New urbanism and gated communities

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Considering development trends in the postmodern city, Jill Grant explains “The traditional suburb is oriented to the car and family. / In many areas, however, alternative development approaches appeal to consumers. Among the options are New Urbanist developments and gated communities. While New Urbanism and gated enclaves reflect divergent planning principles, development practice reveals that they tend to occur in the same general areas and that they create residential environments with a great deal in common. Moreover, they respond to similar perceptions of crisis in the contemporary city” (p.482)

She acknowledges that: “Many would argue that New Urbanism and gated communities are in some ways opposites. For instance, the Congress for the New Urbanism (2005) suggests that in deciding which communities constitute authentic New Urbanist projects, the first premise is to “[r]ule out any project that is gated.” Because New Urbanism seeks to embrace the city, New Urbanists see gated communities as enclaves that shut the city out—and therefore as anathema. While New Urbanism advocates diversity and mixing, gated projects promise homogeneity and separate residential uses behind a veil of privilege.” (p.483)

However, Grant also points out “when we study New Urbanism and gated projects in Canada, we discover that despite their physical differences, they share many features and occupy common regions. Both types of projects reveal popular strategies that developers use for packaging new suburbs as attractive commodities. Both respond to the same fears and concerns about the contemporary city. As Sandercock suggested, “The current popularity of both the ‘new urbanism’ and gated communities is the latest manifestation of [a]…denial of diversity and fear of difference” (1999, 13). Both reflect a popular search for civility, character, and authenticity in the urban environment and a reliance on surveillance for social control in the contemporary city (Christopherson 1994). Like other planning movements of the previous century, New Urbanism and gated enclaves respond to the perceived loss of a sense of community in industrial cities (Morris 1996; Talen 2000). The desire for an imaginary or imagined community without conflict leads consumers to look for sanitized and nonthreatening suburban environments of the kind promised by these contemporary movements (Christopherson 1994; Knox 2005; Kohn 2004).” (p.893)

Turning more specifically to the Canadian context, Grant writes that “both project types most commonly represent affluent communities that adopt private design strategies to address public policy problems. Following Newman’s (1973) model, they employ design methods to reinforce social control and establish defensible space. Rather than offering general solutions to the crises that afflict contemporary urban [-p.894] development, these approaches meet the needs of particular niche markets in high-growth urban regions. As Giddens wrote, “In modern social life, the notion of lifestyle takes on a particular significance. The more tradition loses its hold, and the more daily life is reconstituted in terms of the dialectical interplay of the local and the global, the more individuals are forced to negotiate lifestyle choices among a diversity of options” (1991, 5). New Urbanism and gated developments represent lifestyle options for those with the resources to choose the kind of places they want to inhabit: domiciles for the successful.” (pp.893-894) Interesting!!!

Ref: Jill L. Grant (2007): Two sides of a coin? New urbanism and gated communities, Housing Policy Debate, 18:3, 481-501

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