Group to discuss urbanization

By Erin Kelley

New Urbanism Discourse plans to hold a debate featuring different professors and faculty from architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture on the New Urbanism movement.

The debate is Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in 134 Temple Buell Hall, 611 E. Lorado Taft Drive.

New Urbanism is a movement that involves architecture and urban planning to recreate traditional town layouts and develop neighborhoods that are more pedestrian friendly, said Andrew Pierson, senior in FAA and co-chair of New Urbanism Discourse.

The Registered Student Organization is a group of FAA and law students that hold lectures, fieldtrips and discussions to learn about the New Urbanism movement. The club considers how the layout of buildings should look as an alternative to what is seen today on North Prospect Avenue and in southern Champaign, said David Sidney, a graduate student and chair of New Urbanism Discourse.

“We are a unique organization in that we encompass all aspects of the movement that interest the students,” Pierson said.

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The group talks about zoning laws for interested law students, design for architects, and layout for interest urban planning majors.

The movement is looking to “reform all aspects of real estate development,” according to the Congress of New Urbanism Web site.

The goal is to create a more pleasant place to live while limiting the dependence on automobiles and oil, Pierson said.

“It’s like comparing downtown Champaign to the North Prospect area,” he said. “North Prospect has the big boxes like Target, Wal-Mart and Meijer. It’s not as pleasant of a place to live.”

The debate will cover New Urbanism as an alternative pattern of development. Sidney said he plans to talk about affordable housing, ways to counteract urban sprawl and how to advance the idea after the conversation.

The movement deals with “smart growth versus sprawl,” according to the New Urbanism Web site. New Urbanism is in favor of denser cities as apposed to outward growth that consumes farmland and wilderness, negatively effecting the environment. Sprawl also promotes vehicle use, adding to pollution. Although density creates more traffic congestion, the hope is that people will begin to rely on mass transportation or travel by foot.

New Urbanism also promotes the idea of maintaining a mixed income in neighborhoods through creating a range of housing and ordinances that require affordable houses or apartments to be in every development.

“The movement is strong strength of the idea and movement is that it recaptures form and design of communities from the past that work quite well,” said Professor Chris Silver, department head of urban and regional planning.

The idea challenges the basic assumption planners make, that everything sound be placed in separate areas, work, housing and recreation areas, he said.

The State Street area in Urbana is a good representation of New Urbanism, Silver said. There is a mixture of small and large homes. Though the streets are lined with parked cars it wasn’t designed with that intent because the driveways are very narrow or shared. It is a small area that has several occupants tightly packed into a grid formation, making walking a more ideal way to get about, he said.

“It’s obviously good for development and city planning because people are thinking about the built environment, how they work, play and live in it,” Sidney said. “It’s not necessarily the final answer but it is moving toward the right direction.”

Pierson agreed that the movement did need to be refined but said the idea has support because it addresses the energy consumption issue.

“The majority of people support this movement because they see how energy intrusive our society is,” Pierson said.