Wednesday, January 2, 2008
In response to my post asking questions about the socio-economic diversity of the New Urbanism, my student Ray Denecke (OU ’09) writes:
“I am not an expert on New Urbanism, however, I did live in Rosemary Beach, which is a New Urban type community in the panhandle of Florida and I also worked for and worked in Seaside, another (and probably the first in the country to spark the trend) New Urban development. Many people think of Seaside and Rosemary Beach as resort communities, and essentially, they are. However, the concept was to create a new urbanism where people could work, live, and play all within a very close proximity to their residences - Seaside is approx. 80 acres and maintains a very vibrant retail/services central hub of town. Oddly though, I would guess that 95 percent of the people who work in Seaside or for Seaside do not live there because the market is astronomical . . . I haven't checked recently, but a 1200 square foot home (not on the beach) goes for about one million dollars. So while the concept of new urbanism is grand, the practicality of it is not, especially when one of the purposes, if you will, of creating such communities is to foster diversty (see New Urbanism website). My experience has been that most of these communities cater to the very wealthy considering the lots on which homes are built (some are often no bigger than 40' by 80') cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, some even reaching above a million dollars. Duany Plater Zyberk (Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk - she is now the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Miami) has had a hand in creating dozens of these types of communities. They have created the mold from which many others have followed. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of their developments are very expensive and located in resort areas, especially in Florida and other coastal states or mountainous states. Another unfortunate result has been that those who follow DPZ's lead, tend to create their communities for more affluent people. Thus, I think these communities that exist now and are currently under construction are quite insulated from the diversity they claim to desire. Not only on a socio-economic scale, but on other planes as well. When I lived in and worked in those developments I very rarely saw any persons who represented another race other than whites. These types of developments displace less affluent people in a number of ways. My experience was that when new homes were built in these developments, the homes immediately surrounding the development increased in value. Perhaps this prices-out those who would otherwise afford to live in the area sans the development. And who knows, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that developers are paying top dollar for existing structures in order to renovate them to create these developments or to tear them down to build up the development - I think this is referred to as Urban Infill in the industry. Anyway, I hope this was helpful.”
Are there examples of successful socio-economic integration in New Urbanism projects?