Kaid Benfield Archive


Making a worn-down place into a smart, hospitable neighborhood

Kaid Benfield

Posted April 7, 2009 at 3:18PM

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While preparing for a presentation, I was reminded that smart growth can and should be implemented step-by-step, and neighborhood-by-neighborhood.  It also should be built at a scale and character appropriate to the setting.

For example, here's a photo of a run-down street in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

  (all images courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Begin with infrastructure improvements: sidewalks, street trees, and a median.  It's already better:

  (all images courtesy of Urban Advantage) 

This invites some mixed uses to come in - shops with offices above (note the gas station remains, but no longer fronts the street):

  (all images courtesy of Urban Advantage)

As the neighborhood improves, some restaurants and stores with apartments above come in on the near side of the street.  This in turn brings people to the walkable environment:

  (all images courtesy of Urban Advantage)

With this block now improved, the block behind can come next, with appropriately scaled, three-story buildings:

  (all images courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Finally, finish it off with a roundabout and monument to anchor the neighborhood with a sense of place.  It's still a small-city environment, but much more walkable and inviting:

  (all images courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Working with our partner, the visualization wizards at Urban Advantage, NRDC has placed 70 such step-by-step scenarios, all precisely located on Google Maps, on our web site, Picturing Smart Growth.  We also include a little contextual information on the metro regions where the sites are located.  The scenarios demonstrate what the future can be.  Please visit!