Definition of New Urbanim & Suburbanization

Wikipedia defines New Urbanism as “an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types.  It arose in the United States in the eary 1980’s, and has gradually continued to reform many aspects of real estate development, urban planning, and municipal land-use stragegies. 

New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards that were prominent until the meteoric 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 ina 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. 


Wikipedia defines suburbanizaion as “a term used to describe the growth of areas on the fringes of major cities.  It is one of the many causes of the increase in urban sprawl.  Many residents of metropolitan regions work within the central urban area, choosing instead to liven in satellite communities called suburbs and commute to work via automobile or mass transit.  Others have taken advantage of technological advances to work from their homes, and chose to do so in an environment they consider more pleasant than the city.  These processes often occur in more economically developed countries, especially the U. S., which is believed to be the first country in which the majority of the population lives in the suburbs, rather than in the cities or in rural areas.  Proponents of containing urban sprawl argue that sprawl leads to urban decay and a concentration of lower income residents in the inner city.” 

It looks to me that New Urbanism, based on its definition and the definition of Suburbanization, can actually be a form of suburban sprawl.  It just takes a different form than than typical suburban growth.  Whether it is a New Urbanism project or a typical Suburban type project that seperates uses, if it occurs on the fringes of a city it is still suburbanization.

What are your thoughts about comparing the two definitions?


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Hello Again

I started this blog at the beginning of 2011 and have not kept up with the posts.  It is now late July 2011 and I am back.  This time I will keep up with the posts and hope that you all will make comments along the way.  As I have mentioned in this blog before, I would like for us all to understand New Urbanism better and where and when it should be implemented.  This is a very impassioned subject and many differing view points will be presented.   

I look forward to launching 0ur journey again and I am excited to delve into this subject in greater depth. 


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Tell me why you like New Urbanist developments?  What is it about them that makes them better?

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Should government promote Urban Development

Many will say that land use and zoning laws, along with government funding of roads and infrastructure is a mjor contributing factor to suburban sprawl.  Some of this is true, but not to the extent many will lead you to believe.  In fact many times developers will pay for water, sewer, and road improvements out of thier pockets and then give these improvements to the municipality.  This expands their system or road network without cost to the taxpayer. 

The argument that governments are spending money that leads to sprawl would lead you to believe that no money is being spent in Urban areas.  This is just not true.  A great deal of money is being spent and has been spent in efforts to revitalize urban areas.  Rachel Tobin writes a good article in the AJC today detailing some of downtown Atlanta’s past and future efforts (not posted on AJC websitebut listed below thanks to author Rachel Tobin).  Some of the monetary figures she cites in this article are very large and we all know that a very large amount of money was spent on downtown in 1996 when the Olympics came. 

Many in the urban revitalization movement will tell you that you need to get people living in the downtown areas again so it does not become a ghost town after all the business people go home.  Once you have people living there, you will get retail, entertainment, etc.  Well if people living in the area is at the core of revitalizing an urban area – How has that worked out for Atlanta.  Since 1990 the metro Atlanta area has added 2,872,278 people.  Since 1990 downtown Atlanta has added 21,400. 

So with all of the money, time, and effort put into revitalizing downtown, less than 1% of the new residents in metro Atlanta chose to move downtown. 

Another telling quote in this article is from Georgia State University’s president – “Everybody who’s got a piece of land that’s for sale has pitched us.”  If there were plenty of ohter prospects wanting land downtown, they wouldn’t all be pitching their sites to GSU so hard. 

This is not to say that downtown and urban areas shouldn’t be revitalized.  I have serious reservations about continuing to sink this much taxpayer money into areas that are not proving to be financially successful.

 Article Below

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Page D1

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Metro Atlanta’s land rush: What’s next?

  Filling downtown’s gaps

  Projects aim to usher in new era of success. Transformation could begin with transit, dorms, tourist draws.

  By Rachel Tobin

     Downtown Atlanta is one of the metro area’s most diverse — and possibly most worrisome — commercial centers.

   Since the 1996 Summer Olympics were announced 20 years ago, downtown experienced dramatic changes. Billions of dollars of tourist and convention facilities were built, including the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park. The Georgia World Congress Center continued to grow, as did the countless hotels that were built or renovated.

   And downtown’s historic and modern office buildings hold their own with a 13.7 percent vacancy rate below the 17.3 percent average for the metro area last year, CoStar Group reported.

   Downtown has become a mecca for students and workers at government agencies and nonprofits.  

   However, the area roughly from Centennial Olympic Park to the state Capitol, and Turner Field to the Fox Theatre, still faces considerable hand-wringing.

