Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Creating places that people love

[This is the final blog post in a series by David Dixon FAIA, principal-in-charge Planning and Urban Design at Goody Clancy. Dixon's posts are part of a series of expert blogs on TOD highlighting work and research that experts are doing in the field.]

Opponents of density often argue that communities oppose denser development. However, Goody Clancy has consistently found more complex attitudes toward density. While neighborhood residents want, with good reason, to preserve the scale and character of their own residential blocks, they increasingly embrace lively, mixed-use, redevelopment of older shopping centers, industrial corridors, and similar places that represent the real opportunities for growth in the urban core.

When asked what qualities they would seek in higher-density redevelopment, participants in recent planning and urban design charrettes led by Goody Clancy in downtown Ashville (NC), at the edge of Atlanta, in suburban Dublin (Ohio), and elsewhere have articulated a consistent vision. They talk about replacing acres of surface parking and former truck yards with tree-lined streets that have shops and restaurants at street level and new neighbors living above. They ask that development meet existing residents’ needs with both neighborhood- and regional-serving shops and services and public parks and squares that foster vibrant community life. Rather than formal public spaces, they prefer places animated by cafés and amenities like fountains and public art that engage the human senses. They make clear that “mixed use” implies genuinely public activities like libraries and community centers in addition to private development.

Participants in these charrettes are fully aware of the challenges of density. They ask that the height of buildings step down to demonstrate visible respect for the scale of the traditional neighborhoods around them. They worry about traffic and ask that mixed-use development include both jobs and housing to promote walk-to-work opportunities for new and existing residents and workers and that traffic patterns be planned to avoid neighborhood streets. They understand that increased density can require additional parking but ask that it be located in structures that are lined with housing or other uses to shield them from public view.

These attitudes cross lines of age, race, class and other differences. In recent years residents in one of the poorest and in one of the wealthiest communities in the Midwest have told us the same thing: while they might not yet love the word “density,” they did love the benefits they envisioned in well planned and designed density.

Part 1: Density deficits
Part 2: Restoring personal choices
Part 3: Building community in the midst of diversity
Part 4: Fostering public health
Part 5: Enhancing sustainability
Part 6:
Creating places that people love