There’s a townhome project that was built behind my apartment complex. It was built over the period of three years. The first year they drove pilings into the marshy soil. You could hear the pounding all day long as they drove those pilings into the soil. Then they built the above project. Looks appealing, no?
It is a townhome project, a supposedly “green” construction project, but the only green I see is in the freshly planted foliage and instant sod lawns. In twenty years, it will look like heck. Most management companies don’t spend much money on lawn care and maintenance, they just cut the grass.
Not bad, but not appealing. It looks like an alleyway, not a housing project.
This is definitely an alleyway. Also, where is the character, the style? All you see are cookie cutter houses, built to the same plan, over and over and over again.
And another alleyway. The balconies are just afterthoughts, just a place to put your plants. But as you can see here, when would the sun shine on them except in the morning and at dusk? Would the balconies in the middle ever see sunshine?
A place to raise a family? A cookie cutter family with 2.5 children, for a cookie cutter townhome. A playground designed by someone who has heard about families and communities, but has never experienced them.
It’s like the architect had heard about European style housing and streets, but didn’t understand how they functioned or that most Europeans don’t have cars in the same numbers as Americans do. This is a street for cars, not families.
You may have noticed that each townhome block is color coded, so you can easily remember that you live in the pumpkin block versus the pale green block. Otherwise you’d have a hard time remembering which one was yours.
So, what makes a good sustainable place to live?
In Europe, residences have character and homey feel that you can’t get from a cookie cutter. You also want vibrant green spaces that welcome people to visit and use them.
You want the residences near transit locations and shops, if not have shops right under the residences.
And not exclusive boutiques that sell high-priced goods and services that only the rich can afford. Of course there’s not much we can do stop that from happening in America as most housing projects are owned by real estate management firms that are trying to make back 200% interest on their shareholder’s investments.
The kind of shops you really want are mom and pop shops, shops that sell goods and services that the residents can use. Little bistros and restaurants that serve local food and cuisine, not the fancy cuisine you see in some “Euro-style” housing projects. I like to call them faux Euro-style, as most are designed for cars, not people.
Cities and towns are for people, not cars. We’ve given up a lot of our social life with our neighbors to the cult of the car. We don’t have the social life our grandparents had. My father grew up in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and he and siblings had a great social life and made many friends and everyone knew everyone. These days you’re lucky if you know who your next door neighbors are in your cul de sac.
My city is trying to build a new community, but every time I look at the plans, I keep seeing space given over to cars, not people. To high-priced/high rent retail shops that no one who lives in these developments will ever shop there. I keep pointing this out, but the big money the developers keep waving about speaks louder.