   Despite the daytime population of 140,000 workers, by the count of Central Atlanta Progress, downtown lacks thriving retail, entertainment and residential districts. It struggles with the poor image left by panhandlers and others, and continues   to fight the flight of silk-stockinged professional services to other business centers inside and outside I-285.

   Without another Olympics on the horizon, what could bring success to downtown in the next 20 years?

   The Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose five projects that could transform downtown. Other projects could have been highlighted, such as the potential for a new football stadium or the Center for Civil and Human     Rights; these five aren’t necessarily “the most important,” but were picked because they have the potential to change the fabric of downtown, from redrawing its skyline to filling a hole in the landscape.

   Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said it best: “This is not your grandfather’s downtown. For people with perceptions from years ago, we’re on a different trajectory.”

The ‘Gulch’ Transit Hub

   Two grand central stations and a network of trolley cars once crisscrossed downtown. Since the 1950s, however, development has been more car-centric. Amtrak’s only remaining in-town station is in the Buckhead area, and a Greyhound terminal is blocks from the Five Points MARTA hub.  

   The Georgia Department of Transportation wants to change that, and has $60 million in seed money for planning a transportation “mini-city.” The idea could be downtown’s biggest project in play.

   “The Gulch,” an unattractive tangle of train tracks and parking lots near CNN and Philips Arena, would be the recipient. On one level, people will live, shop, work and play. On another, they will catch buses, streetcars, commuter trains and inter-city rail.

   Three development teams are vying for the project. A finalist will be announced Monday, and the DOT board will vote on the selection in May.  

   Scott Condra with Jacoby Development wants the job. “The way the city has grown, there is a hole at the Gulch,” he said. “But around the edges are some very big players.” He ticked off Philips Arena, CNN Center, Centennial Park on one side, and federal courts and agencies on the other.

   The federal government is considered one of the biggest potential tenants for the project. Shyam Reddy, U.S. General Services Administration’s regional administrator, said it is a credible idea, but only if the hub is a true mini-city and an ecosystem is built.  

   The $60 million renovation of the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building at 77 Forsyth St. is a good example of new federal practices: recycled materials, outside seating, planters and sustainable energy. That’s something the master developer must consider to lure federal offices, Reddy said.

   Architect and engineer Mickey Steinberg said the hub idea is brilliant. He helped John Port-man on the first “mart” building downtown — now AmericasMart — in the 1960s, and is a senior advisor to Portman, who isn’t bidding for the project. “It just may be the thing that can spur commercial office buildings,” he said, noting it worked around Lindbergh MARTA station. Other cities, especially Denver, also have experienced commercial renaissances near train hubs.  

 Georgia State University

   The urban campus for Georgia State University will continue to grow its footprint downtown, school president Mark Becker said.

   “More than pride, it’s really a distinguishing characteristic for the university,” he said. “Being in a city provides unique opportunities for our students.”

   Georgia State University has steadily increased its investment: Soon the school will have 4,000 beds for students; nine years ago, there were none.

   Enrollment has grown by 5,000 students to 31,000 in the last four years alone, attracting the attention of nearby land-holders. “Everybody who’s got a piece of land that’s for sale has pitched us,” Becker said. “But our resources are limited.”

   Still, the school has made recent moves, buying two hotels for student dorms. New business and law schools some day   will rise near Woodruff Park.

   GSU doesn’t have to be the only developer there, said Becker, who wishes others would get involved. “There’s not a decent pizza parlor within two blocks of the residence halls,” nor a 24-hour pharmacy, the president said.  

   Someone will “figure out how to piece together the market between students, tourists, office workers and residents into a viable retail model,” CAP’s Robinson said.

 Atlanta Streetcar Project

   Downtown has both pedestrian-oriented streets and one-way streets fenced in by office   buildings and tangles of freeway overpasses.

   The streetcar project seeks to change that. Atlanta won a federal grant for $47 million and committed $31 million to build a route from the historic Martin Luther King Jr. district to Centennial Olympic Park. Construction begins in the fall, and paying customers could expect rides as soon as 2013, said Duriya Farooqui, Atlanta’s deputy chief operating officer.

   The streetcar will reconnect two areas severed by construction of the interstate in 1960s, Farooqui said. It is hoped the project will spur economic development, similar to Portland, Charlotte, N.C., and Houston.  

   Portman’s Steinberg said the east-west line isn’t the one to start with, because a comparable bus route didn’t find much success.

