Comment of the Day: The Old Urbanism

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE OLD URBANISM “None of these places achieve anything like the feel of a real town because they abandon all of the design elements which actually create that feeling. There are no real walkable main streets with mom and pop stores lining the sidewalks. No town squares at the heart of real (albeit small) downtowns. It’s all just strip malls and McMansions along freeways and 6-lane collector roads. If you want a small town feel you have to start with traditional pre-WW2 urban design.” [Christian, commenting on Still Selling a Little Place in the Big City] Illustration: Lulu

10 Comment

  • why isn’t this possible in Houston I have always wondered? It seems so simple. Is there no desire for a real town feel in southeast Texas at all? Why do we continue to put up with such ugliness in the city and bland suburbs?

  • Nailed it. We only get so close, look at what’s been torn down and proposed to go up on Westheimer.

  • Jmat: Houston’s parking requirements make traditional development difficult (often require variances) and expensive (lots of land must be purchased to account for all the parking required or even more expensive, a parking garage.)

  • I dunno, I think a big part of “small-town” feel has to do with a suburban housing stock, with kids riding bikes and lots of trees. I think mature trees are missing from most new suburbs. Also, I grew up in Lake Jackson and now live in Pearland, and they both have a similar “small town” feel without a traditional town square.

  • @marmer, That may be true, for certain values of “Pearland”. Old Pearland has trees. Newly developed (last 20 years or so) Pearland not so much.

  • @ marmer: What you describe is suburbia—nice suburbia in which there are mature trees and safe enough for kids to play outside, but suburbia nonetheless. This is because you’re leaving out the commercial component of the idealized small-town, in which small, locally (often family) owned stores were typical. Expressions like “corner grocery,” “corner drugstore,” etc. come from their close-by location within the neighborhoods of a small town.

  • @cmoney: ok so put the parking in the back of the building like every other nice town in America. Or a shared parking garage if the economics work. And how is it these minimum parking requirements are still on the books for a city that claims to be interested in walkability and densifying?

  • @Jmat You *can* put the parking in the back, but you are not required to (only under certain circumstances.) Also, the building line requirements (the minimum distance your NEW structure can sit from the property line) also encourages parking to be in the front of the building… As someone on the inside I can tell you that it’s very political to change these rules. The Walkable Places Subcommittee will ultimately address this, but only it will not be a comprehensive overhaul of the ordinance

    Here are the current parking requirements. Read em and weep!

  • @cmoney: Thanks for the info. I am semi familiar with these requirements. Just very frustrating as a houstonian who wants the city to become more appealing, walkable, and liveable. So many obstacles working against us, and none of these requirements make any sense.

  • @jmat: You are welcome. As the saying goes, parking requirements are like fertility drugs for more cars.