New Urbanism is an urban design movement which promotes walkable neighborhoods containing a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s, and has gradually informed many aspects of real estate development, urban planning, and municipal land-use strategies.
New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards that were prominent until the rise of the automobile in the mid-20th century; it encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to regionalism, environmentalism and the broader concept of smart growth. The movement also includes a more pedestrian-oriented variant known as New Pedestrianism, which has its origins in a 1929 planned community in Radburn, New Jersey.
The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.
New Urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in suburban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the re-development of brownfield land.
Until the mid 20th century, cities were generally organized into and developed around mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. For most of human history this meant a city that was entirely walkable, although with the development of mass transit the reach of the city extended outward along transit lines, allowing for the growth of new pedestrian communities such as streetcar suburbs. But with the advent of cheap automobiles and favorable government policies, attention began to shift away from cities and towards ways of growth more focused on the needs of the car. Specifically, after World War II urban planning largely centered around the use of municipal zoning ordinances to segregate residential from commercial and industrial development, and focused on the construction of low density single family detached houses as the preferred housing option for the growing middle class. The physical separation of where people lived from where they worked, shopped and frequently spend their recreational time, together with low housing density, which often drastically reduced population density relative to historical norms, made automobiles indispensable for efficient transportation and contributed to the emergence of a culture of automobile dependency.
This new system of development, with its rigorous separation of uses, arose after World War II and became known as "conventional suburban development" or pejoratively as urban sprawl. The majority of U.S. citizens now live in suburban communities built in the last fifty years, and automobile use per capita has soared.
Although New Urbanism as an organized movement would only arise later, a number of activists and thinkers soon began to criticize the modernist planning techniques being put into practice. Social philosopher and historian Lewis Mumford criticized the "anti-urban" development of post-war America. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, written by Jane Jacobs in the early 1960s, called for planners to reconsider the single-use housing projects, large car-dependent thoroughfares, and segregated commercial centers that had become the "norm."
Rooted in these early dissenters, New Urbanism emerged in the 1970s and 80s with the urban visions and theoretical models for the reconstruction of the "European" city proposed by architect Leon Krier, and the "pattern language" theories of Christopher Alexander.
In 1991, the Local Government Commission, a private nonprofit group in Sacramento, California, invited architects Peter Calthorpe, Michael Corbett, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Moule, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stefanos Polyzoides, and Daniel Solomon to develop a set of community principles for land use planning. Named the Ahwahnee Principles (after Yosemite National Park's Ahwahnee Hotel), the commission presented the principles to about one hundred government officials in the fall of 1991, at its first Yosemite Conference for Local Elected Officials.
Calthorpe, Duany, Moule, Plater-Zyberk, Polyzoides, and Solomon founded the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism in 1993. The CNU has grown to more than 3,000 members, and is the leading international organization promoting New Urbanist design principles. It holds annual Congresses in various U.S. cities.
New Urbanism is a broad movement that spans a number of different disciplines and geographic scales. And while the conventional approach to growth remains dominant, New Urbanist principles have become increasingly influential in the fields of planning, architecture, and public policy.
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According to husband-and-wife town planners Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, two of the founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism, they observed mixed-use streetscapes with corner shops, front porches, and a diversity of well-crafted housing while living in one of New Haven's Victorian neighborhoods.
- The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.
- Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly 0.25 miles (1,300 ft; 0.40 km).
- There are a variety of dwelling types — usually houses, rowhouses, and apartments — so that younger and older people, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.
- At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
- A small ancillary building or garage apartment is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (for example, an office or craft workshop).
- An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home.
- There are small playgrounds accessible to every dwelling — not more than a tenth of a mile away.
- Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination.
- The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
- Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.
- Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.
- Certain prominent sites at the termination of street vistas or in the neighborhood center are reserved for civic buildings. These provide sites for community meetings, education, and religious or cultural activities.
- The neighborhood is organized to be self-governing. A formal association debates and decides matters of maintenance, security, and physical change. Taxation is the responsibility of the larger community.
New Urbanism is having a growing influence on how and where metropolitan regions choose to grow. At least fourteen large-scale planning initiatives are based on the principles of linking transportation and land-use policies, and using the neighborhood as the fundamental building block of a region.Miami, Florida, has adopted the most ambitious New Urbanist-based zoning code reform yet undertaken by a major U.S. city.
More than six hundred new towns, villages, and neighborhoods in the U.S. following New Urbanist principles are planned or under construction. Hundreds of new, small-scale, urban and suburban infill projects are under way to reestablish walkable streets and blocks. In Maryland and several other states, New Urbanist principles are an integral part of smart growth legislation.
