New towns that I Love:
Some Real Models for Pineland Prairie
“Just what is a ‘walkable, mixed-use community,’ and what does it look like?”
“What’s this concept of ‘conservation development’?”
“What do you mean by ‘neo-traditional neighborhood design’, and what does it look like?”
Good questions, and I’ve heard them quite a few times in the four months I’ve been meeting with our county’s citizens and leaders, asking them for their suggestions for Pineland Prairie.
A picture is worth at least a thousand words, so I’d like to show you some pictures of real communities that have been built according to these design principles. Here are some things these new towns have in common:
- None is more than 30 years old, and some were started just five or 10 years ago, yet all have the comfortable feel of towns and villages that grew naturally over many decades. That’s the result of skilled planning and design.
- While new communities like this are sprouting all over America today, my examples are all from the Middle Atlantic and the Southeastern states, from Maryland down to central Florida. None of my examples is in South Florida, where this new kind of beautiful, environmentally sensitive town planning has yet to take hold. “Suburban sprawl”–the opposite of Traditional Neighborhood Design–still reigns in Broward and Palm Beach counties, as well as in much of the Treasure Coast. There is nothing like my vision for Pineland Prairie anywhere in our region today.
- All of these new towns have been highly successful by every measure: Popular with new-home buyers, many of whom already lived in the surrounding communities; experiencing higher-than-typical price appreciation over time; contributing strongly to the tax base of their counties, through property and retail sales taxes; and proving to be attractive destinations for visitors and shoppers throughout their regions.
- All of them feature significant open space and natural amenities, such as trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding; expanses of water for human recreation and wetlands for waterfowl; village greens and squares; and community farms and markets serving their residents and nearby towns. In none of them, however, is there as much land–in total acreage and percentage of the property–set aside for natural open space as we plan to have at Pineland Prairie.
This first group of photos shows views of open spaces, town commons, ponds and marshes, equestrian trails and facilities, biking trails, and community gardens and markets, all designed into neo-traditional planned towns.
Note the classic characteristics of authentic American small towns that have been emulated in these new communities:
- Homes set closer to the street, with front porches overlooking sidewalks, squares and pedestrian trails, for neighborly visiting;
- No front-loading garages on the street, but garages behind the homes in attractive landscaped alleys.
- Homes of differing sizes and styles, all well designed, interspersed on the same block, for a natural mixing of ages and income levels—such like traditional American towns that grew organically.
The design of homes, commercial and civic buildings reflects the historical, vernacular styles of the new town’s region.
In the Southeastern states, residential architecture includes Low Country (coastal Carolina) planter’s houses, Florida Cracker farmhouses, Craftsman bungalows (1910-1925), Carpenter’s Gothic cottages and more.
Pineland Prairie will include all of these, with an emphasis on local styles popular in the early days of Martin County—the kind found in individual original houses in old Stuart, Jensen Beach and Port Salerno.
Since these architectural styles have not been included in the design of any major new planned communities in Martin County, Pineland Prairie will give our homebuyers—current and future residents—a wider array of choices in housing and lifestyle than they currently have.
Mixed-Use Retail Centers
No retail/office district is exactly like another, but what they have in common is a mix of different uses…stores of differing size and style, some with apartments or offices on the second floor (“live-work” buildings); small office buildings, apartment houses and condos mix into the retail center, enabling people to reside, go to work, shop and diner in the same walkable downtown. Buildings typically vary in height from one to three stories.
Healthy small town retail centers are bustling, walkable places, with village greens and commons hosting festivals, music and casual visiting.