Author and architect Witold Rybczynski recently suggested that the New Urbanism has had little or no impact on big cities, citing a lack of signature projects like the High Line in New York City or Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
More than a few urbanists responded that New Urbanism has dramatically impacted street design, infill development, and regulatory policies like form-based codes. Place-based development may have a profound effect over time in a big city yet get lost in the overall scale of a major metropolis. The new urban approach tends to blend in rather than shout “look at me.”
In mid-sized or smaller cities, the effects of New Urbanism can be much more dramatic. In these places, a few good infill projects, livelier public spaces, and new streetscapes can feel like a whole new downtown. Birmingham, Michigan; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Providence, Rhode Island; and many others that adopted a new urban approach 15 or 20 years ago have transformed themselves to a significant degree.