New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Whatever: Just Do It

Before I get started let me just say this. I am not an environmental radical. I do recycle. I drive a small car. I’m for smart growth. I’m for anything that lessens our dependence on oil. However, I also live in our real, modern America and I have a minivan to drive around my family of six, and that vehicle currently uses oil. I live in the capital of suburban sprawl right here in Olathe, Kansas and I’ve been known to leave lights on for days at a time.

New Urbanism and Smart Growth do need more attention. Especially here in the heartland where land is so plentiful and cheap that we tend to squander our natural resources without much thought. Clean up this blighted area and recycle the land with new homes, schools and businesses? Nah, just tract out another 100 acres down by Spring Hill and start building!

There are economic, sociological and governmental forces here at play that are too large for just one guy to make a difference. (And talk about a dysfunctional city family here in the metro…KC doesn’t like Overland Park, Olathe doesn’t like Lenexa, everyone fights with everyone over business…) But I would at least like to bring it to the attention of some of you out there.

On this post you will find several links to sites that I think are worth your time to check out. Building & Philosophy sites, a National Geographic site, community sites like Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Cherry Hill Village in Michigan and Orenco Station in Oregon to name but a few. (Imagine Zona Rosa with housing right around it so that people could safely walk to the shops and dining without having to drive!) There are even many blog sites concerning urban policy and growth.

I see hope for this train of thought here in the Greater Kansas City area. After all, the condo/loft boom in downtown and the River Market areas are a direct result of people young and old wanting to live in a community that they are actually a part of. To walk to work and dining and entertainment. To not have to negotiate I-35 each and every day.

I have even seen a few builders here in the KC metro put together some neo-traditional housing neighborhoods. Yes, they lack the overall efficiency of a true smart growth neighborhood and are often built out on empty acres miles from shopping and business centers but they are a baby step in the right direction.

True, we are Kansas City and we have different lifestyle traditions than the people on either coast. No matter how nice, spacious and well put together an all brick, three level town house is people here are probably never going to be crazy about living in one. But maybe we can mix a few in along with some well designed single family homes and surround these around a business center? Maybe we can move forward on the Light Rail for Kansas City down to Waldo. (This subject is sure to bring about a comment or two!)

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to our growth problems here in the United States. Many with my political point of view believe we have no growth or environmental problems. But I think that it is short sighted of us to not look towards the kind of city and neighborhoods we are leaving for our children. To continually strive to make a better city than what was given to us and to have affordable housing, clean air, jobs and first class educational facilities is what I believe most of us want . We just have to come to agreement on how this is to be done.

So long as the discussion is civil, I welcome your emails and comments. Reasonable people can debate issues and look for places of promise even when the disagree on many points.

1 Comment

Filed under Kansas City neighborhoods, Kansas City Real Estate, Social Issues

One response to “New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Whatever: Just Do It

  1. Fantastic blog post, I will bookmark this in my Newsvine account. Have a good evening.

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