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What Is New Urbanism?


Created by the Walt Disney Company, Celebration, Florida is a New Urbanist community

Created by the Walt Disney Company, Celebration, Florida is a New Urbanist community

Photo © Jackie Craven

New Urbanism is an approach to designing cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Although the term New Urbanism emerged during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the principles of New Urbanism are actually quite old. New Urbanist town planners, developers, architects, and designers try to reduce traffic and eliminate sprawl.

A New Urbanist neighborhood resembles an old European village with homes and businesses clustered together. Instead of driving on highways, residents of New Urbanist neighborhoods can walk to shops, businesses, theaters, schools, parks, and other important services. Buildings and recreational areas are arranged to foster a sense of community closeness. New Urbanist designers also place importance on earth-friendly architecture, energy conservation, historic preservation, and accessibility.

The Congress for the New Urbanism is a loosely formed group of architects, builders, developers, landscape architects, engineers, planners, real estate professions, and other people who are committed to New Urbanist ideals. Founded by Peter Katz in 1993, the group outlined their beliefs in an important document known as the Charter of the New Urbanism.

Although New Urbanism has become popular, it has many critics. Some people say that New Urbanist towns are too carefully planned and feel artificial. Other critics say that New Urbanist towns take away personal freedom because residents must follow strict zoning rules before they build or remodel.

Also Known As: Neo-traditional Planning or Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND).

The first New Urbanist town was Seaside, Florida, built in the early 1980s. The most famous New Urbanist town is perhaps Celebration, Florida, which was built by the Walt Disney Company. There are now at least 600 New Urbanist neighborhoods in the United States, including:

  • Harbor Town, Tennessee
  • Kentlands, Maryland
  • King Farm, Maryland
  • Addison Circle, Texas
  • Orenco Station, Oregon
  • Mashpee Commons, Massachusetts
  • The Cotton District, Mississippi
  • Cherry Hill Village, Michigan
Are you a New Urbanist?
Find out whether you are a New Urbanist.
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