Urban Out, a Philadelphia-based blog, makes some great points about transit-oriented development (TOD) in cities with existing urban fabric. In some cities like Washington, DC, planners are doing TOD right. When you step out of many DC metro stations, you are greeted with good urbanism. Buildings define outdoor rooms and the street frontages are active and interesting to pedestrians. In Philadelphia, the blog reports, you are more apt to find parking lots and drive-through restaurants. City planners, however, are learning quickly to address these problems, the blog reports. In the best TODs, planners take this approach to a higher level by providing open space.
An excellent example is the resurgent Columbia Heights metro station neighborhood in DC, pictured above (photo by SitePhocus). Open space like this plaza adds immeasurably to the sense of place and value. City planners are sometimes reluctant to ask private landowners to provide open space, the blog reports, but there are ways to get it done — as DC proves.
At Better! Cities & Towns, we would just add that "open space" alone is not sufficient — "placemaking" that is real key. The successful Columbia Heights plaza was part of a master plan by the new urban firm Torti Gallas & Partners.
In the scheme of the entire neighborhood, the triangle defined by the buildings at the center of the plan is a small area, but it creates a signature public space that establishes an identity for the TOD.
Another great example is Market Common in Clarendon, Virginia. This new urban mixed-use project has been a model for TOD in the last decade. See a portion of the "close," an enclosed green that is a popular public space for residents, at the right side of the photo.
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