Thursday, September 20, 2007

New Urbanism comes to Galveston

Tonight I want to pass-along a Wall Street Journal article on the wave of new urbanist projects coming to the Gulf Coast, especially Galveston (7-day nonsubscriber link, permalink).
Beachtown, as Mr. Sherazi's project is called, is part of a wave of New Urbanism on the Texas coast, from Galveston to South Padre Island. A planning movement that advocates walking over driving and borrows heavily from the design of traditional neighborhoods, New Urbanism has been largely overlooked on the Texas coast, even as it has flourished in Florida and beyond.

While the movement offers something of a counterpoint to subdivisions, malls and office parks, it is attacked by critics as nostalgic and unimaginative for its reliance on 19th-century architecture. While New Urbanist communities such as Seaside often are pitched as real towns, critics say they tend to become little more than playgrounds for the rich.

The projects reflect a broader push to develop the Texas coast, while subprime woes have cooled markets in Florida and elsewhere. On the Third Coast, as some call Texas, the ocean tends to be murkier, the sand darker and the scenery arguably less impressive than on the East and West coasts. But beachfront property still is plentiful, and prices are considerably less expensive than the two coasts.

James Gaines, an economist at Texas A&M University's Real Estate Center, said beachfront property in Texas costs about a fifth of the price of similar property in California, in part because of its geography. Except for Galveston and a few coastal areas near Houston, none of Texas beachfront property is near a major urban center.

Check out the article to read the details of all the projects.

If I get some time this weekend, I'm hoping to dig into the TTI traffic congestion numbers that came out this week and post my analysis and thoughts next week.

Update: Tom has more of the WSJ article.

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At 8:29 AM, September 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might find this story interesting, given that it, quite unintentionally, touches upon the real limits of new urbanism, in the sense that it leads to some sort of chimerical car free utopia (or dystopia).

At 2:25 PM, September 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I guess nineteenth century architecture never did anything for Galveston. I know whenever I go there, it's the stripmalls and drive-thrus I like to visit, not that old-fashioned Strand.

On a more serious note, I have never understood why it should be a criticism of something that it "becomes a playground for the rich." Doesn't the fact that rich people - i.e. people of means, people who can go wherever they want - flock to these places say something about the quality of the place? Should we not try to imitate the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket because we're afraid of attracting rich people?


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