Charter Awards leave greenfields behind
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    APR. 1, 2006
The bulk of this year’s Charter Awards from the Congress for the New Urbanism honor projects on redeveloped sites — contradicting the persistent notion that New Urbanism is mainly about building on virgin land at the suburban fringe. The 17 projects chosen for awards range from the “Living First” strategy that is bringing thousands of new households into downtown Vancouver, British Columbia; to a retail development that transforms a bridge over an highway near downtown Columbus, Ohio; to a proposal for transit-oriented development in some of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. 5,000 infill units A plan for “Boston’s Newest Smart Growth Corridor,” prepared by Goody, Clancy & Associates on behalf of four community development corporations, envisions up to 5,000 new housing units that would cluster on vacant, brownfield, or underused land near a commuter rail line. The plan calls for four new stations and service improvements in a part of Boston that is a predominantly minority area and where access to buses and rapid transit is considered inadequate. Vancouver is cited for a strategy that involved rezoning eight million square feet of excess office capacity to residential; ensuring that homes, work, and services are close together; de-emphasizing automobile access to downtown; and providing open spaces and “green linkages” for neighborhoods. The population of the central area has nearly doubled, to about 85,000, since the late 1980s. In Columbus, the “Cap at Union Station” (see July 2005 New Urban News) is the kind of project many cities would like to have; it knits together two sections of High Street by building retail spaces on a bridge over Interstate 670. A Charter Award for Herryford Village, the first neighborhood completed in a major upgrade of housing at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia, indicates that an infusion of privately built housing at military bases nationwide is beginning to improve living conditions for the families of military personnel (see April 2004 New Urban News). At Fort Belvoir, Torti, Gallas and Partners designed walkable neighborhoods around “village greens” of varied sizes, which provide areas for exercise, passive outdoor enjoyment, and appealing settings for community buildings and other amenities. Traditional-style houses, some with porches, line pedestrian-scale streets. A mixed-use town center within walking distance of many households will replace existing suburban-style commercial development. The June issue of New Urban News will include an article on Fort Belvoir. suburban ‘town’ gets center A plan for turning the center of Columbia, Maryland, into a denser, pedestrian-oriented downtown won a Charter Award for Design Collective of Baltimore. A six-lane thoroughfare would be reduced to four lanes, a traffic-calming measure that would set the 1960s Maryland “new town” apart from the Virginia new town of Reston, where the town center is at pedestrian scale but is ringed by overly broad streets and roads. The awards, to be presented during the CNU annual congress June 1-4 in Providence, Rhode Island, include one project in Providence itself — a plan to guide investment and redevelopment in a 1,200-acre area running from downtown southward along Narragansett Bay and westward along the Woonasquatucket River Valley. Four of the awards testify to New Urbanism’s progress overseas — in Marne la Valle, France; Crewkerne, Somerset, England; Arnhem, Netherlands; and Cabinda, Angola.