2009 Real Estate Guide
real estate
America's moving back downtown

Here are the pros and cons of New Urban development:

Pros

"Green" components: Anti-sprawl with less car dependence and more transit orientation, less lawn watering and more efficient, energy-saving design.

Health: Pedestrian orientation with parks, outdoor events and broad sidewalks that promote walking to destinations. Homes typically are designed for healthy indoor air quality.

Amenities: Shops, restaurants, nightclubs and services such as dry cleaners and drugstores are typically within short walking distance.

Diversity: Less class-ism. Homes are oriented to a broader variety of income levels and lifestyles.

Variety: Typically offer a wide range of price points and designs, ranging from vertical to midrise to horizontal with varying densities. Pocket neighborhoods, with small homes and outdoor porches focused around a common court, are becoming in, says Burden. Other residences can be found above shops and offices or set below grade-level or in condo high rises.

Community perks: Often preserve historical buildings and (or) recreate urban streetscapes and feature civic arts/music venues and other artistic events. Most include public plazas, parks and other central gathering points.

Crime: New Urbanists say community mindset in such villages helps reduce crime, though no empirical studies have confirmed this.

Pricing stability: Are built to last and built for sustainability, in part because they are often designed as community showpieces. "In the downturn, we have seen prices holding their own in these villages, particularly along the train lines, especially compared with the suburbs," Bernstein says.

Cons

Zoning: Can limit the ability to change your home. Exterior colors, plantings and other landscape must meet approval of neighborhood committees.

Privacy: Residential units are closer together, sometimes placing residents at the mercy of their neighbors’ noise levels.

Grocery availability: Urban villages, particularly in downtowns, still don't have enough grocery stores to serve their populations, "although they are learning the formula," says Burden.

Parking: Typically, urban-village residents pay a premium for parking; however, some of the larger developments now have rent-by-the hour car fleets for grocery shopping and other outside activities, Bernstein says. Some, including Denver's Stapleton development, have attached garages.

Family unfriendly: Such villages are not always accommodating to larger families, though many now offer three-bedroom units. Schools can be a long bus ride, but more are being built in these areas, say New Urbanists. Some developments limit pets.

Misnomers: Some urban village developments really aren't self-contained communities. Developers sometimes use the label to win municipal support for projects that later fall short.

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