Looking at paleo-urbanism

There’s plenty of talk about New Urbanism in city planning circles nowadays. But Eric Jacobsen (pictured), author of the great book “Sidewalks in the Kingdom,” makes a valid point about how the impact of New Urbanism may remain isolated.

After a discussion and critique of the New Urbanist town of Seaside, Florida, Jacobsen turns his attention to where the rest of us live:

Only a small percentage of the North American populace falls in the category of new home buyer. Furthermore, many North Americans are living in apartments or homes in older established parts of town. For most of these people whether the percentage of new home starts shifts towards New Urbanism and away from suburban will have very little impact on the quality of their lives.

Thus the wonderful term “paleo-urbanist” — what we used to call actual cities. The trick is, can we apply the principles of good cities and neighborhoods to places that are already built?

Many of these neighborhoods are in need of private capital investment, improved infrastructure, and better schools. But they have “good bones” from an urbanist perspective. The success of New Urbanism will be measured not by how many new developments they can start in any particular year, but by how the momentum generated in these developments spills over into the existing urban fabric of North America.

Making sure we don’t built more bland suburbs is one thing. But reforming the neighborhoods we have is another.

You can read his article here at Comment magazine.

Related slideshow at Slate: The model town of Seaside, 25 years later.