Donald Grover has
a great view of the waterfront, but that's just one of the benefits
of living in this promenade development in Suisun City. It's the project's
mixed-use design that's making his dream come true. Like all the other
homes in this development, Donald's is designed with a small commercial
space on the lower level -- in which Donald has opened his antique shop.
A decade ago residents
had no access to the city's waterway, but thanks to the aggressive redevelopment
plan, the waterfront is now Donald's front yard -- one part of an overall
vision that revitalized the city while curbing urban sprawl. But the
first phase was convincing skeptical developers to
adopt smart growth components in their designs.
Those ideas, like
denser construction and narrow streets, are hallmarks of New Urbanism
-- a design philosophy that proponents say can create a greater sense
of community, make better use of precious land, and get residents out
of their cars.
In the beginning,
Suisun's unconventional ideas had builders scratching their heads. The
idea of building a house "upside-down" -- with office and
bedroom downstairs, and kitchen and living room on top -- ran against
conventional wisdom. But the leap of faith paid off...
Donald's dream house
is slightly more traditional, with a living room and kitchen on the
same floor as his shop, and small living area and master bedroom on
the second story. The homes are close together, with smaller yards allowing
for more density, but that doesn't bother Donald.
With residents like
Donald singing the praises of their communities new and unconventional
design, other cities and towns across the Central Valley might have
a thing or two to learn from Suisun's success
Developer Tom DiGiovanni
of Heritage Partners agrees. He was inspired to develop a New Urbanist
project in the small college town of Chico.
Like all communities
in the Central Valley, Chico is grappling with its own growth issues.
And to solve them the city's planners arethinking outside the residential
Tom took his "good
design" cues from the old part of town and created an eye-catching
housing development. The
Doe Mill neighborhood is called a T-N-D -- or traditional neighborhood
design. The architecture is inspired by older homes of the 30s and 40s,
and come in bright colors. Garages are detached and placed in back,
allowing for more homes per lot. The streets are narrower to discourage
speeding and most of the homes have a large front porch.
The project not
only conveys an old fashioned look, but also an old fashioned sense
of community where everybody knows their neighbor.
Jim Horne lived
in a large house on several acres for thirty years -- but after a fifteen
minute tour, he was sold on Doe Mill. Homes like Jim's are being snapped
up not just for their smart design, but also for their affordability.
And if developers like Tom and others who've embraced New Urbanism have
their way, there will be more to come in the future.