The ecological dividend
A careful analysis of Schooner Bay in the Bahamas shows the financial and other benefits of taking a slower, culturally attuned, lower-debt approach to development.
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For years, many of the places designed by new urbanists have sat more lightly on the land than conventional developments usually do. Several principles of xeriscaping — landscaping in ways that reduce the need for watering — can be traced back to the beginning of Seaside. Robert Davis didn’t mandate native species in that Florida development primarily for high-minded ideals, however. Rather, he wanted to avoid the cost of an irrigation system.
That tradition has continued to this day in the work of many new urbanists. For example, the Waters, a development near Montgomery, Alabama, was replanned after having been laid out by its original designer in a sprawling pattern. The original plan called for bulldozing a hill at the south end of what became, after our redesign, the Lucas Point hamlet. I told the developer, “Let me save you the money of moving all that dirt; we’ll leave the hill, put a chapel on top, and line a street up with it to let the chapel terminate the vista.” Today Chapel Hill is the most memorable view at the Waters. But the rationale for doing it that way was purely economic.