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Cornell a failure?

wyliepoon

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I think that while New Urbanists have good intentions (though not necessarily good designs) at trying to create a (romanticized) community with denser housing, walkability and a sense of community, often the people who buy or invest into these communities do not share this idea. Many probably see Cornell as just a typical Markham subdivision with nicer faux-Victorian homes and a better designed park/playground, but with all the typical suburban amenities that would allow them to continue to live a suburban lifestyle.

I think that what is really needed for any New Urbanist neighbourhood anywhere (including Cornell, Downtown Markham, or even Mississauga City Centre) is for people to buy into ideas of urbanism. These neighbourhoods need people who not only want New Urbanist homes, but also New Urbanist lifestyles. I don't know... perhaps every homebuyer into a New Urbanist neighbourhood should get a brochure recommending how they should live there, or give them free bikes and transit passes, or "force" them to sign some sort of covenant that would make them live like New Urbanists?

Or perhaps New Urbanist neighbourhoods should be marketed towards a demographic group that actually can live with New Urbanist principles. New immigrants might fit in this group... many of them don't have the income that would let them live like full suburbanites, but they can live with things like walking or biking locally, and commuting by transit. They also come from parts of the world that have tighter community bonds, which they can transfer to these neighbourhoods.

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waterloowarrior

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Here's a quote from Alex Marshall in How Cities Work. He really goes after some of the new urbanists in the book.

“The New Urbanists shun the label ‘suburban’ and call their creations dug out of farm fields ‘urban.’ That these places, located miles from the centre city, low in density, completely isolated, limited in their income appeal., composed almost entirely of homeowners and without businesses, could be called ‘urban’ is the height of absurdity.”
a few of his articles

Suburbs In Disguise

A grand fraud is being perpetrated in America. Across the country, developers and planners are selling repackaged subdivisions as "new urban" communities. Billed as the modern equivalent of Charleston, Georgetown, and "Our Town" all rolled into one, these are supposed to be places where people of all backgrounds will be magically freed from their chaotic, car-dependent lifestyles to reunite in corner cafes along civic squares and lead healthy public lives.

Also known as neo-traditionalism, New Urbanism is the much-hyped theory that planners can create cohesive communities by building subdivisions-though that word is never used-that resemble traditional towns or big-city neighborhoods. To do that, streets are laid out in grids (some are modified) without cul-de-sacs, garages are tucked into alleys behind homes positioned close to the street and to each other, housing types and prices are varied, and street-level retail turns up in or near residential neighborhoods. At Kentlands, a planned community in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., this strategy is meant to create what the sales brochure calls "the old town charm of Georgetown and Annapolis... in western Gaithersburg."

It sounds good. But while the virtues of the traditional city or town may be desirable, they cannot be replicated on empty land at the edge of town, where most of these developments are being built. This is not a matter of New Urbanism being right or wrong, but of understanding what is possible and what is not. Cities, even when drawn by a single hand-like Washington or Paris-take shape in the context of larger economic and social forces. Reproducing traditional cities, or saving the ones we have, would require re-creating the conditions that produced them. This may or may not be desirable; in any case, it is a sociological question with real economic consequences, a question that New Urbanism avoids.
review of dpz's book
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=79

seaside at 20
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=85

debate between duany and marshall
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=94

other
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=83
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=92
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=74
http://www.alexmarshall.org/index.php?pageId=82
 

realtycoon

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Markhamites: Can you take some photos (retail, housing etc) to demonstrate this article?

Thx.

Thats one of the problems with Cornell. There is very little retail there. At least if the stores, restaurants, cafes, businesses opened up, residents would be able to walk around to these business, instead of getting into the car and driving to the stores.
 

waterloowarrior

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Thats one of the problems with Cornell. There is very little retail there. At least if the stores, restaurants, cafes, businesses opened up, residents would be able to walk around to these business, instead of getting into the car and driving to the stores.
Is that a problem with the density of the development, or is it because retailers find power centres and shopping plazas as easier and more attractive (also wider catchment area located close to a highway)?

