News and Views from CNU20 in WBP, FL

West Palm Beach, site of CNU20

I am at a gathering of the Congress for the New Urbanism through the weekend (#CNU20 if you’re on Twitter). I’ll be using the EoP blog to share what I learn about new urban trends and for my comments. Log in and out through Sunday if you’re interested in my updates… or if you’re just bored and lack the ambition to find something else to do.

Stat of the Day: Driving by 16-34 year-olds in U.S. was down 23% from 2001-2009 (10,300 Vehicle Mile Traveled to 7,900 VMT per capita). Also, this is not an economic matter, they are doing this by choice. This continues a trend that is really important for cities and infrastructure planning. Thanks to @jmassengale.

Words to Live By: Urbanism in the 21st century should be based on the ideas of the 1870s — creating great cities that can create great wealth. Thanks to @sustaincities

I interrupt this Florida-based blog for some news from home: The ‘Let’s Save Michigan’ team just released the finalists for their Placemaking Contest. Check out the projects and vote for your favorite. Great stuff!

Live Blog: Here is a link to the CNU20 Live Blog if you’re interested.

New Faubourg Lafitte, New Orleans: Huge new housing project planned to reinvent

Faubourg Lafitte

affordable housing that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The detailed community charrette process identified new designs and retained historic feel. Great project. Lots of applications for other cities struggling with large scale housing issues.

Berrien Springs in da House: The Berrien Springs, MI and Andrews University joint vision for community growth and conservation project is recognized at CNU20 for its forward-thinking ideas and student involvement. They won $3,500 for their efforts. Great job!

Build smaller, more flexible housing: Accessory dwelling units are a good companion to traditional city style housing — single family, multiple unit or apartments. Key demographics of baby boomers, Gen Y and immigrants seeking smaller housing options. Flexibility a must.

Incremental Urbanism: Global competition and capital markets are forcing those who are attempting to retrofit urban and suburban places to do so incrementally. Some of the best work is being done at the block or parcel level, not on any grand scale. This requires cities to sick to a long-term plan and work with developers and land owners to provide a more resilient mix of buildings and spaces. Forward-thinking architects and planners are creating plans for buildings that may not even be presently for sale by grouping them with other lots and showing future value.

The Economic Benefits of Good Urbanism: Differing attitudes toward environment, health and aging all lead to a common desire for more compact design and development.

If Houston and Orlando can consider transit-oriented development, then anywhere can — even Michigan!

Once again, we are reminded  that the price of expensive infrastructure goes down when additional density is added. Retrofitting outdated and under-performing residential and commercial areas with mixed uses can do wonders for a community.

Adding community-based skilled nursing units within, or adjacent to, traditional neighborhoods allows residents to age within their own environment. It is also a growing market for jobs and investment.

A single bungalow on a small urban lot (.13 acres) brings in more taxes per acre than $20,000,000 tax valued Walmart on 34 acres. It’s not even close.

If citizens viewed themselves (more appropriately) as shareholders in their city and county governments then they would not stand for current land use patterns that take more land off of the tax roll and put less investment into it, thus lowering the ROI (i.e. large lot housing, low density commercial, big boxes). True dat.

Mandated minimum numbers of intersections for new residential developments can help the common good. Helps connect neighborhoods and people, assists in infrastructure cost.

Some areas in the U.S. are experimenting with the concept of a Fiscal Impact Quotient (FIQ). An FIQ is equivalent to the amount of time that a governmental unit needs to pay back infrastructure improvements for a new development. As an example, a community could adopt a FIQ of 10 years, meaning the new development would need to pay off the infrastructure improvements during that time. The concept is a hybrid of an impact fee on land developers (it takes issues like amount of transportation costs for residents into consideration) and is intended to identify and finance the true cost of the growth.

Multi-Family Developments in Cities: The #1 amenity for multi-family housing buildings across all demographics is a fitness center. Followed by pools.

Entertaining suites are also preferred. Since most living units are smaller, these “community” rooms are important to occupants.

James Kunstler: “We must avoid the oncoming campaign to sustain the unsustainable.” In Michigan, we are already seeing much of this happening.