In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) adopted the principles of the New Urbanism in its multi-billion dollar program to rebuild public housing projects nationwide. New Urbanists have planned and developed hundreds of projects in infill locations. Most were driven by the private sector, but many, including HUD projects, used public money.
University Place in Memphis
In 2010 University Place in Memphis became the second only U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED certified neighborhood. LEED ND (neighborhood development) standards integrates principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building and were developed through a collaboration between USGBC, Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. University Place, developed by McCormack Baron Salazar, is a 405-unit, 30-acre, mixed-income, mixed use, multigenerational, HOPE VI grant community that revitalized the severely distressed Lamar Terrace public housing site.
The Cotton District
The Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi, was the first New Urbanist development, begun in 1968 long before the New Urbanism movement was organized. The District borders Mississippi State University, and consists mostly of residential rental units for college students along with restaurants, bars and retail. The Cotton District got its name because it is built in the vicinity of an old cotton mill.
Seaside, Florida, the first fully New Urbanist town, began development in 1981 on eighty acres (324,000 m²) of Florida Panhandle coastline. It was featured on the cover of the Atlantic Monthly in 1988, when only a few streets were completed, and has become internationally famous for its architecture, and the quality of its streets and public spaces.
Seaside is now a tourist destination and appeared in the movie The Truman Show. Lots sold for $15,000 in the early 1980s, and slightly over a decade later, the price had escalated to about $200,000. Today, most lots sell for more than a million dollars, and some houses top $5 million.
The site of the former Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, closed in 1995, is now being redeveloped by Forest City Enterprises. Stapleton is expected to be home to at least 30,000 residents, six schools and 2 million square feet (180,000 m²) of retail. Construction began in 2001.Northfield Stapleton, one of the development's major retail centers, recently opened.
In 1997 San Antonio, Texas, as part of a new master plan, created new regulations called the Unified Development Code (UDC), largely influenced by New Urbanism. One feature of the UDC is six unique land development patterns that can be applied to certain districts: Conservation Development, Commercial Center Development, Office or Institutional Campus Development, Commercial Retrofit Development, Tradition Neighborhood Development, Transit Oriented Development. Each district has specific standards and design regulation. The six development patterns were created to reflect existing development patterns.
Mountain House, one of the latest New Urbanist projects in the United States, is a new town located near Tracy, California. Construction started in 2001. Mountain House will consist of 12 villages, each with its own elementary school, park, and commercial area. In addition, a future train station, transit center and bus system are planned for Mountain House.
Mesa del Sol
Mesa del Sol, New Mexico—the largest New Urbanist project in the United States—was designed by architect Peter Calthorpe, and is being developed by Forest City Enterprises. Mesa del Sol may take five decades to reach full build-out, at which time it should have 38,000 residential units, housing a population of 100,000; a 1,400-acre (5.7 km2) industrial office park; four town centers; an urban center; and a downtown that would provide a twin city within Albuquerque.
Located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, I'On is a traditional neighborhood development, mixed with a new urbanism styled architecture, reflecting on the building designs of the nearby downtown areas of Charleston, South Carolina. Founded on April 30th 1995, I'On was designed by the town planning firms of Dover, Kohl & Partners and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, and currently holds over 750 single family homes. Features of the community include extensive sidewalks, shared public greens and parks, trails and a grid of narrow, traffic calming streets. Most homes are required to have a front porch of not less than eight feet (2.46 m) in depth. Floor heights of 10 feet (3.1 m), raised foundations and smaller lot sizes give the community a dense, vertical feel.
Haile Plantation, Florida, is a 2,600 household (1,700 acres (6.9 km2)) development of regional impact southwest of the city of Gainesville, within Alachua County. Haile Village Center is a traditional neighborhood center within the development. It was originally started in 1978 and completed in 2007. In addition to the 2,600 homes the neighborhood consists of two merchant centers (one a New England narrow street village and the other a chain grocery strip mall). There are also two public elementary schools and an 18-hole golf course.
Disney's Celebration, Florida
In June 1996, the Walt Disney Company unveiled its 5,000 acre (20 km²) town of Celebration, near Orlando, Florida. Celebration opened its downtown in October 1996, while Seaside's downtown was still mostly unbuilt. Disney shuns the label New Urbanism, calling Celebration simply a "town."
Celebration's Downtown has become one of the area's most popular tourist destinations making the community a showcase for New Urbanism as a prime example of the creation of a "sense of place".
The construction of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail in Hudson County, New Jersey has spurred transit-oriented development. In Jersey City, two projects are planned to transform brownfield sites, both of which have required remediation of toxic waste by previous owners. Bayfront, once site of a Honeywell plant is a 100 acres (0.40 km2) site on the Hackensack River, and is nearby the planned West Campus of New Jersey City University. Canal Crossing, named for the former Morris Canal, was once partially owned by PPG Industries, and is a 117 acres (0.47 km2) site west of Liberty State Park.
