By Michael Lassell Disney Editions, 2004, 160 pp., hardcover $50. Those looking for a putdown of Celebration won’t find it in Celebration: The Story of a Town, which is a generally glowing account and assessment of Disney’s famous Florida new urban real estate development. In publishing the book, Disney claims to have sought out an independent author with an objective point of view. Manhattan resident Michael Lassell, a long-time editor at Metropolitan Home and avowed modernist, would seem a good choice.
Who would have expected it? Poundbury, Prince Charles’s model mixed-use community in southwest England, has spawned a citizens organization called PROD — Poundbury Residents Opposed to Density.
In the late 1980s Leon Krier master-planned Poundbury to be a nearly complete traditional town where shops, services, housing, and some of the employment for a population of 5,000 would be concentrated within walking distance of one another.
Now that his Seaside, Florida, development is well established, Robert Davis is focusing much of his attention on two distinct parts of the world environment: the “urban room” and the “agricultural edge.” In 2002, Davis, Raymond Gindroz of Urban Design Associates, and European architect Leon Krier founded the Seaside Pienza Institute for Town Building and Land Stewardship.
Of the more than 250 new urban projects that Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) has designed in its two-and-a-half-decade history, New Town in St. Charles, Missouri, is progressing the fastest. The master plan charrette in February 2003 was followed by approvals and groundbreaking that fall. By February of this year an attractive sales center was built, a lake and two canals were dug, and half of the first phase was sold, according to Marina Khoury, project manager for DPZ.
Now, the developer is building 70 rental townhouses and is on the verge of constructing detached houses.
An 1,100-acre project at a former naval training center boasts a large, diverse “village center” with everyday shopping.
The Walt Disney Company’s Celebration project was the ambitious beginning — but only the beginning — of New Urbanism in central Florida. A mile northeast of downtown Orlando, a development is now under way that in some respects will surpass Celebration. It is called Baldwin Park and is being constructed at a rapid rate by the Pritzker real estate interests of Chicago.
Summerset, a traditional neighborhood development on a brownfield site, gets high marks for sales, appearance.
If TNDs were skating jumps, Sum-merset at Frick Park in Pittsburgh would be a quad. While new urban communities are, as a rule, challenging, this project has extra twists that heighten the degree of difficulty. Consider:
• Summerset is being built upon a massive slag heap that is the legacy of the city’s defunct steel industry.
New urbanists often design infill projects in cities, new neighborhoods in the suburbs, and even create visions for growth on a regional scale. Rarely if ever do they get the opportunity to design a medium-sized city from scratch. That was essentially the task of WRT/Solomon E.T.C. in creating a plan for Coyote Valley, an agricultural area on the outskirts of San Jose.
Just 13 miles south of downtown, Coyote Valley has remained mostly undeveloped because it is geographically separated from the city.
Sandy Point in Edenton is the first project of the Fund for New Urbanism.
The bland quality of waterfront development today is raising some concerns (see the review of Toward the Livable City on page 16). One reason, perhaps, is uniform rules like one in North Carolina that requires a 30-foot buffer in all waterfront areas. Such rules are meant to prevent runoff pollution, but they also thwart the creation of compelling urban environments at the water’s edge — captivating places like those found in Greece, Italy, and some of America’s older towns and cities.
Urban Initiatives beat out the Prince’s Foundation and several other competitors to design a major new English town in Ashford, Kent, a stop on the railway just north of the Channel Tunnel. The town is proposed to accommodate 31,000 people and 28,000 jobs, the first part of a homebuilding program that has been described as Britain’s largest in 50 years.
The Ashford plan will follow codes that govern density and percentages of affordable housing, but also touch upon new urban issues like ensuring that housing faces the public realm.