual

Builder magazine, Andrés Duany on smart growth


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Attribution: Planetizen, Metropolis, Builder, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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New urbanism guru shifts the horizon

Don’t be surprised if some of the region’s planners start to think a little differently about their work – it could be caused by the visit of new urbanist Demetri Baches to Auckland in mid-March.


Mr Baches is an important figure on the world planning scene, and the firm he has been a partner at for the past 8 years, Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co, has completed designs for more than 250 new & existing communities since it was formed in 1980.


Its first big task was to design the Florida town of Seaside, in the middle of nowhere. “It was a big experiment. Everything in seaside was trial & error,” Mr Baches told an audience of mostly planners at a 16 March presentation in the Auckland Town Hall.


He has been in New Zealand working with Christchurch developer Dave Henderson on Queenstown projects.


His first point, in his address to his town hall audience, was that “there is some confusion about what new urbanism is. It’s a combination: We take from all schools.” It’s neo-traditional, practical, he said. And from the same source, “sustainability” & “smart growth” have stemmed.


The Congress for the New Urbanism describes the movement this way:


“New Urbanists aim to reform all aspects of real estate development. Their work affects regional & local plans. They are involved in new development, urban retrofits & suburban infill. In all cases, new urbanist neighbourhoods are walkable & contain a diverse range of housing & jobs. New urbanists support regional planning for open space, appropriate architecture & planning, and the balanced development of jobs & housing. They believe these strategies are the best way to reduce how long people spend in traffic, to increase the supply of affordable housing, and to rein in urban sprawl. Many other issues, such as historic restoration, safe streets & green building are also covered in the Charter of the New Urbanism, the movement’s seminal document.”


Mr Baches’ second point was that “these (new urban developments) were all built for profit by developers. They’re called towns now.”


Seaside began with no zoning, took on a life of its own and has become a highly influential model. Unfortunately, Mr Baches said, too often borrowers of its ideas didn’t look too deeply and produced copies which wouldn’t achieve the same qualities.


The Congress for the New Urbanism describes Seaside’s success as a real estate opportunity this way:

“This early & highly-publicised traditional neighborhood development on 80 acres (32ha) was originally planned for a wide range of price points. However, the community has been so successful that prices have risen beyond the reach of all but the most affluent households. Seaside lot prices obtained by the developer have escalated by 9%/year in waterfront locations to 87%/year for some interior locations. Lot appreciation upon resale has averaged 41%/year, for an average annual increase of $US70,700. House resale appreciation has averaged 19%, or $150,000/year. By means of comparison, lot appreciation at a comparable, conventionally planned property adjacent to Seaside has averaged 33%/year, for an average annual increase of $US33,300, and house resale appreciation has averaged 18% or $US33,200/year. The margin attributable to Seaside’s planning principles is $US37,400/year for lots and $US116,500/year for houses.”

Said Mr Baches: “Quality of life translates directly into developments, and developments translate for the developer into profits.”

By contrast, on his brief midweek visit to Auckland, he got caught in traffic and found “a general imbalance between where people live & work.”

The new urbanist notion is to go back to the village model which was forgotten in the establishment of large & impersonal cities, and to use the village model to make successful city neighbourhoods.

In Auckland, he said, “you can’t support extending out forever. You also can’t support mass transit because you’re too low density.”

The whole US ethos is to develop, but Mr Baches said this wasn’t sustainable. An example where development had been beaten back occurred in Charlotte, North Carolina, where residents sued the city and won their case opposing the planning consent for a big box development.


In Palm Beach, Florida, “all the community is now internalised.” Everybody lives behind big walls, hiding from the traffic on the modern, wide streets. “Wider streets have a higher accident rate.”


Mr Baches enjoyed the narrow streets of Ponsonby with their humps & other traffic control measures: “That’s an amazing neighbourhood. There’s hope because you can’t fall asleep driving these streets.”


The typical American 7-11 convenience store is anathema to the new urbanist: Because of the parking out front, nobody wants to live near one. “It’s as bad for property values as putting a nuclear reactor in front of it.”


The largescale mall is also against the new urbanist neighbourhood principles, as are attempts to mask them. “Fake façades are common in the US. Many councils are duped by developers who promise mainstreets: What it is is a shopping centre with parking & a façade.”


Mr Baches said people were poorer than they needed to be because the suburban sprawl and the transport & road systems meant they had to have cars, each one setting them back $US7-8000/year. “You can’t have a suburban road system (up to arterial) and call it new urbanism. We have no parking lots in Seaside and it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Panhandle Florida.”


Your standard of living is measured by how many cars you have, bathrooms, VCRs. “Quality of life is how you spend your time. We (in the US) have one of the highest standards of living, poorest qualities of life.”


One major US real estate investment trust which has seen value in new urbanism is Post Properties. The company changed its development policies because it saw the opportunity to make money from retrofitting. It did side-by-side subdivisions in the very suburban Atlanta and has seen the conventional apartment complex take second place.


“Developers like it because they can make more money and it costs them less.” Nevertheless, people still wanted to build motorways – Mr Baches said engineers were protecting ‘turf’ and real estate agents had a vested interest. “No beltline ever alleviates traffic congestion. It’s a real estate ploy. It opens up land.”


2 other points Mr Baches made in passing:


Public housing is a failure usually because the design is bad. “It usually takes on the form of barracks. It’s usually anti-community in all facets. If you spread it throughout the community it works.”


“You can experiment on the poor because they have to live there. You should experiment on the rich because they can move out.”



Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co

Congress for the New Urbanism

Charter of the new urbanism

Post Properties

Some other relevant links are on the Bob Dey Property Report Snapshot on external links page

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