Image from The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva
Most of the developed areas in our county are what I would call homogenous, low density, car-dominated sprawl. Repairing all of this is really important. We all know that sprawl basically sucks. It’s ugly, it doesn’t hold up very well over time, it’s very hard on the environment, and people consciously or unconsciously know that living in it is detrimental to our physical and mental health. We know we need to fix this, but how? Well, my last post was about repairing sprawl neighborhoods. Now let’s look at how to repair villages, towns, and cities.
The Ideal World. In an ideal world we would have lots of walkable neighborhoods in Brevard where people can live and work. All of these walkable neighborhoods would be connected to each other and to the region by transit. In this network of neighborhoods we would have a great variety of neighborhood types, meeting all of the varying needs and preferences of our citizens. This network would also include a series of walkable centers of various types serving neighborhoods, villages, towns, townships, and cities. Bringing services closer to residents in this way would drastically reduce commute times. It would also make it possible for many people to convert car trips to walking, biking, and transit trips. Imagine how many people who could benefit from not having to buy that second or third car for their household! How much could we reduce our fuel consumption and pollution by not having to drive so much?
The current reality. Compare that ideal future with what we see around us now. Sprawlville needs some serious repair! But we can do it incrementally in small steps all over Brevard. Here is a short description of some of the many possibilities:
Neighborhoods: Divide our populated areas up into 1/4 mile radius neighborhoods. Look for any deficiencies and barriers to walkability, and come up with a neighborhood plan to fix them using the SmartCode or a similar form-based code. A good neighborhood plan will allow a logical, gradual evolution of the neighborhood to occur over time that will increase walkability while being careful to preserve the things that residents wish to preserve. In each neighborhood figure out where the neighborhood center is or should be. We have to make sure that the character of the neighborhood center is completely compatible with the existing neighborhood surrounding it. A repair might be as simple as adding a small green space to serve as an attractive, central walking destination, maybe converting part of a nearby home into a small, walk-up neighborhood store, and adding a transit stop.
Villages: Select a village center to serve a group of neighborhoods about 1 mile in diameter. The village center should be allowed to evolve so that it serve the needs of the village residents. It should have some shopping, maybe some multifamily residential, and might have some opportunities for some office uses so that village residents can have ready access to services close to home and business owners and employees can live where they can walk to work if they want to. A village center can be built from scratch or it could be a renovation of an existing shopping center. The difference between a sprawl shopping center and a walkable village center is that the sprawl center usually has a large, underutilized parking lot. Add some attractive green space and convert the parking lot into a couple of mixed-use blocks lined with buildings close to the street and with parking behind. There is a lot of wasted space in sprawl and we can take advantage of this fact by filling in the gaps in a very attractive and efficient way!
Towns/Townships/Cities: In the same way, pick some sites for town and city centers serving the region, and also providing as many local services as possible to citizens who live within about 3 miles of the center. Ideally, the town or city center service area would be planned to evolve toward a jobs-housing balance so that the residents will have the opportunity to live and work within a short commute distance and people aren’t forced to drive more than that on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean of course that everyone who lives in that 3 mile area will choose to work there, but planning a jobs-housing balance at least gives people that choice. Existing regional malls, power centers, and office parks can make great candidates for renovation into walkable town and city centers.
Can we do this? Yes! Can we start right now? Yes!! Actually, we’ve already started. Walkable Brevard is working to make a walkable future a reality for our cities and county. Join the walking movement! Like us on Facebook, and call or message me to see how you can get involved. I look forward to hearing from you! –Barry Watkins, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, ph: 321-355-2747.