Welcome to the New Urbanism
All that changed after the War. The burgeoning affluence of the middle class put automobiles within the reach of just about everyone. Americans could now choose to live almost anywhere they wanted—and they did. Developers responded to Baby Boomer mobility with suburbs and municipal zoning ordinances, segregating types of development into residential, commercial, and industrial. Automobiles molded much of modern American society in the late 20th century—gas stations, dealerships, repair facilities, and asphalt acreage for parking lots dotted the landscape. Multi-car garages and public storage facilities, all but unheard of anywhere else on the planet, became the zenith of the American Dream.By the late seventies and eighties, people were decrying urban sprawl, but it wasn’t until 1991 that the New Urbanism became a formal development movement with defined principles. Two architects, Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zybek, are credited with founding the Congress of the New Urbanism, which promoted twelve urban planning elements. Among these elements are the following:
- Neighborhoods should have a discernible center, usually a square.
- The presence of automobiles is not prominent; garages are in the back of dwellings, accessible by alleys.
- Elementary schools, playgrounds and parks are close enough for most children to reach on foot.
- Civic buildings promoting meeting space, continuing education, and religious or cultural activities occupy prominent sites at the end of streets or in the square.
Some have criticized New Urbanist design for being less than authentic; others have praised the conscious return to a simple, less complicated lifestyle. Given society’s growing concern for sustainability and health, New Urbanism is enjoying strong popularity in the 21st century for its de-emphasis of the automobile, walkability of daily life, mixed-use development, including style and price, and strong emphasis on community living. In a world increasingly fractured by “social media isolation,” this New Urbanism provides a venue for reconnecting with other human beings.
Here in South Carolina, great strides have been taken to promote the New Urbanism in the Upstate: Greenville’s award-winning Main Street redevelopment, and Clemson’s Patrick Square are two examples. Once only a college town and an interstate stopover, Clemson now boasts a TND on par with The Cotton District in Mississippi, Seaside in the Florida Panhandle, and University Place in western Tennessee. Having welcomed its 100th resident in 2014, Patrick Square is proof again that the tired adage is still true: if you build it, they will, indeed, come.