When it convenes in Chicago from June 24 to 27, the Twelfth Congress for the New Urbanism will convey both a respect for tradition and openness to debate and innovation.
Enriched by their connections to CNU’s host city — a storied metropolis striving to meet global economic and environmental imperatives — these themes are woven through the congress’s sessions and events, many of which break new ground.
Sometimes miscast as narrow and nostalgic, new urbanists are characterized by an unusual willingness to hold their ideas up for scrutiny, debate, and revision.
Document of core principles may expand to cover New Urbanism’s relationship to the environment and the Transect
The Charter of the New Urbanism is CNU’s proudest single achievement. Ratified at CNU IV in Charleston in 1996, the charter exposes the problems associated with America’s formless growth and asserts bedrock principles for creating better neighborhoods, cities and towns. Eloquent and concise, it has provided unfailing guidance to new urbanists since its inception.
Latest survey shows that in just one year, the number of US new urban communities grew by 37 percent.
Most new urbanists would probably agree that the overall pattern of land use in the US is still a long way from undergoing meaningful change. The great majority of development remains conventionally suburban. And most local zoning codes continue to hinder New Urbanism. Yet the trend toward New Urbanism is growing as never before.
New Urban News identified 648 current neighborhood-scale new urban projects in 2003, up from 472 in 2002. The increase, 176 new projects, was numerically the largest ever. By comparison, 97 projects were added in 2002. The total for 2003 includes 369 communities built or under construction and 279 in various stages of planning.
Chicago Congress will define “the New City Beautiful” and focus on the fine-grained scale where most members practice.
With the opening of the CNU’s new offices in Chicago this month, the place
often called America’s first city of architecture becomes headquarters to the nation’s strongest urban design movement.
When Hearltand Institute fellow Wendell Cox and colleagues followed last February’s pro-sprawl Preserving the American Dream conference in Washington by taking the show on the road to Cincinnati this fall, CNU CEO John Norquist helped set the record straight.
Organizers billed the Cincinnati conference as a general forum on the region’s future, but presented an extreme development view that equated highway expansion and continued sprawl with housing affordability for the middle-class.
Between 1982 and 1997, developed land in the Portland, Maine, region grew by 108 percent while the population grew by just 17 percent. A 150-acre parcel in Scarborough, just south of Portland, is zoned for just 65 single houses — a number which is guaranteed to add to the low-density, single-use development pattern, if the site is built according to the ordinance.
Developers John and Eliot Chamberlain, however, proposed a plan with higher density and a mix of uses in a pedestrian-oriented layout.
Increasingly embraced by mainstream business groups such as the Urban Land
Institute, CNU now has an endorsement from one of the staunchest institutions of the political right as well. This summer, the National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr., published a major article, ”It Takes a (Well-Planned) Village.” It was subtitled simply, “In praise of the New Urbanism.”
The article by Washington, DC, writer Catesby Leigh plunges into a world deeply familiar to members of CNU.
For CNU members, the annual Congress is a powerful experience. They get exposed to a range of successful new urbanist projects. They learn from leaders in the fields of urban planning, architecture, development and government. And they interact with hundreds of talented people who share their commitment to shaping communities into better places.
Members return home with renewed enthusiasm, but those in Florida will soon have something more — a way to stay connected and extend elements of the Congress experience throughout the year.
The New Urbanism, a movement that seeks to shape our world, has much to
offer young people. And vice-versa. This trend will be a short footnote to history without a new generation of recruits.
Ultimately, I don’t think that will be a problem. The principles of urbanism espoused by the Charter have too long a history, and offer too many benefits that are once again being demonstrated, not to appeal to a continuous stream of practitioners.
In the short term, however, it’s not easy being a young new urbanist.