Old York Village, Chesterfield Township, New Jersey
The sparsely developed agricultural Township of Chesterfield in New Jersey covers approximately 21.61 square miles (56.0 km2) and has made farmland preservation a priority since the 1970s. Chesterfield has permanently preserved more than 7,000 acres (28 km2) of farmland through state and county programs and a township-wide transfer of development credits program that directs future growth to a designated "receiving area" known as Old York Village. Old York Village is a neo-traditional, new urbanism town on 560 acres (2.3 km2) incorporating a variety of housing types, neighborhood commercial facilities, a new elementary school, civic uses, and active and passive open space areas with preserved agricultural land surrounding the planned village. Construction began in the early 2000s and a significant percentage of the community is now complete. Old York Village was the winner of the American Planning Association National Outstanding Planning Award in 2004.
New Urbanism is closely related to the Urban village movement in Europe. They both occurred at similar times and share many of the same principles although urban villages has an emphasis on traditional city planning. In Europe many brown-field sites have been redeveloped since the 1980s following the models of the traditional city neighbourhoods rather than Modernist models. One well-publicized example is Poundbury in England, a suburban extension to the town of Dorchester, which was built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall under the overview of Prince Charles. The original masterplan was designed by Leon Krier. A report carried out after the first phase of construction found a high degree of satisfaction by residents, although the aspirations to reduce car dependency had not been successful. Rising house prices and a perceived premium have made the open market housing unaffordable for many local people.
The Council for European Urbanism (C.E.U.), formed in 2003, shares many of the same aims as the U.S.'s New Urbanists. C.E.U.'s Charter is a development of the Congress for the New Urbanism Charter revised and reorganised to relate better to European conditions. An Australian organisation, Australian Council for New Urbanism has since 2001 run conferences and events to promote New Urbanism in that country. A New Zealand Urban Design Protocol was created by the Ministry for the Environment in 2005.
There are many developments around the world that follow New Urbanist principles to a greater or lesser extent:
- Val d'Europe, east of Paris, France. Developed by Disneyland Resort Paris, this town is a kind of European counterpart to Walt Disney World Celebration City.
- Jakriborg, in Southern Sweden, is a recent example of the New Urbanist movement.
- Other developments can be found in the Netherlands, at Heulebrug, part of Knokke-Heist, in Belgium, and Fonti di Matilde, Italy.
- Orchid Bay, Belize, is one of the largest New Urbanist projects in Central America and the Caribbean.
- McKenzie Towne is a New Urbanist development which commenced in 1995 by Carma Developers LP in Calgary.
- Cornell, within the city of Markham, Ontario, was designed with walkable neighborhoods, density to support public transit, a variety of housing types and retail.
- New Amherst is a new urbanist development in the town of Cobourg, Ontario.
- The structure plan for Thimphu, Bhutan, follows Principles of Intelligent Urbanism, which share underlying axioms with the New Urbanism.
There are several such developments in South Africa. The most notable is Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. Triple Point is a comparable mixed-use development in East London, in Eastern Cape province. The development, announced in 2007, comprises 30 hectares. It is made up of three apartment complexes together with over 30 residential sites as well as 20,000 sq m of residential and office space. The development is valued at over R2 billion ($250 million).
The primary organization promoting the New Urbanism in the United States is the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. CNU members promote the principles of CNU's Charter and the hallmarks of New Urbanism, including:
- Livable streets arranged in compact, walkable blocks.
- A range of housing choices to serve people of diverse ages and income levels.
- Schools, stores and other nearby destinations reachable by walking, bicycling or transit service.
- An affirming, human-scaled public realm where appropriately designed buildings define and enliven streets and other public spaces.
The CNU has met annually since 1993 when they held their first general meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, with approximately 100 attendees. By 2008 the Congress was drawing 2,000 to 3,000 attendees to the annual meetings. Venues have included:
- CNU I (1993) Alexandria, Virginia
- CNU II (1994) Los Angeles, California
- CNU III (1995) San Francisco, California
- CNU IV (1996) Charleston, South Carolina
- CNU V (1997) Toronto, Ontario
- CNU VI (1998) Denver, Colorado
- CNU VII (1999) Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- CNU VIII (2000) Portland, Oregon
- CNU IX (2001) New York, New York
- CNU X (2002) Miami Beach, Florida
- CNU XI (2003) Washington, D.C.
