The hottest topic in urban design and planning is “new urbanism”. Creating a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly, people-centered community that isn’t totally dependent on automobiles is the core idea of new urbanism. The urban sprawl that has run rampant throughout the United States has made a lot of people question the appeal of the suburbs. There are claims that the rise of strip malls, big-box stores and the ever shrinking downtown areas have weakened community bonds and interactivity that used to happen downtown.
We have a "new urbanist" community here as well. New Town at St. Charles endeavors to push at some boundaries that suburbs, especially in St. Charles County, are able to accomplish. It is certainly not sustainable at this point, there aren't enough people living there yet. New Town does have a lot of potential. But the biggest problem is that the location of New Town, it is on the edge of the city of St. Charles. There isn't an infrastructure that closely ties it into the downtown of St. Charles or really within the structure of the city of St. Charles.
The other problem facing New Town is a completely indifferent City Council and Mayor. New Town seems to be the red-haired stepchild of the city of St. Charles. The residents pay their taxes and have actually been adding quite a bit to the moribund city coffers. But when it comes time for the city to maintain services, it seems that New Town and the residents seem to be left to themselves. At least that is the perception from out here in the cornfields.
And all of this does not mean that New Town is doomed to failure, just that it is as different form of New Urbanism. Many of the new urbanist communities are actually attempting to rebuild in an existing infrastructure. As an example, Metropolis Magazine had an interesting article a few weeks ago highlighting two urban design projects – the State Center Complex in downtown Baltimore, MD and the Great River Park Project in St. Paul, MN. Both projects are governed by overarching ideas of new urbanism – hoping to increase pedestrian interaction in the city scape and promote urban environmentalism.
Redesigning City Centers, Rejuvenating Riverfronts