The Response and Promise of New Urbanism

The growth of municipalities in the 19th and 20th century lead to incredible sociological, cultural, economic, and environmental changes to the landscapes of the world. Now, with greater concerns of social cohesion and environmental sustainability, a new school of thought has sprang up that tries to address major issues that arose with the growth of cities and suburbs. It is called New Urbanism.

What Does It Respond To

Here is one example of New Urbanism in historic Woodstock, GA.
Here is one example of New Urbanism in historic Woodstock, GA.

New Urbanism arises as a response to sprawl. When highways were created across the United States, economically mobile individuals and families were able to leave cities and enter suburban municipalities. In these new suburbs, institutions that were once walking distance in the city, like the town hall or school, became driving distance. Extreme examples of large suburbs arose and many cities lost their economic base from losing a massive amount of their population. At the same time, the more sprawl that was created, the more this development uprooted the environment, creating more greenhouse gas emissions from both motor vehicle use and large home energy outputs, as well as destroying natural habitats for suburban development. In addition, sprawl creates social isolation comparatively to urban spaces. In suburban municipalities, people and families reside in homes that can be isolated from other households or centers of life, like religious institutions, government offices, or commercial areas. Across half a century, these developments radically affected how cities and suburbs socially, culturally, and economically grew.

The New Urbanist Response

Quaint and charming details abound in these high-quality Earthcraft homes.
Quaint and charming details abound in these high-quality Earthcraft homes designed and built by Hedgewood Homes.

The New Urbanist philosophy tries to revitalize the social spirit of urban centers. Arising from the social thought of different political, social, cultural, and architectural thinkers, this new philosophy seeks to make livable urban areas that promote social cohesion and environmental sustainability. This includes municipal buildings that offer housing and commercial real estate, walkable neighborhoods to commercial enterprises, municipal offices, and cultural institutions, frequent and environmentally friendly transit, and historic preservation of landmarks. Instead of sprawl, New Urbanists want people to return to core areas that offer people commerce, entertainment, and culture, all within an environmentally sustainable and clean environment.

New Urbanist Growth

New Urbanists have succeeded in many new developments across the country, as well as creating social organizations that can represent this to the public. One example includes the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), which has chapters in cities like Atlanta, New York City, and Houston. CNU Atlanta, which can be found by clicking here, is one of the newest chapters devoted to applying New Urbanist policies and ideas to city planning. As of 2014, more than a dozen neighborhoods and sections in Atlanta have become revitalized with features that represent ideas found in New Urbanist philosophy.

The Future

Organizations like the CNU and everyday citizens are helping to revitalize American cities after decades of being ignored. With the help of New Urbanist policies, many US cities are growing and expanding to become livable cities for individuals and families. These new neighborhoods and city sections are all doing this without compromising the environment and sustainability or hurting any historic preservation sites. It is why the New Urbanist philosophy may be one of the most promising trends in city development in decades.

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