- CNU XII (2004) Chicago, Illinois
- CNU XIII (2005) Pasadena, California
- CNU XIV (2006) Providence, Rhode Island
- CNU XV (2007) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- CNU XVI (2008) Austin, Texas
- CNU XVII (2009) Denver, Colorado
- CNU 18 (2010) Atlanta, Georgia
- CNU 19 (2011) Madison, Wisconsin
- CNU 20 (2012) West Palm Beach, Florida
- CNU 21 (2013) Salt Lake City, Utah
- CNU 22 (2014) Buffalo, New York
- CNU 23 (2015) Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
The CNU began forming local and regional chapters circa 2004 with the founding of the New England and Florida Chapters. By 2011 there were 16 official chapters and interest groups for 7 more. As of 2012, Canada hosts a portion of one full CNU chapter (Cascadia) and one Chapter in formation (Ontario).
While the CNU has international participation in Canada, sister organizations have been formed in other areas of the world including the Council for European Urbanism (CEU), the Movement for Israeli Urbanism (MIU) and the Australian Council for the New Urbanism.
By 2002 chapters of Students for the New Urbanism began appearing at universities including the Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Georgia, University of Notre Dame, and the University of Miami. In 2003, a group of younger professionals and students met at the 11th Congress in Washington, D.C. and began developing a "Manifesto of the Next Generation of New Urbanists". The Next Generation of New Urbanists held their first major session the following year at the 12th meeting of the CNU in Chicago in 2004. The group has continued meeting annually as of 2009 with a focus on young professionals, students, new member issues, and ensuring the flow of fresh ideas and diverse viewpoints within the New Urbanism and the CNU. Spinoff projects of the Next Generation of the New Urbanists include the Living Urbanism publication first published in 2008.
The CNU has spawned publications and research groups. Publications include the New Urban News and the New Town Paper. Research groups have formed independent nonprofits to research individual topics such as the Form-Based Codes Institute, The National Charrette Institute and the Center for Applied Transect Studies.
In the United Kingdom New Urbanist and European urbanism principles are practised and taught by the The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. Other organisations promote New Urbanism as part of their remit, such as INTBAU, A Vision of Europe, and others.
The CNU and other national organizations have also formed partnerships with like-minded groups. Organizations under the banner of Smart Growth also often work with the Congress for the New Urbanism. In addition the CNU has formed partnerships on specific projects such as working with the [United States Green Building Council] and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop the LEED for Neighborhood Development standards, and with the Institute of Transportation Engineers to develop a Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Design manual.
The 2004 documentary The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream argues that the depletion of oil will result in the demise of the sprawl-type development.New Urban Cowboy: Toward a New Pedestrianism, a feature length 2008 documentary about urban designer Michael E. Arth, explains the principles of his New Pedestrianism, a more ecological and pedestrian-oriented version of New Urbanism. The film also gives a brief history of New Urbanism, and chronicles the rebuilding of an inner city slum into a model of New Urbanism.
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New Urbanism has drawn both praise and criticism from all quarters of the political spectrum. In an interview in Reason, a right-libertarian magazine, professor Peter Gordon, a professor of Urban Planning from University of Southern California, spoke out in favor of suburbanization and criticized New Urbanism as ignoring consumer preference and the free market, claiming that cities have moved towards car-oriented development because that is what people want. However, some could say that Disney's Celebration, Florida, is an example of a private company responding to the market for urban-oriented development.
Critics claim that the effectiveness of the New Urbanist solution of mixed income developments lacks statistical evidence. However, numerous studies by independent think tanks support the idea of addressing poverty through mixed-income developments, because these developments facilitate the bridging of social capital, and thus provide for a higher shared quality of life across socioeconomic cleavages. The argument that New Urbanism produces diversity has been challenged from findings from one community in Canada.
The New Urbanist preference for 'permeable' street grids has been criticised on the grounds that it gives private motor vehicles an advantage over walking, cycling and public transport. It is also argued to be less resistant to property crime than traditional suburban neighborhood conventions like cul de sacs and horseshoe loops. The transport performance of some New Urbanist developments, such as Poundbury, has been disappointing, with surveys revealing high levels of car use. The alternative view, termed 'filtered permeability' (see Permeability (spatial and transport planning)) is that, to give pedestrians and cyclists a time and convenience advantage, they need to be separated from motor vehicles in places.
A forthcoming rating system for neighborhood environmental design, LEED-ND, being developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Congress for the New Urbanism, should help to quantify the sustainability of New Urbanist neighborhood design. New Urbanist and board member of CNU, Doug Farr has taken a step further and coined Sustainable Urbanism, which combines New Urbanism and LEED-ND to create walkable, transit-served urbanism with high performance buildings and infrastructure.
New Urbanism has been criticized for being a form of centrally planned, large-scale development, "instead of allowing the initiative for construction to be taken by the final users themselves". It has been criticized for asserting universal principles of design instead of attending to local conditions.
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