The Rise of New Urbanism

When a new community pops up, it’s often touted as being “mixed-use,” meaning it features retail and office space in close proximity to traditional living developments like apartments and condos. The shift to these types of properties fits into a larger pattern of development planning called New Urbanism, which promotes human-scale living with walkable public spaces. In other words, New Urbanism forgoes the spaced out houses of older suburbs in favor of denser, more communal living.

What is New Urbanism? Dating back to the 1980s, New Urbanism is a form of urban planning that is designed to minimally require a car. The supporters of New Urbanism seek to create compact town centers that serve as a hub for business, retail, and living. Garages are typically tucked out of the way and used in place of traditional parking lots when possible, encouraging residents to walk between spaces. The movement is meant to be holistic and pragmatic, connecting all aspects of a resident’s life easily and accessibly and making the affected area function better.

Design principles. When picturing New Urbanism, a sleek and modern city may first come to mind. However, design is a key part of this kind of development but is certainly not limited to modern finishes. A traditional “Main Street” of a suburb can often exemplify the principles of this policy, since residents can walk to businesses while homes are just around the corner. The architecture on Main Street is likely colonial or Victorian, yet the space can still be New Urbanist. Buildings and layouts are designed to create functional communities, with open spaces and foot traffic patterns encouraging residents to interact with one another and create a true neighborly atmosphere.

Sustainability as a priority. New Urbanists also strive to create communities that are sustainable. The reduction of car traffic plays a key role in this, with residents opting to walk instead of drive to complete common tasks. The sprawling suburbs that came before New Urbanism do not offer this option, with a simple trip around the corner requiring a car because of the large size of the lots. New Urbanists frequently rely on the redevelopment of historic properties to conserve land as well as the social spirit of their neighborhoods.

Cities featuring New Urbanism. Some cities have incorporated New Urbanism beyond individual developments, allowing major sections of their city to embody this strategy. For example, the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina is well-known for its walkability. The port city was built on a peninsula that limits its physical expansion, so throughout the years, the city has been redesigned to incorporate continued growth while preserving historic areas. Similarly, Alexandria, Virginia has also been thoughtfully redeveloped by New Urbanists, with bikes incorporated as a major transportation method rather than cars.

New Urbanism in Columbus. Columbus has New Urbanist properties and communities dotted throughout the city. Newer communities like The Pointe at Polaris and River and Rich exemplify New Urbanist principles, and the Beulah Park project in Grove City builds this kind of mixed-use area on a much larger scale. Additionally, suburbs like Hilliard are promoting business and living close to their uptown districts; residents of Landmark Lofts are able to walk over to Old Hilliard and all the businesses and recreation it offers.

New Urbanism is changing the way American cities look and operate. The increased shift to denser, more bustling parts of the city certainly affects Columbus, and Oakwood is excited to be a part of both this new movement and other types of development.

See Oakwood’s mixed-use developments as well as other apartments that are part of our 50+ communities, on our website here.


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