   “This is a not a theme park ride,” he said. “The ride should fulfill the demand. It is not going to create the demand.” Steinberg would rather see a streetcar go from downtown to Midtown along Peachtree Street, where demand exists.  

   CAP’s Robinson has heard complaints about downtown’s livability, an issue he said the streetcar will resolve.

   Underground casino

   The managers of Underground Atlanta have a landmark that struggles to keep retailer and local interest. In an effort to change this, the holders of its 50-year lease, Dan O’Leary and partner John Aderhold, proposed   a $450 million casino that comes with 5,000 video lottery terminals and a 29-story hotel.

   They spent much of 2009 talking up the plan’s benefits, specifically $600 million in gross receipts — half going to the Georgia Lottery. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue essentially said no way.

   O’Leary recently said if the lottery was interested in doing the project, it would still be on the table. Full-fledged casinos are not legal in Georgia, but O’Leary said video lottery games fit the lottery’s charter.

   CAP’s Robinson considers Underground Atlanta a beloved part of the city — as evidenced by the New Year’s Eve crowds — but said it could be better as a larger retail center.

   Whatever happens at Underground will require a major investment, Robinson said, adding that alone would be a good thing.  

  The Atlanta “Eye”

   If one thing could change Atlanta postcards forever, it could be an “Eye.”

   At more than 400 feet tall, the $200 million observation wheel, if built, would transform downtown’s skyline. Developers of the London Eye have pitched a replica for Atlanta, an idea supported by Bernie Marcus, who built the Georgia Aquarium.

   Local “Eye” spokesman, Eric Tanenblatt with McKenna Long & Aldridge, said they are still looking for a site.

   “Where they built the London Eye along the Thames River, it was undeveloped, and actually sort of rundown,” said Tanenblatt of an area that has had a rebirth of sorts, with an aquarium and art galleries.  

   Steinberg, of Portman Holdings, isn’t convinced Atlanta is ready for that.

   “People go to London because it’s London with Buckingham Palace and its various famous streets,” Steinberg said. “I think that if there’s not other stuff done in conjunction with it [in Atlanta], it would be kind of lame.”

   While it may seem eclectic, CAP’s Robinson said that’s the appeal of Atlanta’s new downtown with the aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Center for Civil and Human Rights, among others.

   “It’s almost like there’s something for everybody,” he said.  


  The Atlanta Streetcar Project

   The Atlanta streetcar will run westbound down Auburn Avenue from Jackson Street. Atlanta won a $47 million federal grant for the project, which may be ready for riders in 2013. The proposal is similar to the Portland Streetcar system (right). Bita Honarvar  , Peter Ehrlich

  The Atlanta “Eye” Ferris wheel

   Developers of the London Eye (right) in England have pitched a similar idea for Atlanta, but some aren’t sure such an attraction would fit in with Atlanta’s already established tourist destinations such as Centennial Olympic Park (left). Vino Wong  , Lefteris Pitarakis Associated Press

  Underground Atlanta casino

   Underground Atlanta’s leaseholders proposed a $450 million casino of 5,000 video lottery terminals with a 29-story hotel. It was not well-received by Sonny Perdue when he was governor. Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said it may work better as a large retail center. Louie Favorite Staff 2009

  Georgia State University

   Enrollment Services Specialists assist students at GSU’s One Stop Shop with help related to registration, financial aid and other areas. In the past four years, Georgia State’s enrollment has increased by 5,000 to 31,000, and the school has bought two downtown hotels to turn into dormitories. Bob Andres

  The Georgia Department of Transportation has $60 million in seed money for creating a transportation “mini-city” at the “Gulch” near the Five Points MARTA hub. Jason Getz

Rachel Tobin

Commercial real estate reporter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

phone: (404) 526-5343


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Article concerning suburban growth

See article below that brings up interesting information that is not told publicly very often.  If you are wondering who Joel Kotkin is, he wrote a recent book called “The Next Hundred Million” and a book called “The City”.  See his website at  “The City” is a book studying the history of how cities were formed going back thousands of years.  “The Next Hundred Million” is his idea of how the next 100 Million people will be accounted for in the US.  I have read “The Next Hundred Million” and I am in the process of reading “The City”. 

Many that will want to discredit the article below will tell you the main reason for the suburban growth is because of incentives that localities put in place that increasingly support suburban growth, such as the expansion of utilities into undeveloped areas and road improvements in undeveloped areas.  This could be true, but it is not like there are no incentives to develop in Urban Areas.  There are more incentives to develop urban areas than suburban areas.  The urban areas can recieve a myriad aray of grants for infrastructure improvements. 


