‘Urban Mixed-Use’ Developments Do Not Deliver On Their Promises

March 23, 2016

There is something we tend to overlook about the portrayal of extra terrestrials in fiction; they have no individuality. Each different race of aliens is composed of individuals who are identical to one another, they fly in ships that all resemble one another, and they even dress in the same clothes. Apparently, somewhere along the evolutionary spectrum, individuality becomes a hindrance to progress.

Could we be seeing the beginning of this hindrance in the real world? If the ubiquitous ‘urban mixed use’ developments popping up around the country are to be believed, then the answer is yes. These developments are failing in their attempt at being dense, walkable, urban centers, and are instead leading to traffic congestion, predictable and overused design elements, and the death of idiosyncratic and individualistic neighborhoods.

These mixed-use developments are built to resemble different architectural styles, but the styles are only skin deep; there’s no warmth, no soul anywhere to be found. They are big budget movies with a story that goes nowhere. At their core, all of these developments are the same. So what do we do? How do we alter the evolutionary process that leads to us all with bald heads, silver jump suits, and driving the celestial equivalent to a midsize sedan?

According to Richard Reep, an architect with VOA associates, Inc., we can't try to prevent these mixed-use developments from springing up--its too late for that--but, instead, we need to work to individualize them. Just because you started with break-and-bake cookies doesn’t mean you can’t add some personal touches and change the final product. Slight alterations to a path here or a building there can add a touch of character that might just be exactly what is needed. Enough of these touches, and the product changes entirely.

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