November 9

4 Pros and Cons of New Urbanism



With the increased use of automobiles and zoning, a new system of building was implemented with the creation of suburban development. The majority of US citizens now live in suburban communities.  Suburbia lacks a town center and it wasn’t designed to be very walkable.  To help alleviate the excess pollution generated from the use of so many cars and contain sprawl, New Urbanism has continued to grow. 

What Is New Urbanism? 

New urbanism promotes the creation and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed-use communities composed of the same components as conventional development. New Urbanism promotes the increased use of trains and light rail instead of building more highways and roads. The main principles of new urbanism include:

  • Walkability - New urbanism consists of street design that is friendly to pedestrians. Most residents desire retail and businesses to be at least a 10-minute walk from home or work.
  • Sustainability - Eco-friendly technologies are used to minimize the effect on the environment.
  • Mixed-Use - A mix of retail shops, entertainment venues, apartments, homes, parks, and offices is offered to people of all ages, income levels, and cultures.
  • Urban Design - The architecture should emphasize comfort and beauty. Public spaces establish an attractive quality for a sense of place. 
  • Neighborhood Structure - Neighborhoods have definite centers, with public spaces near the center. 
  • Smart Transportation - Public transportation is utilized to connect cities and neighborhoods. A pedestrian-friendly design encourages the use of non-motorized vehicles like bicycles, rollerblades, and scooters as daily transportation. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of New Urbanism

New Urbanism includes planning based on walkable blocks and streets, housing and shopping nearby, and accessible public spaces. This development helps create sustainable places where people can live healthy and happy lives. It benefits businesses, local government, and residents. 

Advantages and disadvantages of new urbanism are summarized by their impacts on residents, businesses, developers, and municipalities.

1. Residents

PRO: New urbanism can improve the quality of life with more walking, a healthier lifestyle, and proximity to services, parks, and nature. Pedestrian-friendly communities offer more opportunities to meet neighbors and build relationships. This design can increase independence for the elderly and poor to be able to get around to jobs and recreation without the need for a car.

CON: New urbanism usually advocates architectural control by creating requirements for new developments to have a uniform look. Many people find this stifling and boring for the neighborhood when many residences and buildings are the same or very similar to each other. 


PRO: Local businesses also see benefits from a new urbanism design. They experience increased sales due to more foot traffic and more profits due to less spending on advertising and large signs. New urbanism allows the shop owners to live above their stores in live-work units. Smaller spaces mean lower rents while promoting small local business incubation. Business owners are more involved in the community, building relationships with the residents. 

CON: The downside to new urbanism is that the benefits derived by businesses depend on the overall neighborhood design and size. There won’t be an increase in foot traffic if the neighborhood is exclusive to residents only. Since businesses within new urban communities are usually limited to patrons residing within that community, their customer base may be more limited since they are typically smaller than larger neighborhoods in the suburbs. 

3. Developers

PRO: Developers have the potential to earn more income from higher-density mixed-use projects due to more leasable square footage, more sales per square foot, and higher property values. There is less need for designated parking lots in a new urbanism-designed community due to a mix of residences and commercial uses within walking distance of each other.

CON: New urbanism design does not always mesh with the existing surrounding areas. The original idea was that new urbanism principles would replace or be incorporated into existing city codes, creating gradual transitions. Many authorities only allow a few isolated new urbanism-style developments because they require extensive infrastructure change. 


PRO: The towns and cities that implement a new urbanism development can expect to see a stable, appreciating tax base. Less is spent per capita on infrastructure and utilities than typical suburban development due to the compact, high-density nature of the building projects. There is less traffic due to the walkability of the new urban design.

CON: Some major critiques of New Urbanism are that its effective area is confined to the neighborhood boundaries. Those against this design feel the use of cars will not decrease no matter what is implemented. It is also expensive to make the necessary changes for new urbanism in existing neighborhoods. 

Trusted Planning Professionals

If you’re ready to start your development project and get it off to a good start, Pickett, Ray, and Silver is the right choice. From surveying to planning, we have a team of professionals to give you pertinent data to make informed decisions. Contact us today to get started. 


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