The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) is a non-profit organization focused on creating vibrant, walkable communities where people want to live.
This year’s annual conference, held in Louisville, KY, brought more than 1,500 members from throughout North America to learn, collaborate, and debate on the policies, designs, and emerging approaches that create great living environments.
With nearly four full days packed with sessions, tours, and networking opportunities, the conference is one of the only multi-disciplinary events of its kind.
Bohler’s Hartford, CT Branch Manager Geoff Fitzgerald, PE, AICP opened up about his biggest takeaways from the event. With a seat at the table alongside the country’s most passionate planners, architects, and city officials, Geoff shared his thoughts about the latest urban planning and transit-oriented development trends.
Rides of the future
“There was a lot of discussion about autonomous and electric vehicles (EV), but they aren’t the answer on their own,” Geoff said. “The only way to achieve significant pollution reduction is to combine autonomous and electric vehicles with a system for sharing them, which could be either publicly or privately funded. That’s when we will see the real benefit — when you combine all three. As walkable communities continue to grow in popularity, we need to think about design aspects like ridesharing pick-up lanes.”
(Un-) Affordable housing
“Despite significant efforts and programs aimed at addressing this issue, the U.S. has a significant affordable housing problem, and developers are increasingly challenged to respond to this crisis. Rising costs of labor and building materials make affordable housing expensive to finance and build, meaning affordable projects are riskier and less appealing to investors than higher-end, higher-rent projects.”
Free parking, a thing of the past
“More commercial and residential developments are trending toward paid parking,” said Geoff. “It’s expensive to build parking structures that accompany residential developments. Some urban projects are eliminating dedicated parking altogether. If parking can be eliminated from the project, the developer can allocate a larger budget to providing better amenities or larger community gathering spaces. Here in Hartford, CT, the city has adopted this trend and eliminated all parking requirements from the zoning code for new development.”
Giving new life to vacant office parks
“Certainly throughout Connecticut, but seemingly throughout the country as well, there are many under-utilized or even abandoned suburban office parks. In some communities, we’re seeing these retrofitted with residential and commercial spaces and transformed into mixed-use, live/work/play centers.”
Authenticity is key to designing projects that activate communities
“People, especially the millennial generation, want to live and work in authentic, mixed-use, walkable communities that feature a mix of housing types and cater to a broad range of incomes. These neighborhoods can also derive authenticity from the anchor institutions that they center around — often a grocery store, a transit station, or a group of restaurants. One of the panelists suggested balancing retail with anchors that enrich the community such as a public library or a YMCA.”
Armed with his extensive experience and knowledge of the latest design trends, Geoff and our Connecticut-based team can work with you to determine the best strategies to ensure your project is a success.