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Since we're talking about building a community based on the principles of Traditional Neighborhood Design, "walkability" is crucial. That means residents should be able to reach functional and fun destinations within a short walk.
When developer Herb Freeman toured other TND projects around the country, one of the missteps he noticed was that while it may have been possible to walk everywhere in the neighborhoods, there weren't always inspiring destinations to walk to. So Herb created talking points for meaningful destinations, a list of potential destinations to incorporate into community planning that has been informing the work of the design team. Hence: The Walking Points.
Check out this list compiled before the planning team began their work, and measure it against the elements you see in the evolving ideas of the planners and architects. We think you'll find many of these early ideas already comfortably embedded in the planning.
Project amenities may include themes of 1) The four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water; 2) The Four Seasons, 3) Nature, 4) Cycles of light and dark, day and night, the cycles of the moon, 5) The Universe.
Active / Social / Extroverted
Passive / Individual / Introspective
- Town square/plaza
- Amphitheater and/or band stand
- Trails/paths for walking and bikes
- Community Center
- Croquette lawn
- Horse shoes
- Game rooms(s)
- Class room(s)
- Exercise/fitness room
- Splash park
- Fire pit - a stone circular pit with one or two rows of stone benches or 18" wall rock in a circle around it on a bed of pea gravel.
- Fire place - a large square brick fire place with four openings so the fire box can be seen from all around it; massive chimney in the Virginia style about 25 feet tall.
- Scary bridge across creek - a suspension foot bridge one person wide across the creek, scary enough that a six year old will be hesitant about crossing it the first time, but not so scared that he/she will not cross it; when the kid gets to the other side he is excited, giddy and wants to cross it again.
- Stepping stones across creek - another way for a kid to cross the creek and have to think about it; wall rock steps up each side of the creek bank so the bank does not get eroded.
- Community garden - a fenced place for people to have several rows in large, shared garden that is centrally located, with a water hydrant, shed for tools, hoses, a place for shade with benches for resting.
- Farmers' Market - a place for local vendors to set up stalls for the sale of produce, crafts, arts.
- Pond - with small pier, boat house, paddle boats, aquatic plants, fish, a small fountain or water fall to circulate the water; a pond for activities.
- Athletic field
- Play ground(s)
- Putting Green
- Tot lot(s)
- Ice skating rink (on pond or athletic field) - near the fireplace or fire pit
- Sledding hill - steep and near the fireplace or fire pit
- Picnic area with pavilion, grills
- Concrete or stone chair circle like the one in the town center in Kentlands
- Solar Square with sundial. Sundials in a variety of styles, types and places (even on the walls of buildings).
- Observatory - A building with a roll off roof for a telescope mount and a plaza with telescope mounts, perhaps with a perpetual calendar, lunar phase graphic, etc.
- Celestial site - a circle with a star map stamped in the concrete, an obelisk in the center pointing at the zenith, benches oriented over arrows pointing to points on the horizon where the sun rises and sets on the solstices and equinoxes.
- Clock(s) - Pole mounted and/or wall mounted clocks
- Wind vane(s) on buildings and as art in public squares
- Flag poles - for US and Nebraska flags but more for festival, thematic, seasonal flags
- Rain gauge - some sort of gigantic Rube Goldberg contraption, complicated, large-scale public rain gauge
- Labyrinth and/or maze - in a contemplative area, according to the classical patterns
- Contemplative Tree Circle - a circle or two or more concentric circles of trees with benches or stones seats
- Wild flower meadow
- Sacred Site - A sort of "hollowed ground" with a classically designed very small building for contemplation, maybe even "mausoleum-esque"
- Wild flower meadow
- Native grass prairie
- Butterfly habitat
- Wet lands
- Bird houses/feeders
- Pond with fountain, benches, sitting stones; a quiet place for introspection
Temple of Venus
Temple of the Four Winds
- Winter and Summer Sites - gathering areas that take into account exposure, wind and light/shadow - for example the winter area faces south so the sun warms the wall to one's back in winter and is sunken so the north wind blows over it. The Summer Site is sunken quite deeply so that one is in the shade and faces north away from the hot southern wind.
Shop Where You Work Where You Live.
While it's true that style plays a prominent role in the character of a built project, it's important to stress that traditional neighborhood development is not defined by style. Instead, it's an effort to revive the ideas of neighborhood we used to hold dear.
Before people started calling neighborhoods "subdivisions," certain things were so common that folks hardly thought twice about them. Walkable, tree-lined streets. A wide range of housing types so those at different incomes or stages of life could find a place of their own. And, perhaps most importantly, a mixture of uses in close proximity - homes, places to shop and business offices - so that people didn't always need to hop in the car to get things done.
Without these elements, what you have is an old-timey subdivision, not a traditional neighborhood.
That's why a primary component of the Freeman project will be it's "town center" - the area bound by the corner of State and 168th Streets - where PlaceMaker Howard Blackson is putting together plans for the village's "downtown."
The market factors are clear. "We have a very small regional retail appeal and a tremendous high-end specialty local appeal," says Blackson. "From our initial retail report we believe around 25 to 30 thousand square feet of retail will satisfy the market demand for the next 20 years."
He continues, "The site chosen was largely chosen for us by the two intersecting arterials and the accompanying commercial zoning. We've got about 20 acres we could use but we're only using about half that to meet our expected demand."
Blackson's plan in development offers a graduating intensity as you move into the site from the corner towards the creek. In the immediate triangle will be retail mixed with office, perhaps featuring a specialty market, wine shop and weekend farmer's market. As you move inward, the uses shift to a mix of retail with condominiums above.
The result will bring a virbrant urban plaza, an informal green and then a natural creek and trail system all into close proximity. For those living in the more heavily residential areas of the project, a wide range of experiences (work, places to shop, recreation, or community gatherings) will be just a short walk away. For those coming from elsewhere, park-once lots exist within each block.
A favorite feature is the crescent, which divides the "downtown" area. "What's cool about the crescent," says Blackson, "is that it draws you into the site. You won't need to see huge business signs from the arterial while driving past at 50 mph. You'll want to slow down and examine because this will be the kind of place where people want to be."
Taming the Arterial.
One challenge that exists for any development is the high-volume, high-speed nature of the arterial roadways that surround it. In many cases - in fact, zoning favors this - the easiest solution is to simply internalize development, turning a backside to passing traffic.
This is contrary to the goals of traditional neighborhood development, where connection between people, places and experiences is paramount.
That's why, rather than denying the roadways, transportation planner Dewayne Carver is attempting to embrace them - using traditional boulevard design to tame the traffic and make for a more humane and livable environment. The irony of such boulevards is that, despite the many benefits they offer, they generate no reduction in the ability to handle the through-traffic expected to materialize over the next 25 years (including traffic generated by the Freeman project).
That's just the beginning. Planned improvements provide safer crossings, especially for kids; reduce vehicle miles traveled; create more crossing points; support the goals of MATA and the city of Omaha; and connect people rather than separating them.
The price? An additional 30 seconds to drive the past the property. For those seeking a higher quality of life, it seems a small price to pay.
The built result would feature 2 narrowed lanes in each direction with a secondary and separated local access lane, which would provide retail and business-serving on-street parking and act as a buffer for pedestrians on the tree-lined sidewalks that border it. Businesses would front the sidewalks and, in turn, help cut noise moving towards the more residential sections of the project.
See something you like? Got an idea of your own? Share your thoughts with the team by submitting your information here.