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Urban Design

The Tax Burden Footprint of Tax-Exempt Properties

The Tax Burden Footprint of Tax-Exempt Properties

Tax-exempt properties have a significant fiscal footprint. Do we understand the impacts we create through the too-often wasteful way we design and build public facilities such as city halls, schools, libraries, and parks?

What is Traditional Development?

What is Traditional Development?

We use the phrase “traditional development pattern” in dozens of Strong Towns essays. Here’s your one-stop-shop explainer article as to what that means.

A City Shaped by Many Hands

A City Shaped by Many Hands

Incrementalism is not an end in itself. It’s not about stubborn insistence on some sort of small-is-beautiful aesthetic for its own sake. Incremental development is a practical means to the end of resilient, financially sound places.

We Used to Do This Everywhere

We Used to Do This Everywhere

We’ve destroyed so many traditional, human-scale neighborhoods in America that we tend to think of the ones that remain—like New Orleans’ famous French Quarter—as inherently exotic, the kind of place you love to visit but certainly wouldn’t live. Let’s stop treating timeless, great urban design like it’s only for tourists.

How Did We Get Used to Out-of-Scale Cities?

How Did We Get Used to Out-of-Scale Cities?

What exactly is the “human scale”? And have you ever thought about just how little of the public space in your city is designed at that scale—even in places you think of as walkable?

Can We Afford a Better Alternative to Suburbia?

Can We Afford a Better Alternative to Suburbia?

Forward-thinking developers are building communities that take into account the hidden long-term costs of suburban development, and offer a more resilient alternative. But what if that alternative results in homes that are too expensive to be within reach of most Americans? And does it have to?

Savor Your Small Parcels, and Create More of Them

Savor Your Small Parcels, and Create More of Them

It matters what size chunks we build our cities in. Making room for many small-scale development projects on small lots is the universal historical model for a reason, and modern cities could stand to get back to it.

The Problem with Helicopter Urbanism

The Problem with Helicopter Urbanism

It is important when we design a building or a neighborhood to look at how it feels and interacts with the street. Too often, new development feels designed from a helicopter’s-eye-view.

How Suburban Infrastructure Got More Expensive Over Time

How Suburban Infrastructure Got More Expensive Over Time

The suburban development pattern is not inherently too costly to maintain: early suburbs sat much lighter on the land, with narrower streets and less public maintenance obligation. Let’s take a look at how the American suburb has evolved over time.

Why Urban Design Should Come From the Bottom Up (Part 1)

Why Urban Design Should Come From the Bottom Up (Part 1)

Professional planners are trained to yearn for tighter urban design controls, as if cities without comprehensive, top-down planning would devolve into chaos and disorder. In reality, cities evolve according to mechanisms that allow us to gradually discover optimal urban design across time.

Aiming for Imperfection

Aiming for Imperfection

When we aim for perfection, imperfections will disturb us. But, when we aim for imperfection, other imperfections build character.

We Regulate the Wrong Things

We Regulate the Wrong Things

Most cities’ zoning and development regulations obsess over things that are easy to measure, like building height and density, at the expense of the things that actually determine whether we’re building quality places.

Novelty Colonies: Demerits and Distinctions

Novelty Colonies: Demerits and Distinctions

Novelty Colonies are unusual, themed settlements that promise the resident an alternative to the vinyl-sided raised ranch houses of suburbia. However, the charm of these settlements is superficial, and the good ideas they do offer would be better incorporated into our existing towns.

Wide Streets as a Tool of Oppression

Wide Streets as a Tool of Oppression

Wide, straight, monumental streets have always served the interests of those in power. They allow for the mobilization of military force, subordinate the unplanned chaos of the city to grandiose visions, and have been used to dispossess and displace small businesses, the poor, and racial and political minorities.