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Old 04-02-2013, 08:54 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ciceropolo View Post
Newer 'urban' attempts with cheaper mass produced construction techniques of 'new urbanist' designs in some cities just don't have the character - due to it being often like a large 'swatch' by same developer - that these older cities neighborhoods of east coast seem to display. Perhaps it is just the aging process itself as the built environment starts dictating subtle cues of outdoor organic growth to weave itself into over time.
I think you can get an urban feel without having huge variety. Look at the street view I linked to of Port Richmond in Philly. You can go for many, many blocks and 95% of the homes will be basically identical rowhomes, minus little bits of remuddling people have done over the years. Philly is full of neighborhoods like this, where one developer (from the late 19th century onwards) developed dozens of blocks simultaneously. You can find similar vast swathes of identical housing (to a slightly lesser degree) in cities like Baltimore and NYC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Komeht View Post
This cannot be stressed enough and it is something NIMBY's especially don't get. Urbanity needs to be contiguous to be successful. One dead block will absolutely kill a street unless there is something extraordinary on the other side (extremely rare).

NIMBY's often think a compromise is "we'll let you build on this block, but you can't touch the next block". That kind of compromise kills cities. There is no point in it. For cities to be successful you must have continuous activity and interest that keeps drawing people down the next block. A dead zone, whether it is a parking lot, a dangerous housing project, or featureless wall or some other kind of blight has far reaching effects.
In my experience, NIMBYs don't often clamor for surface parking. If they have a mixed-use neighborhood, and they start thinking there is a "parking problem" they may want to have a garage put in off of the main commercial thoroughfare, but given such parking is typically for "tourists" who come to the neighborhood to access the commercial district, they don't benefit.

What happens more often is developers seek to get variances to cut down on parking requirements in zoning, and locals block the variance and get the development shut down entirely. But it's not like more autocentric development happens as a result - it's more like development is slowed down overall.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:59 AM
 
Location: Pasadena, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Komeht View Post
Yup. I see this a LOT around here. The buildings going up in the last decade are better (not brilliant) but much better than the disaster of the previous 50 years. But there are SOOO many surface parking garages that there are only a few cohesive pockets. An observant person would notice in about 15 minutes exactly what is happening. You get a little pocket of urbanity maybe for a block or two, then a surface parking lot - and it just kills everything. No one walks to the next block even though there may be a few things of interest because no one will cross the parking lot willingly.

This cannot be stressed enough and it is something NIMBY's especially don't get. Urbanity needs to be contiguous to be successful. One dead block will absolutely kill a street unless there is something extraordinary on the other side (extremely rare).

NIMBY's often think a compromise is "we'll let you build on this block, but you can't touch the next block". That kind of compromise kills cities. There is no point in it. For cities to be successful you must have continuous activity and interest that keeps drawing people down the next block. A dead zone, whether it is a parking lot, a dangerous housing project, or featureless wall or some other kind of blight has far reaching effects.
Really depends on the size of the parking lot... if it takes up the whole block, I could see that. If it is just a single lot, you have to have a seriously mental illness to refuse to cross it - especially if you know there are things of interest on the other side.

I agree cohesiveness helps improve neighborhoods and surface lots can hurt it, but I've never been stopped from reaching a destination due to a parking lot.
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Old 04-02-2013, 09:04 AM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
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Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
Really depends on the size of the parking lot... if it takes up the whole block, I could see that. If it is just a single lot, you have to have a seriously mental illness to refuse to cross it - especially if you know there are things of interest on the other side.

I agree cohesiveness helps improve neighborhoods and surface lots can hurt it, but I've never been stopped from reaching a destination due to a parking lot.
I think there's a difference between coming across one single parking lot in an otherwise cohesive urban fabric and coming across parking lots intermittently within a few blocks' walk. The latter would certainly deter me from walking to some degree.
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Old 04-02-2013, 09:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
Really depends on the size of the parking lot... if it takes up the whole block, I could see that. If it is just a single lot, you have to have a seriously mental illness to refuse to cross it - especially if you know there are things of interest on the other side.

I agree cohesiveness helps improve neighborhoods and surface lots can hurt it, but I've never been stopped from reaching a destination due to a parking lot.
You can observe this by walking around. Dead zones, even relatively small ones that on paper don't look bad end up being an enormous deterant. It's not that you wouldn't cross a parking lot. It has to do with the psychology of walking. When there is a contiguous environment that is pedestrian friendly, people willing keep walking. But as soon as there is an impediment, they stop. It could be anything, a physical barrier, a dark alley seen as hostile, a street with no sidewalk, or a large block of surface parking... Unless there is something extraordinarily interesting most people will simply not cross the barrier. And if most people won't cross then the other side never benefits from the foot traffic and never attracts the business, and never develops the interesting street life that attracts people.