The Protean Future Of American Cities

Mar. 7 2011 – 11:46 am


The ongoing Census reveals the continuing evolution of America’s cities from small urban cores to dispersed, multi-polar regions that includes the city’s surrounding areas and suburbs. This is not exactly what most urban pundits, and journalists covering cities, would like to see, but the reality is there for anyone who reads the numbers.

To date the Census shows that  growth in America’s large core cities has slowed, and in some cases even reversed. This has happened both in great urban centers such as Chicago and in the long-distressed inner cities of St. Louis, Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Birmingham, Ala.

This would surely come as a surprise to many reporters infatuated with growth in downtown districts, notably in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and elsewhere. For them, good restaurants, bars and clubs trump everything. A recent Newsweek article, for example, recently acknowledged Chicago’s demographic and fiscal decline but then lavishly praised the city, and its inner city for becoming “finally hip.”

Sure, being cool is nice, but the obsession with hipness often means missing a bigger story: the gradual diminution of the urban core as engines for job creation. For example, while Chicago’s Loop has doubled its population to 20,000, it has also experienced a large drop in private-sector employment, which now constitutes a considerably smaller share of regional employment than a decade ago. The same goes for the new urbanist mecca of Portland as well as the heavily hyped Los Angeles downtown area.

None of this suggests, however, that the American urban core is in a state of permanent decline. The urban option will continue to appeal to small but growing segment of the population, and certain highly paid professionals, notably in finance, will continue to cluster there.

But the bigger story — all but ignored by the mainstream media — is the continued evolution of urban regions toward a more dispersed, multi-centered form. Brookings’ Robert Lang has gone even further, using the term “edgeless cities” to describe what he calls an increasingly “elusive metropolis” with highly dispersed employment.

Rather than a cause for alarm, this form of  development  simply reflects  the protean vitality of American urban forms.  Two regions, whose results were released last week, reveal these changing patterns. One is the Raleigh region, which has experienced a growth rate of 42%, likely the highest of the nation’s regions with a population over 1 million. This metropolitan area, anchored by universities and technology-oriented industries, is among the lowest-density regions in the country, with under 1,700 persons per square mile, slightly less than Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta.

Unlike the geographically constrained older urban areas, Raleigh’s historical core municipality experienced strong growth, from 288,000 to 404,000, a gain of 40%. This gain was aided by annexations that added nearly 30% to the area of the municipality (from 113 to 143 square miles). The annexations of recent decades have left the city of Raleigh with an overwhelmingly suburban urban form. In 1950, at the beginning of the post-World War II suburban boom, the city of Raleigh had a population of 66,000, living in a land area of only 11 square miles.

Even here, however, the suburbs (the area outside the city of Raleigh) gained nearly two-thirds of the metropolitan area growth (65%) and now have 64% of the region’s population. Over the last ten years, the suburbs have grown 43%. It is here that much of the economic growth of the Research Triangle has taken place, as companies concentrate in predominately suburban communities such as Cary.

Yet in most demographically healthy urban regions, the growth continues to be primarily in the suburban centers. One particularly relevant example is the Kansas City area, a dynamic region anchoring what we have identified as “the zone of sanity.” Like most American regions, the Kansas City area is growing, but in ways that often do not resemble the fantasies of urban density boosters.

KC’s growth pattern is important and could be a harbinger of what’s to come in this decade. Along with Indianapolis, this resurgent Heartland region is expanding faster than the national average. It is also attracting many talented people, ranking in our top ten list of the country’s “brain magnets,” a performance better than such long-standing talent attractors as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Boston. Between 2007 and 2009, the Kansas City region’s growth in college-educated residents was more than twice the rate of our putative intellectual meccas of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

But despite the wishes of some  in Kansas City’s traditional establishment, this cannot be interpreted as meaning that  the “hip and cool” are being lured en masse to the city’s inner core. Over the past decade, as in most American regions, Kansas City has expanded far more outward than inward. Despite a modest increase in the city’s population of some 18,000 — much of it in the city’s furthest urban boundaries — the city’s population remains below its 1950 high. On the other hand, some 91% of its 200,000 population increase occurred in the suburban periphery.

Critically, it is important to note that this expansion reflects not so much the growth of “bedroom” communities, but a dramatic shift of employment to the periphery. By far the most important center for this new suburban growth in jobs and people lies across the river in Johnson County, Kan.. Over the past decade, Johnson County has accounted for roughly half of the region’s total growth.

