New or Next Urbanism: The 21st Century Begins

Welcome to this week’s Wednesday Workshop:

Last week the Congress for the New Urbanism held their annual conference online. CNU 28.A Virtual Gathering was scheduled to take place in Minneapolis but was moved online due to Covid-19. The platform afforded industry leaders the opportunity to present fresh ideas in reaction to both the virus and the recent protests occurring that began in Minneapolis and spread across the country.

Many of the presenters at the conference organized their presentations around rethinking the way people will live and work in the future. As employers become more flexible with allowing employees to work remotely, residents of denser cities may choose to relocate to smaller communities for safety reasons and to take advantage of small town amenities. In addition to the Covid reaction, climate change will drive others to seek new housing opportunities. Groveland is well positioned to attract this type of citizen with its ideal inland location, weather, and natural charm.

Andres Duany, a founder of New Urbanism and thought leader provocateur, offered his perspectives on impacts to the built environment in his session COVID and the Crisis of New Urbanism. Mr. Duany envisions a future where many of the tenets of New Urbanism may no longer be applicable in today’s environment. He believes our future will be defined by economic and social instability due to unemployment and increased poverty. Many doctrines such as higher densities, public transit, “third places”, and the availability of capital funds for infrastructure projects are threatened and must be reconsidered. He mentioned Starbucks’ recent announcement of transitioning many of their existing outlets to drive-thru only with plans to build more of this model. Mr. Duany believes a fear of strangers will be normalized and that social circles will shrink to a few trusted individuals. See the Image Gallery for a chart depicting how security is considered at various scales ranging from the individual house to the municipality.

Mr. Duany envisions transformed streetscapes as there are no longer storefronts or offices on the ground floor of mixed use buildings. Instead the streetscape is more fortified with concrete lined parking facilities and residential units on the second floor and above, safe from the activity in the street. Alleys may be widened to accommodate enhanced recreation for children. Another opportunity is to include workspaces above garages that front the alleys.

Commercial buildings will feature significantly less retail space as the world continues to shift to delivery based shopping options. Dunay believes in the next decade the majority of real estate development opportunities will be in the collapse of the retail sector and the opportunities these parcels present.

At the residential scale Mr. Duany foresees radical changes to the design of homes. He believes many families will choose to live in compounds that accommodate multiple generations or small social groups. These larger homes include delivery areas for packages to be decontaminated, storage areas for stockpiles of provisions, solar panels to help bridge brownouts, and deep balconies for safe time outdoors.

Duany suggests the entire footprint of the home must be rethought to accommodate new uses and efficiencies. Front porches may no longer be safe. Garages offer opportunities for conversion to home workspace. Mother-in-law units can no longer be thought of as small secondary spaces - in order to retain quality live-in health care, it will be critical to have a well-designed space to compete for the best caregivers.

New Urbanists have long championed well-designed tiny homes after their success in the post-Hurricane Katrina coastal communities. Duany posits that home mobility will become more popular and necessary, and that tiny house communities offer the unique ability to move residences away from dangerous areas quickly.

Mr. Duany’s ideas have relevance and reflect his understanding of a changing world. He has spent his career studying cities across the globe and draws on his experience to consider many of these themes. Some are certainly provocative, but it is clear the impacts of Covid-19 will change the way many people live, work, and play. The new building types included with the rewritten Land Development Code will reflect some of these emerging trends in New Urbanist design as Groveland grows toward a more sustainable and resilient future.

The Image Gallery contains four slides from Andres Duany’s presentation on Saturday, June 13th. Some of the images are slightly blurred due to screen sharing limitations.

Thanks for visiting, and tune in next week for another Wednesday Workshop report!