Maybe it is the residents themselves that are more attracted to driving to the power centres with their wide selection, than walking to the neighbourhood stores.
 

adma

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It could just as well reflect the broader eclipse of the "neighbourhood store" as anything other than a sullen place to buy lottery tickets while the overpriced Corn Flakes boxes gather dust. Now, if an anchor operation like Rabba or Sobey's Express or Fresh & Wild opened up, it'd live up to Cornell's pretensions...
 

doady

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Maybe it is the residents themselves that are more attracted to driving to the power centres with their wide selection, than walking to the neighbourhood stores.
Nobody actually likes shopping at power centres, or at least I don't think so. Do you know anyone who prefers shop at power centres instead of shopping centres or mainstreet retail? I think it is the retailers and the developers who prefer power centres, not the shoppers...
 

urbanfan89

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The overhead costs for opening a Sobeys Express is much, much higher than opening one at a strip mall by the highway onramp.

And because people are cheap, they prefer the auto-dependent store rather than the "neighbourhood store".

It all comes down to everyday needs, and New Urbanist communities just aren't good at providing them.
 

Hipster Duck

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New urbanism sucks and so does Cornell. For one, it is neither "new" nor "urban". It is an attempt to gussy up suburbia by appealing to some sort of misplaced nostalgia for pre-war small town America that never existed. Then, as AoD very astutely pointed out, New Urbanism is actually very exclusionary, a form of social engineering meets nostalgic kitsch.
No wonder the most "Celebrated" new urbanist community was basically built by Disney.

This article by David Harvey pretty much sums up my opinion of New Urbanism. Until then, I'd rather live downtown or even in sprawl.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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Excellent article - thanks for posting it Hipster. Seaside (the prototypical DPZ New Urbanist community) is notorious for having over-the-top by-laws - exactly the kind of “no deviant behavior acceptable here” mentality mentioned. Did anyone noticed that there is practically no one walking around in those Cornell pics? You would think on a sunny day there would be at least a few souls walking around.

Just exactly what's wrong with "old" urbanism? Dump a fine street grid on top of a node and just let it grow, But of course, something that evolves isn't conductive to mass marketing and consumption, which requires cute fantasy buildings with fantasy people living fantasy lives - but at the end of the day, they just want to shop in a warehouse which they can drive to and find ample parking.

AoD
 
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adma

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New urbanism sucks and so does Cornell. For one, it is neither "new" nor "urban". It is an attempt to gussy up suburbia by appealing to some sort of misplaced nostalgia for pre-war small town America that never existed. Then, as AoD very astutely pointed out, New Urbanism is actually very exclusionary, a form of social engineering meets nostalgic kitsch.
No wonder the most "Celebrated" new urbanist community was basically built by Disney.
...and the prototype of them all became the star of "The Truman Show".
 

wyliepoon

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Just exactly what's wrong with "old" urbanism? Dump a fine street grid on top of a node and just let it grow, But of course, something that evolves isn't conductive to mass marketing and consumption, which requires cute fantasy buildings with fantasy people living fantasy lives - but at the end of the day, they just want to shop in a warehouse which they can drive to and find ample parking.
I think you've hit upon something there, Alvin. One problem perhaps with urbanists today (new or old) is that many of us aren't patient enough to see a neighbourhood "grow" in this age of instant gratification. We expect buildings and communities to become fully mature once built, and to look and work like any urban European street. New Urbanists are probably trying to speed up the process by building communities and buildings to look "urban" to create instant urbanism with instant urbanites, but forgetting that all communities need time to mature, as buildings get renovated or replaced, and as residents take time to adapt to the urban lifestyle.
 

Woodbridge_Heights

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Goes to show that you can design a neighborhood to 'look' urban but that does not mean it will 'be' urban.

Something about putting lipstick on a pig?
 

Hipster Duck

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Having said that, you don't address sprawl problems from the outskirts inward, you address them from the inner city outwards.
This is also a good point. From a built-form standpoint, there isn't much different from the townhouse neighbourhood that replaced Greenwood racetrack on Queen from Cornell, but the former is an integrated urban neighbourhood. Another good example of extending the urban fabric is the FRAM neighbourhood in Port Credit.
 

MisterF

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The thing is, growth on the fringe will continue to happen. What would you say is the best form for greenfield growth to take?
 

adma

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This is also a good point. From a built-form standpoint, there isn't much different from the townhouse neighbourhood that replaced Greenwood racetrack on Queen from Cornell, but the former is an integrated urban neighbourhood.
Though as I stated earlier in this thread, not integrated enough, as it turns out. Paradoxically, it's as anachronistic as a slice of New Urbanist Markham dropped into the Beach...
 
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