So is that what new urbanism is?

I am not totally familiar with what new urbanism is. I have a vague concept of it. There was an article in the Washington Post about it. Apparently it is a suburban planned community with some stores, amenities and schools targeted to the demographic that is buying in the community. All the comforts of urban living none of the hassles?
On the issue of community the author, points out there are conditions and structures that allow for members of the community to bump into each other. What was missing was whether the subject she was following, another mom, actually experienced what the planners were trying to create. The kids seem to get the most out of it but what about the adults?
Living in Shaw I get sometimes the benifits and the hassles of urban living. My Laurel cousin remarked how everything around here was so close. I like being able to hop on my bike an be downtown in no time. On my bike I can shop both Giant and Whole Foods, pick up drycleaning (I have baskets), and maybe pick up some Thai. I am two stops away from the movies and a short bus ride away from several of Washington’s highly rated restaurants. I also have high crime and drug dealers on the corner.
I’ve also got diversity where I get to know people different than myself on a down to earth level. Also I was a little disturbed by the mother’s idea of how to introduce diversity in her kids lives, a shelter. I wounder will they see things in extremes. We’ve got diversity out the ying yang on my block, not just economic and racial, but there are a variety of ages, nationalities, lines of work (not everyone has an office job) and familial structures. I wonder if diversity can be found in finding a girl scout troop or soccer team or camp or after school activity where the kids could interact with different kids as equals, so that ‘other’ does not always equal disadvantaged. But I’m not a parent, so I might be asking too much.

8 thoughts on “So is that what new urbanism is?”

  1. I think new urbanism is supposed to contrast with both ‘old’ urbanism (living downtown) and ‘suburbanism’ (cul-de-sacs, no sidewalks, low density, car-centered). Problems are– it’s expensive and it’s not really urban. Nice place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit.

  2. I agree with you on the mother’s idea of “diversity” being a visit to a local shelter(?). I guess I’d have to give her credit for being concientious??? I see new urabanism as the biggest challenge to keeping middle income families in the district. With schools being what they are, it costs so much more to live in the city (beyond the taxes and inflated real estate) and I fear that the only people who will remain in places like Shaw will be wealthier folks without kids or even wealthier parents who ship their kids to charter or even private schools outside of the neighborhood. So no one is growing up in diverse communities. It’s hard to fault parents with young kids in the District who move to the burbs because they can’t send their kids to the school across the street. I am starting to feel like “diversity” is a luxury for only the wealthy parent.

  3. I live next door to Cameron Station, which is an adventure in New Urbanism. (My highrise is more “Old Urbanism”)

    And like a lot of these developments, the problem is that people want diversity. So long as that diversity is expressed in ways appropriate to upper middle class (mostly) white manners of child rearing.

    There is this desire for a diverse group of professions, religions, and ethnicities.

    So long as those people interact in the appropriate manner.

    You get into a lot of issues of a class divide, that just aren’t what is talked about.

    My building is diverse as all hell, but I don’t know if I would want my hypothetical future kids interacting with the buildings kids.

    Or a better way to rephrase it, I don’t want my hypothetical kids interacting with the parents of the building kids. Because the expected level of parental supervision on my part is a lot different than that of most of the parents in the building.

    And whole lot of it has to do with the luxury of growing up reasonably well off. My parents only had one job each. And spent much of their spare time with us. A no tv type of family.

  4. New urbanism strives for compact, walkable towns and neighborhoods, with a range of housing types and proximity to mixed uses. It can be located in the
    suburbs, like Kentlands, and in the city, like Townhomes on Capitol Hill.
    About half of all new urban projects are infill.

    Plans can be at the scale of the building, the neighborhood, or the region. Some of the best examples win awards from the Congress for the New Urbanism.

    Here in D.C., the local chapter is focusing on the results of the “Reality Check” event and reforming some of the policies WMATA uses when planning land development adjacent to its stations.

    -Laurence Aurbach

  5. Thanks Laurence for the info.

    Let your future kids hang with the girls who aren’t allowed to leave the buidling. Not the ones who leave the building. Inside good, outside bad. You love TV (and TiVo) so your kids are doomed anyway.
    Yes, people sometimes want diversity on their own terms, or want it to fit their own preconceived notions of how members of different groups are supposed to be.

    I always thought I’d send my future kids to Our Lady of Intolerable Suffering or St. Angony. Seriously, there is at least one Catholic School (Immaculate Conception)and several charters in Shaw. We are supposed to get a new arts charter school in 2006 maybe at the Armstrong school. Maybe if everyone on the block tried to go to the same charter as a group…. just pondering. But kids from various schools (I notice with the uniforms or lack of) do play with each other along the block.

  6. “New Urbanism” should be called what it is: Gated Communities in the city where people pay to be locked in instead of having others locked out. It’s about suburbanites who hate the commute from West Virginia but want all the amenities of cookie cutter homes. Sorry, you can’t have it all. These new urbanist developments have all the soul of paper wrappers that the groundskeepers cleanup everyday. Their community is utterly disposal, temporal, and lifeless. If you went to the ANC meeting about the New York Avenue Playground last week, you saw real urbanism. You felt and saw a diverse community passionately arguing with their city officials. People pleaded about the traditions and history surrounding that spot of land. I doubt new urbanism type residents would do that.

  7. You know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect many of the arguments over both sprawl and gentrification boil down to epater-le-bourgeois

  8. I don’t know what a “new urbanism type resident” is, and I’ve visited about fifty new urban developments. I’d say residents of new urbanist developments are just like any sample group of Americans; some are passionate about local culture and tradition while others are disinterested. Also, I think conflicts over values and priorities are unavoidable whenever a neighborhood changes, regardless of the planning techniques used. If change is going to occur, I’d like to see it support the pedestrian and civic realms, allow mixed use, blend with the historical context, and provide a wide range of housing types that serves all segments of the market.

    -Laurence Aurbach

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