New Urbanism: Designing Cities for Lifestyle

Sustainability utilizes many assets of urban planning, and urban form is one of them. New Urbanism, a movement that aims to utilize urban design in order to combat issues that derive from urban sprawl, is an overarching concept that encompasses a number of planning methods. New Urbanism offers benefits to many fields of planning, including sustainability, taxes, and public wellbeing. The benefits of New Urbanism on a city could be quite remarkable.

Ridge Hill, a New Urbanism, mixed-use development in Westchester County, NY. Image via Monarch Ridge Hill, Flickr.

New Urbanism: What Does it Entail?

Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), a leading organization that aims to promote New Urbanism through partnership and other means of establishment, outlines the basic concepts of New Urbanism as follows. All of these concepts are “defined” by their exact wording:

  • Creating Enduring Neighborhoods: Creating walkable neighborhoods is one of the cornerstones of the New Urbanism movement.  Through their Charter of the New Urbanism, CNU further elaborates their vision regarding this concept.
  • Making Urbanism Legal Again: As the advent of New Urbanism comes more to the forefront, there will be an aim to reverse the long traditional form of sprawl-based zoning. Sprawl-based zoning is known for its negative effects on the quality of life. New Urbanism helps to give practitioners the tools to make this happen.
  • Making Connections a Priority: New Urbanism can bring people together. Since the very nature of New Urbanism aims to promote walkability and mixed-use, the design concept hopes to make positive, beneficial interaction among citizens an everyday occurrence.
  • Celebrating Shared Spaces: New Urbanism engages the community through its approach to building cities.  The public realm can help foster a strong life through interaction.
  • Achieving Sustainability-From Building To Region: New Urbanism’s principles help cities achieve new fronts in sustainability. This approach to building, land, transportation, and other facets are all aimed at achieving sustainable results.
  • Reclaiming Urban Places Once Thought Lost: New Urbanism has the potential to reverse damage done to cities, such as environmental and poor planning consequences. CPU themselves has contributed to this phenomenon, with the Highways to Boulevards project.

The Benefits of New Urbanism

Given how forward-thinking New Urbanism is, there’s no doubt that grounding its principles into a city plan will bring plenty of beneficial results. Here are the benefits that New Urbanism can bring:
  • Decreases reliance on transportation. New Urbanism promotes alternative transportation and cities that put emphasis on on-foot transportation. Through mixed-used design, New Urbanism helps bring a wider variety of city uses together in close proximity. This helps reduce pollution, keep congestion down, and helps residents live a healthier, more active lifestyle.
  • Increases economically viability.  Lower costs per capita, increase of tax base, and greater accessibility to patrons, allow people to spend less on transportation, as well as numerous other benefits which add to a healthier economy. The economic benefits reach many groups, such as residents, businesses people, developers, and municipalities.
  • Builds a healthier community. Through an emphasis on form and urban design, mixed-use design and similar concepts provide a healthier and more engaging city life. They also help promote safer city planning. Form-based codes are a good example of this principle in action.
  • Creates a more sustainable city.  Due to its principles, New Urbanism encourages green transportation, and utilizes various sustainable building methods. This helps cities achieve a greater level of sustainability.

Sesaide Florida, New Urbanism design concept. Image via Duany Plater-Zyberk. 

New Urbanism In Action

New Urbanism is already starting to make its rounds in city planning, as more cities are putting an emphasis on using these design principles. Many communities are good examples of New Urbanism at work such as The Village of Providence (Alabama), Stapelton (Denver), and Seaside (Florida).
Perhaps most interesting, Congress For The New Urbanism has contributed to the movement with what they call “initiatives“. All of what they’ve developed in this particular aspect is helpful and a positive development in New Urbanism. A few of these would be Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares, Sprawl Retrofit, and CNU’s Project For Transportation for Reform. Professional partners also help develop these initiatives with CNU.

About The Author

Alex Ageno earned his degree in Urban Planning in 2013 from Arizona State University. Alex's interests in Urban Planning include Urban Design, Sustainability, Form Based Codes, Zoning, and Environmental Planning. He resides in Arizona.