The nation has a huge quantity of “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhoods from the postwar housing boom that are ripe for changes that will make them more walkable and appealing to new generations of residents.
On April 26, CNU hosted a technical assistance workshop aimed at guiding future development and design in the City of Twinsburg, Ohio, and highlighting the Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares manual as a tool for achieving that vision.
When we reported on Poynton, England, in the January issue of Better! Cities & Towns, the video (click on headline to see it) was not publicly available. Now it has 90,000 views on You Tube, and tells a remarkable story about a £4 million ($6.4 million) street project that brought life back to a town that was formerly choked by traffic. The project removed a major traffic light and replaced it with two small "roundels." Pedestrian space more than doubled. Traffic lanes were drastically reduced (from three to one in each direction on the highway and two to one in each direction on the High Street). The aim is to create continuous, slow-speed traffic, and it seems to have worked. Pedestrians feel comfortable crossing at almost any point and bicycling activity has risen, according to the video. The two sides of the town are united. This could inform many kinds of street redesigns in the UK, US, and other parts of the world.
US Department of Transportation (DOT) officials would consider a change in the way they classify thoroughfares — to the benefit of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users — but they need political support.
According to the book Reshaping Metropolitan America, about half of all nonresidential structures in the US will be “ripe for redevelopment” in 2030. Many of these are commercial strip retail buildings with large parking lots or dated office buildings on suburban sites, according to an article in the current issue of Better! Cities & Towns. The annual report Emerging Trends in Real Estate notes that many suburban retail and office properties across the US are languishing in value and may not be worth refurbishing. All in all, 50 billion square feet of commercial space in the US will need redeveloping by 2030, says Reshaping Metropolitan America author Arthur C. Nelson. One of the challenges to redeveloping such sites, however, is that they are often located on commercial strip corridors that are not appealing for mixed-use development. That challenge could be addressed by “complete streets” projects on major thoroughfares that need to be rebuilt anyway, setting the stage for redevelopment.