Johnson County  – which boasts among the highest levels of educated people in the country — also has become the primary locale for many technology and business service firms, with more people commuting into the area than out. This reflects an increasingly suburbanized economic base. Over the past decade the urban core of Jackson County has lost 42,000 jobs, while the surrounding suburbs have grown by 20,000, with the biggest growth in largely exurban Platte County.

So what does this tell us about the future of the American urban region?  Certainly the expansion of relatively low-density peripheral areas negates the notion of a  ”triumphant” urban core. Dispersion is continuing virtually everywhere, and with it, a movement of the economic center of gravity away from the city centers in most regions.

But in another way these patterns augur a bright future for an expansive American metropolis that, while not hostile to the urban center, recognizes that most businesses and families continue to prefer lower-density, decentralized settings.  The sooner urbanists and planners can accommodate themselves to this fact, the sooner we can work on making these new dynamic patterns of residence and employment more sustainable and livable for the people and companies who will continue to gravitate there.

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Are New Urbanists open to opposing ideas?

I ask this question “Are New Urbanists open to opposing ideas?” because it seems as if they are not.  Please take the time to read the article at  This article talks about the difference in New Urbanists and a new group of theorists the Landscape Urbanists.  The main difference in their thinking is that New Urbanists believe the built environment and its design is the most important aspect of planning – that a design promoting high densities and walkable communities should be the most important factor.  The Landscape Urbanists believe that the environment should be the most important aspect in planning and that the environment should weave into any development – that the environment should be the number one factor in planning, not the design of the built environment.   

While both of these ideas seem plausible, and even possible to be implemented together, they seem to be at great odds and the attitude of one particular New Urbanist, Andres Duany, is arrogant and belittling.  In this article Duanny is quoted the following in terms of talking about viewing a video of a Landscape Urbanist “We criticized it and called out all the contradictions, and we laughed and made fun of him.”   

I would love to hear anyones thoughts concerning this article.

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East Village Monroe

As you may have read in some of my posts, I do not always agree with what alot of the new urbanists beliefs.  I do however believe that there is a place for new urbanism.  I don’t say this lightly.  I am planning a new urbanism project right now and we just got started.  Visit our site at  There are many edits to the grammar and writing and please feel free to let me know any you may see.  Also, let me know what you think about the project.  I am always open to suggestions.

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Live Work in Atlanta

I have researched the number of people that live in the two most populus counties in the State of Georgia.  These counties are Fulton and Gwinnett.  Fulton County is the county that the City of Atlanta is in.  Gwinnett County borders Fulton to the Northeast.  Both couties have a high population and a high number of jobs.  Below are the facts I found from the US Census.  The data is the earliest they had available – 2008.

Fulton County (where the City of Atlanta is located):

  • Total number of jobs providing employment in Fulton County – 719,265
  • Total number living in Fulton County and employed in Fulton County – 204,505
  • Total number living in Fulton County and employed outside Fulton County – 183,291
  • Total number living outside Fulton County and employed in Fulton County – 514,760

Gwinnett County

  • Total number of jobs providing employment in Gwinnett County – 323,909
  • Total number living in Gwinnett County and employed in Gwinnett County – 139,393
  • Total number living in Gwinnett County and employed outside Gwinnett County – 201,827
  • Total number livgin outside Gwinnett County and employed in Gwinnett County – 184,516

This shows that 57% of the employed persons in Gwinnett and 71% of the employed persons in Fulton commute into these counties for a job.  It also shows that 59% of the employed persons in Gwinnett and 47% of the employed persons in Fulton commute outside the county for a job. 

What do these facts tell us about where people choose to live and work?

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Mass Transit

President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address said that this country needs more high speed rail.  Many projects today are projected to reduce emmissions and daily car usage by locating next to Transit stations.  They are called TOD or Transit Oriented Developments.  The cost of expanding the passenger rail system in this country is huge and the benefit will be neglibible.  From my research, it looks like less than 5% of US Commuters use mass transit.  There are many reasons for this.  The number 1 reason is choice.  Like it or not people choose to drive thier own car to work to have the freedom to come and go as they please.  The reason people use mass transit in New York City – choice.  They choose to use it because it is more convenient and cost effective in a city of over 8 million people.  Before you say how great that is, ask yourself one question.  Will there be another New York City?  The answer to that is no.  There will not be another area in this country with 8 million people crammed into such a small area.  If nothing else, environmental regulations will not allow it. 

It is extremely wasteful to spend astronomical amounts of money on high speed rail that will benefit only a small portion of the population and not do much in the way of fixing our transportation issues.

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I would like to ask a few questions and see what type of answers we get. 

What does new urbanism mean in your own words?

What is the most important issue in future growth?

How would you implement your most important issue?

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