September 16

8 Principles of New Urbanism

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New urbanism is a development method that replicates the design of neighborhoods from past decades. The layout includes a mix of buildings, including residential housing, banks, grocery stores, restaurants, and other public buildings. It allows for more walkability and less driving which lessens the impact on the environment.

Individuals who promote new urbanism, appropriately referred to as “new urbanists”, advocate for these human-centered communities. They encourage building more diverse neighborhoods that are designed to be able to walk from the center to the edge in a short amount of time without the use of vehicles.

In a new urbanism community, streets are designed for walking, bike-riding, and mass transit, as well as for cars. The homes in these areas are on smaller lots with porches to promote neighbor interaction. The primary purpose of new urbanism is to create a sustainable, human-scaled environment where residents can live healthy, active lives.

Constructing a New Urbanism Community

There are characteristics that every new urbanism neighborhood has in common.

1. Walkability

The street grid is interconnected to encourage walking, not driving. You can walk almost anywhere in these neighborhoods within 10 minutes. There are sidewalks throughout, buildings are closer to the street, garages are in the rear of the homes. Some streets may be designated as pedestrian-only. Streets are narrower with reduced speeds.

2. Mixed Use

The community includes residential homes, apartments, business offices, restaurants, and shops. These are all interspersed throughout the development. Residences are homes of various sizes, shapes, and prices, all in close proximity to each other.

3. Diversity

Residents include a mix of various ages, cultures, races, and income levels.

4. Quality

The design and construction of structures emphasize aesthetics and comfort and create a sense of belonging and community.

5. Central Activity

The highest density is in the center of the area, with public buildings and spaces that offer different amenities. The space is less dense going out to its edges. The purpose is to create an area for everyone to come together and enjoy the culture, nature, and entertainment. It makes it more convenient and enjoyable for residents.

6. Green Transportation

Some new urban developments include public transportation that link cities, towns and other neighborhoods. The design encourages modes of transportation other than gas-guzzling vehicles, like bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking.

7. Sustainability

The environmental impact is less because of the reduced use of fuel for driving, promoting local businesses, smaller housing lots, and green building.

8. Quality of Life

Those living in new urban communities have an enhanced quality of life, more interaction with neighbors, and more time to enjoy leisure activities.

Benefits of New Urbanism

New urbanism provides many advantages to its residents, the businesses who set up shop, the developers who plan, design, and build the communities, and the municipalities where they are located.

Resident Benefits

Individuals living in these communities have a better quality of life because of:

  • Healthier lifestyle with more walking and less stress
  • Less traffic
  • Closer to shops and other businesses
  • Access to bike trails, nature, and parks
  • Opportunity for Increased social interaction
  • Helps children, the elderly, and less affluent to get to work and other destinations without owning a vehicle
  • Monetary savings from driving less
  • Increased leisure time
  • A sense of place and community
  • More open space to enjoy

Business Benefits

Business owners who establish roots in these communities benefit by:

  • Increased sales because easier access to residents
  • Less money spent on advertising
  • Better lifestyle when residing above their shops – saves stress, time, and cost of commuting
  • Lower rents due to smaller spaces and parking lots
  • Healthier lifestyle because of more walking
  • More community involvement, getting to know their customers

Developer Benefits

Developers who plan, design, and build new urban communities can also benefit from them by:

  • Greater income potential due to the higher density and mixed use characteristics
  • Faster approvals
  • Monetary savings from reduced parking needs
  • Reduced fees because of the lower impact on roads and traffic
  • Lower cost of utilities
  • Greater acceptance by the public
  • Quicker sales

Benefits to Municipalities

The cities and towns where new urban developments are built can benefit from them because:

  • Less taxes spent on infrastructure and utilities
  • More tax revenue from the increased number of buildings in a smaller area
  • Less traffic congestion
  • Less crime and policing because of the increased number of people present throughout the day and night
  • Better image
  • Easier to install and improve public transit
  • Greater civic involvement

New Urbanism Is Thriving

Whatever your thoughts and opinions about the new urbanism movement, there is still great interest about its design and development. A great example is New Town St. Charles, which has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past years.

If you’re a developer with a plan to build a new urban community, you’ll need help. Pickett, Ray & Silver has 50 years of experience in providing civil engineering, surveying, and land planning for developers throughout St. Charles and St. Louis counties, and surrounding cities and towns.


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