The picture shown below is of the street I lived on in Hopewell Borough. This is what Neotraditionalists have in mind in planning the suburbs. Within a 5 minute walk from our old house on this street are several banks, a park- complete with a bandstand, the Post Office, several restaurants, a market, at least one garage, several churches, an elementary school and a playhouse. This is the kind of town where you can go without a car for some time and still manage life. This type of town, with walkable neighborhoods, close knit houses and friendly front porches has most garages in the back of the house. The streets are warm and inviting.
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Juxtapose this type of neighborhood with the car friendly Country Classics of Hillsborough shown below. I say “of Hillsborough”, but this could be anywhere in this country. This is the common style of single family house built today. I find them cold and soulless.
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It is impossible to do anything without getting into a car. Frank Lloyd Wright wanted space for individual homes but I feel this would make his skin crawl. Wright wanted to spread people out. Unfortunately, the spread turned to sprawl.
Speaking of unpleasant sprawl, the first photo below shows the future site of the Montgomery Promenade. The second photo is of one of many strip malls on Route 1. I have nothing against building shopping centers. We all need ed stores. But for anyone who has driven Route 206 through Montgomery, the idea of a very large shopping center added to the 206/518 intersection is a nightmare in the making. Driving along the Route 1 corridor, there appears to be no cooperation in the planning of the countless malls. It becomes an ugly, endless traffic-filled mess.
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Note the derelict building currently on the site. Part of a municipality’s responsibility is to remove blight and rebuild. But the burden this will put on the local roads will take an overhaul to the infrastructure that the surrounding area may not allow.
Below are two photos of the built environment that I like. The first is of the apartments at Livingston Plaza. The reason I liked how these were designed is similar to why I liked living in Hopewell Borough. The ground floor of this area was left to be commercially developed. There is a market, a diner, a cinema and many other retail stores and restaurants. Once again, the idea of mixed use allows for pedestrian traffic.
The second photo is of the Ground Zero memorial. With all the discussion after 9/11 about what to do with the property, I felt this was appropriate. It allowed for commercial development while still commemorating those who lost their lives there. It also allows for an open air and a park-like setting amid a busy, congested southern Manhattan.
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Hillsborough, New Jersey’s Master Plan talks of designing a new township based on Neotraditional design principles that mirror the styles of the early 20th century. Post World War II car-mania led us away from those ideas of mixed use, clustered homes of neighborly front porches and sidewalks. Jane Jacobs decried the loss of safety, community and sidewalk life that followed the move of some to “the projects” and others to the suburbs. Roads like Route 1 and Route 22 are often eye-sores and always frustratingly full of traffic. It is heartening, however, to see efforts being made, such as in Hillsborough, to develop land in ways that can be beautiful as well as useful.