Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pedestrian detail to love!!

One of the most difficult issues with suburban walking is the dreaded subdivision wall.  It makes any walking task a real chore.  The answer is to add pedestrian walkways through the wall at a walkable scale, but that means setting up walkways between houses--which is not likely to go over well for buyer or owner.  As I was driving around the other day, I saw one such walkway and I love the way the homeowners handled it. Here's the view from the residential side:

From the community side it's just as cool--inviting, yet subtle:

The trees add some shade and point the way to the walkway.  I might have preferred the trees on both sides of the sidewalk, but it's hard to be picky when someone finally gets it right. 

I don't know the history of this connection, but it appears that both fences were constructed by the homeowners for their individual lot, though at first I wasn't sure whether those were private fences or communty fences.  That brings up an important point:  This is easy to do for a developer.  All he would need to do is extend the community fence along both sides of the walkway.  This is an area that is close to a walkable downtown area and within the local school's walk-zone.  I'm sure this pathway gets used regularly by more than just school children walking to school. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Great Blog Post on Wise Growth--grow natives...

I just came across this great blog post on economic development.  In it, Delia Rucker talks about attempting to grow and nurture businesses like growing plants that are native to your area and climate. 

I would add that the transportation systems that we put in place should have the same mind-set.  There are areas that are conducive to growing high-density, high intensity land uses, along with all of the alternate mode support that is feasible there.  Some places just aren't made for that.  Here in Central Florida, it's wet, windy and often sandy.  Building a second story on most buildings is prohibitively expensive--One retail developer recently told me that he can't build the second story for a price he can reasonably expect to get back in the lease. He can do facade's, but the wind load ratings on a second story make the building far more expensive.  Basements and extensive foundations are rare because the sand will collapse on you as you build it.  There are lakes in the way everywhere--street continuity is an adventure.  Water retention requirements add space to each project, also impeding density.  Cost-effective transit will always be a challenge except in the tourist areas where single destinations and clustered origins make highway style transit ideal. 

We've made mistakes, but they can be improved with solutions that follow the "right plant, right place" principle.  Euclidian residential zoning can be augmented with complementary commercial or institutional uses within walking distance.  For the most part we have fairly flat land so there's no excuse for not having a sidewalk or bike path everywhere.  There are few hills to get in the way of a digital environment.  We have a history of welcoming people into our communities that makes front porch relationships a natural thing--we need to build more porches and encourage people to add them to existing homes.  We may not be New York or Long Island, but we can be who we are and that will be good enough.