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Walkable communities a pedestrian dream
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"There's a lot more demand than we can get built, and that's driving up the value of homes much faster in these communities," Burden says. "More and more people are clamoring for community living because it relates well to their needs as they get older. So it will always be a little more pricey if you come in when it's already on the ground than if you were one of the original buyers."

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That supply-and-demand equation is supported by several studies.

Historically, Norquist says, surveys conducted by the Congress for the New Urbanism have consistently found at least 15 percent of home buyers would prefer a walkable, compact neighborhood to a large home on a large lot. "Recently, the survey demand for smaller homes with foot access to shopping is more like 30 percent," he says.

These same studies indicated that home buyers were willing to pay up to 25 percent more to live in a new urbanist neighborhood than a comparable house in the same area.

The American Planning Association is also finding "renewed interest in new urbanism in urban and suburban areas all across the country," York says. "We find 25-year-old residential communities retrofitting to include town centers."

She cites a recent request from the governor of Mississippi for a team of new urbanists to work with citizens on revitalizing efforts in the state as part of the post-Katrina rebuilding effort.

No pigeonholing TNDs
One difficulty with trying to pin down the popularity of TND lies in defining the concept. As York's comments make clear, new urbanism design principles -- genuine pedestrian friendliness, connectivity, a mix of uses and housing types, and an emphasis on beauty, aesthetics and human-scale architecture -- can be applied to a variety of urban or suburban settings.

For example, the 4,700-acre Stapleton project, the largest redevelopment project in the country, is rising on an urban site once occupied by Denver's international airport. On the other hand, Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Md., was built on 358 acres of farmland.

New urbanists have been very successful at resuscitating the moribund downtowns of major cities across the country, from Miami to Seattle -- an application of which Marshall approves.

In suburbia, Burden says, "you can have nice, protected buffers of greenways that might be as wide as 1,000 feet. Everybody can take advantage of that on their bikes and never even see a car.

"You can also develop in a rural setting without destroying the whole countryside. A number of good projects have been built on 600 acres. There might be clusters of little hamlets on 30 to 40 acres, with the rest remaining agricultural and permanently protected. It's another version of TND that protects the land -- more of a rural reserve."

Because new urbanism is not a homogenous movement, Marshall says, its adherents have a tendency to overstep the traditional boundaries of community design, and that can be very confusing for consumers.

 
 
Next: "Somebody needed to raise a red flag."
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