Ask anyone who runs a small business that depends on foot traffic and they will tell you the same thing. Urbanity needs to be contiguous and it is something missed by a lot of urban planners these days.
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Old 04-03-2013, 12:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Komeht View Post
You can observe this by walking around. Dead zones, even relatively small ones that on paper don't look bad end up being an enormous deterant. It's not that you wouldn't cross a parking lot. It has to do with the psychology of walking. When there is a contiguous environment that is pedestrian friendly, people willing keep walking. But as soon as there is an impediment, they stop. It could be anything, a physical barrier, a dark alley seen as hostile, a street with no sidewalk, or a large block of surface parking... Unless there is something extraordinarily interesting most people will simply not cross the barrier. And if most people won't cross then the other side never benefits from the foot traffic and never attracts the business, and never develops the interesting street life that attracts people.

Ask anyone who runs a small business that depends on foot traffic and they will tell you the same thing. Urbanity needs to be contiguous and it is something missed by a lot of urban planners these days.
North San Jose sees this all the time. Dense residential block "island-ed" by large business parks (with wide parking lots) or by wide, high-speed (if not legally, then actually) streets.

As to the OP, I'd say urban "feel" is a matter of spatial relations; urban environments make you feel more crowded-in or smaller. So, an old European town with densely packed buildings and thin streets and San Francisco, with its wide streets and tall buildings can both "feel" urban.
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Old 04-03-2013, 01:06 PM
 
Location: St. Louis, MO
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I personally feel that density leads to a more urban feel in most cases.
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Old 04-04-2013, 02:29 PM
 
Location: Denver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
What are some examples of low structural density but a lot of height?
Uptown Houston
Post Oak Boulevard, Houston, TX - Google Maps
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Old 04-05-2013, 07:16 PM
 
Location: Laurentia
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A block composed of 2-story buildings can look very urban if the streets are narrow and there isn't any yard. Similarly, a place can look very urban if there are a lot of high-rises that are more spread out than the Philadelphia rowhouses. On balance, though, I'd say that height is more important for urban feel. In cities I've gone to, I've seen stretches with high structural density that look urban, but then when I go into the downtown with the high-rises it looks more urban, often reaching a different league of urbanity. High-rise buildings just scream "urban" to me, and I can't say the same of rowhouses. There's nothing that can compare to the urban feel of being able to look up and perceive that you're in a deep urban canyon. You can't get that with 2 story or even 5 story buildings.

This is even supported by popular culture - when Simcity trailers and other videos depict "urban", it's usually densely-packed high-rises with glamorous urban canyons.

Honestly, this scene from Houston and this scene from Century City both feel slightly more urban to me than this scene from Brooklyn or this scene from Philadelphia.
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Old 04-05-2013, 08:20 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricius Maximus View Post

This is even supported by popular culture - when Simcity trailers and other videos depict "urban", it's usually densely-packed high-rises with glamorous urban canyons.

Honestly, this scene from Houston and this scene from Century City both feel slightly more urban to me than this scene from Brooklyn or this scene from Philadelphia.
But, an urban canyon implies dense structural density. The Houston and Century City views have buildings that are rather scattered, almost to the extent of being a vertical high-rise office park (yes, I'm exaggerating). Visually impressive, but no feeling of crowdedness. The Brooklyn and Philly views are a bit hard to compare, they're structural dense, but those are residential streets, while the Houston and Century City views are places that people from elsewhere would visit. The Brooklyn street feels more urban than the Philly as the buildings are twice the height, mostly.
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Old 04-05-2013, 08:34 PM
 
Location: Laurentia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
But, an urban canyon implies dense structural density.
True, but my point is that height is an integral component. You don't see low-height development promoted as the pinnacle of urbanity even if it is structurally dense. Of course urban canyons have both characteristics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
The Houston and Century City views have buildings that are rather scattered, almost to the extent of being a vertical high-rise office park (yes, I'm exaggerating). Visually impressive, but no feeling of crowdedness.
To my perspective crowdedness is less important to urbanity than big, visually impressive high rises. Vertical development, even scattered, just screams urban to me, and if anything the scatteredness intensifies the urbanity, because I can see the buildings more clearly. The open space between the buildings provides a contrast that highlights just how big the buildings are, but it's not open enough to look more like a forest than an urban area. The big, wide road helps in those scenes as well. The amount of open space that marks the transition from urban to not urban will vary based on your perspective. I've just given my own.
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