Wednesday, June 3, 2009

If you build a village, will they come?

Originally uploaded by beancounter
In Seven Days last month, I profiled a South Burlington development called South Village that adheres to the New Urbanism approach: making pedestrian-friendly streets, with garages pushed behind the houses, that lead to places you want to visit. A farm stand or a community garden, for example. Some of the better known examples of New Urbanism include Serenbe in Georgia and Seaside in Florida (the setting for "The Truman Show.")

It's a great concept. Who needs another cookie-cutter development with roads that lead nowhere? Unfortunately, the developer started selling a year ago, just as the real estate market ... well, everyone knows that depressing story.

The thing that caught my interest about South Village was that the development has a farm, with an attendant CSA (community-sponsored agriculture). As I say in the article, the development taps into a lot of themes dear to Vermonters' hearts: keeping a working landscape, supporting farms, buying organic from local growers. And apparently the story did grab some readers. One called me asking for the developers' number, saying it was the type of community she had dreamed of, and the piece was one of the most-read stories on Seven Days' site the week it came out.

But as a friend pointed out to me, the development basically reinvents the whole concept of Burlington. For people who live in town, like me, we have the same type of layout: walkable streets, houses (or cottages) tucked close together, garages pushed back behind the house, a strong sense of neighborhood. Well, I can't walk to a farm from my house (the Intervale is too far), but I can walk or bike to the farmer's market on the weekend. Not to mention the cafes, shops, co-op, and theaters.