Monday, May 25, 2009

New Urbanism meet Old Suburbanism

In keeping with my late May tradition on this blog (see here for 2005 and here for 2007), I offer a few comments on urban planning and design.

I live not far from a new housing development called Summerset that bills itself as a "new traditional neighborhood." It's being built on a former slag heap, on the southern edge of Squirrel Hill, an old traditional neighborhood here in the East End of Pittsburgh. At the moment, it's accessible through only one entrance which is a short drive but a longish walk from the main routes through the neighborhood. One bus route runs into the development. The plan is to build out the main road of the development, Parkview Blvd, to a larger road, Brown's Hill Road, which has more bus routes, and is a short walk from shopping at the Waterfront (across the river in Homestead) and shopping in Greenfield, an adjoining neighborhood.

In addition, a new shopping complex, called Walnut Place, has recently been built at the future intersection of Brown's Hill Rd and Parkview Blvd and just a few yards from Old Brown's Hill Road where there is a larger senior-citizen housing complex. And construction work will begin soon on pedestrian and road improvements on Brown's Hill Road. See here for the Post-Gazette story.

Residents of Summerset will soon be able to walk out Parkview Blvd to Brown's Hill Road, catch a bus or walk into a Dunkin Donuts, a hair place, an IHOP, a fitness center, etc. Likewise, residents of southern part of Squirrel Hill and some parts of Greenfield will be able to walk down the hill to the same stores. And the more active seniors on Old Brown's Hill Road will be able to walk a short distance to those same stores and restaurants.

So far so good, right?

I decided the other day to take the short walk down the hill and see the new development and the pre-improvement streetscape. And I noticed one thing that disturbed: so far there is no clear pedestrian access to the Walnut Place shopping center from Brown's Hill Road. The only clear way in to both sides of the center is on an access road into the parking lots with no sidewalks. Now maybe, just maybe, the next phase of the plan will include pedestrian access from the adjoining streets--Brown's Hill Rd, Parkview Blvd, and Saline St (behind the complex). But I saw no evidence of this and the landscaping didn't give any indication that this is on tap.

In other words, residents of the "new traditional neighborhood" and the old traditional neighborhoods nearby will be able to walk to a traditional suburban shopping center and will have to walk through shrubbery or on a parking lot access road to approach the new stores and restaurants.


Izgad said...

Have you read Suburban Nation?

Adam said...

I should, shouldn't I? Or will it be depressing?

It seems very familiar so maybe I did read it, but I may be confusing it with some other books like Edge City or the one by Kunstler, Geography of Nowhere.

Izgad said...

Do you know my uncle David Nadoff? He lives in Squirrel Hill. He had me read it after I started giving him my speech about how we need to stop organizing our society around cars. The book follows a similar line. I read this book as a guide to how to create conservative libertarian policies that are actually good for the environment. I felt very elated upon reading it.