Creating complete communities

Using targeted urban design tools to repair suburban communities provides residents a complete range of housing and daily living needs

Transforming existing suburban communities into complete communities requires targeting actions, resources, and community input. It involves urban design, regulatory changes and implementation techniques targeted to specific areas. The end result is a community where people drive less, are more energy efficient, are healthier and ultimately live better. These complete communities are also attractive to the knowledge worker that drives economic prosperity.

Unfortunately, people in Michigan do not have the resources to do this type of work in all areas within their communities. This means people must target specific areas to get the greatest return on investment. The targeted areas should be nodes, centers and corridors.

Nodes are intersections of transportations routes that can support increased density and intensification of a variety of uses at the intersection.

Centers are areas that have the necessary density and mix of uses but need changes such as improving pedestrian linages.

Corridors are transportation routes that connect centers but need to be altered to improve traffic flow and pedestrian activity. These corridors could be improved by applying complete street principles.

Not every place in a community needs repair. There are likely existing neighborhoods that are complete and functional. These neighborhoods must be preserved and should be emulated throughout the community. These are neighborhoods that are walkable and provide daily needs without residents having to use cars to meet their needs. They have an urban form that supports pedestrian activity and builds social interaction.

Urban design is the process of creating urban form that supports complete communities. It focuses on the relationship between buildings, streets, and public spaces to make areas functional, attractive and sustainable. By applying urban design principles to centers, nodes and corridors these areas become more welcoming and attractive. Urban design is often difficult to implement without regulatory changes, most often changes in zoning. Form based codes are one regulatory approach that allow for greater control over urban form (See also: Advantages of form based zoning account for its growing popularity for a discussion of form based codes).

Implementation assistance is available from a variety of sources. Michigan State University Extension provides education for communities in this area. The MiPlace Partnership website provides resources and recently launched a toolkit for implementation of urban design principles.

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