Urban Villages Struggling To Attract Jobs

Three mixed-use, walkable urban villages near Seattle have become very popular with residents since their creation in the '80s and '90s. But while small businesses prosper and home vacancies remain low, few jobs are available.

"Marketed as suburbia's answer to sprawl, three master-planned communities on the Eastside were once billed as places where residents could saunter down the street and show up to work a stone's throw from their doorsteps. Nearly a decade later, homes have sprouted like mushrooms, restaurants and salons thrive, and locals gather at coffee shops to catch up on the latest gossip."

"But for the most part, urban villages in Issaquah, Redmond and Snoqualmie have yet to provide one missing link - jobs."

"And without nearby jobs, the traffic woes brought on by more development only continue."

"Developers blame it largely on the dot-com bust but point to the state's economic upturn as promising."

"The developments were pushed during the 1980s and '90s as a return to pedestrian centers of days past. Parks, narrow streets and convenient transit stations were designed to get residents out of their cars. Jobs and retail were supposed to encourage people to work and shop where they live. Essentially, urban villages would deliver what isolated subdivisions hadn't - a sense of community."

Full Story: Living near work? Great idea, in theory

Comments

Comments

New Urbanism's idealism

New Urbanism is based on this idea that we can return to the commuting patterns of small town American in the 1940s and 50s by simply changing the built environment. The problem is that back in the "good old days," people had different expectations about careers and life in general. They worked in "the factory" or "the mill," they didn't change jobs much, they got married to their high school sweetheart, settled down, and had kids in the same town where they grew up.

Today people have incredibly specialized career goals. There might be 20 employers in a vast metropolitan area that fit a person's background, and people change jobs a lot more. We're now dual-income households, so we have to balance commuting distance for both partners. We're less likely to prefer to send our kids to the neighborhood school because now we have "school choice," magnet programs, and charter schools. We're a lot more mobile whereas we used to settle for what was nearby.

People still long for the simplicity of small town life, but I don't think most want to give up the convenience and choices afforded by modern suburbia.

NU's Realism.

People still long for the simplicity of small town life, but I don't think most want to give up the convenience and choices afforded by modern suburbia.

I disagree. I am unaware of published articles that state NU's idea is to return to immediately post-WWII commuting patterns, as these built environment patterns that popped up immediately post-WWII are the patterns that are explicitly NOT replicated in NU designs. In fact, the article's interviewees state that they had few choices in McSuburbia and that's why they moved to somewhere with amenities, non-cr*ppy design, and a sense of place.

Amenities, design, place, BTW, are the bases for NU, not we can return to the commuting patterns of small town American in the 1940s and 50s by simply changing the built environment. That is: having one's only choice being to hop in the car to do anything is the reason why NU developments are going like hotcakes. That and they look better than cookie-cuttered snouthouses.

When mobility choices end, the traditional development patterns will offer more choices than McSuburbia.

Best,

D

New urbanism

Sorry, when I said 40s-50s, I meant small towns, not Levittowns. I was talking about commuting patterns of small town life, not suburbia.

"the article's interviewees state that they had few choices in McSuburbia and that's why they moved to somewhere with amenities, non-cr*ppy design, and a sense of place"

Oh yeah of course. But they still have to go 15 miles to work, because it's 2007 and we are mobile and work in specialized fields and change jobs a lot. That's my point. People love a sense of place, but don't really want to give that up.

I don't think we disagree as much as you're arguing different points.

New Urbanist.

I don't think we disagree as much as you're arguing different points.

I agree.

I think the important point is: the need to return to built environment patterns that were the norm for centuries until after WWII is important for public health, environmental and aesthetic considerations. These patterns don't and won't attract jobs for some time, as the inherent separation of live-work space won't be solved by providing still more ground floor retail in a country that has 10x more retail than any other country on the planet. Anyway,

I used to practice in WA and I'm quite familiar with the high vacancy rates of the ground floor commercial there, as I used to ride past a number of them. And the nail salons, take-out Chineses or Blockbusters that are there now isn't the type of job they were intended for.

Best,

D

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