“New Urbanism” reached popularity in the 80s and has continued to gain momentum. Aspirational homeowners, city planners, architects and developers persist to seek sustainable living that provides solutions for social, health, energy, economic, aesthetic, and environmental issues including global warming and rising oil prices. New compact, diverse communities are now showcasing a revival of traditional street patterns and design, walkable retail, entertainment and even job creation. These communities nurture the most desirable characteristics of human habitation – neighborliness, economic efficiency and prosperity, historic preservation, participation in civic processes and even sensitivity to holistic well being.
“New Pedestrianism” a movement founded by Michael Arth in the late 90s, presents another approach to these concerns, with an increased focus on reducing the role of automobiles in daily life. This is a movement away from the spread-out, car-centered suburbs and their related pollution that has dominated the American landscape for the past 50 years. With its emphasis on low-impact alternative travel promoting walking and cycling, new pedestrianism encourages human interaction by eliminating the automobile street from the forefront thereby allowing for intimate scale plazas, fountains and pocket parks. Residents find themselves gathering on front porches, in nearby parks and open plazas. They share driveways, walkways and alleys, while enjoying easier access to natural environmental elements such as lakes, streams, and forests that may border or be included in these types of communities.
A prime example of this type of movement is Atlanta’s Street of Dreams. The development showcases neighborhoods that offer enhanced amenities and optimizes community relations by hosting resident lounges, conference facilities, library, fitness cottage and special events pavilion with a lake front fireplace. This unique destination also features a tennis village, pocket parks, walking trails, a baseball field, boat slips, high-speed Internet access and even a 33-acre storage park for boats and RVs. The 2007 project, located in Tributary at New Manchester – a 1,475-acre master-planned community nearby downtown Atlanta – showcases the latest in new urbanism development. Now that this pursuit has officially migrated out of the central core and deep into the suburbs, Atlanta isn’t the only city feasting on this new living movement. The Street of Dreams project will be making its way to Orlando and Sacramento in 2008 as well as to Arizona and Las Vegas in 2009.
Whether you are an advocate or opponent of new urbanism and pedestrianism, there are valid reasons for the increasing popularity of these diverse, condensed communities defined by significant socio and demographic trends. Reminiscent of traditional values and community interaction prior to World War II, these movements provide distinct benefits for today’s homeowners, businesses, builders and municipal concerns.