Intro to Traditional Neighborhood Development

Smart growth isn’t simply a matter for cities to discuss and work toward, it can be used at the township and borough level to encourage sustainable suburbs. In more rural regions, Traditional Neighborhood Development has taken hold in the planning process for smart communities.

The PA Municipalities Planning Code defines Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) as follows:

“Traditional neighborhood development, an area of land developed for a compatible mixture of residential units for various income levels and nonresidential commercial and workplace uses, including some structures that provide for a mix of uses within the same building. Residences, shops, offices, workplaces, public buildings, and parks are interwoven within the neighborhood so that all are within relatively close proximity to each other. Traditional neighborhood development is relatively compact, limited in size and oriented toward pedestrian activity. It has an identifiable center and a discernable edge. The center ofthe neighborhood is in the form of a public park, commons, plaza, square or prominent intersection of two or more major streets. Generally, there is a hierarchy of streets laid out in a rectilinear or grid pattern
of interconnecting streets and blocks which provide multiple routes from origins to destinations and are appropriately designed to serve the needs of pedestrians and vehicles equally.”

Traditional neighborhoods have several physical features that are recognizable: short front yard setbacks, street walls, and multiple transportation choices (cars, bicycling and walking). Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But what are the objectives?

Communities utilize TND to address concerns in several fields: transportation, safety, sociability, housing access, visual character and identity. For transportation, TND’s reduce the number of commuter miles because of access to public transit and biking which also leads to decreased traffic congestion. TNDs see less crime within their communities because of the secure areas that can easily be surveilled. These neighborhoods promote socialization across diverse groups of people and build a sense of community. One of the most important aspects of TNDs is the variety and affordability of the units. Housing types often associated with TNDs include apartments built over garages and apartments over stores or offices. These scattered units can help meet the needs for rental units without overwhelming an area with massive apartment complexes. The opportunity for creating more affordable housing arises from the higher densities found in TNDs and by the inclusion of rental units and ownership housing units, like condominiums and single family attached housing, in the housing mix.

To learn more about Traditional Neighborhood Development or to see pictures of Lehigh Valley TNDs, check out the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s report here. This fall, Renew Lehigh Valley will be hosting a conference on smart growth and our keynote speaker will be urban planner and specialist in Traditional Neighborhood Design, Tom Comitta. Look for more information soon about registering for the conference!

Posted on September 5, 2013, in Housing, Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Regions, Trends, Urbanism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Great overview of TND’s. This is something we are way behind in building here or even encouraging in a meaningful way here in the Lehigh Valley. I’ve visited two of the developments highlighted in the LVPC guide. I hope we can attract this type of development in Lower Macungie.

    You mention samples from the LV… unfortunately I think almost all the examples provided are located outside. I am not aware of one true TND in Lehigh County. I am unaware of any in Northampton. Bedminster square is one of my favorites. Are there any true integrated TND’s in the Lehigh Valley?

  2. I’m not sure where this project currently stands, but TND was proposed in Bethlehem Township this summer:

  3. I’m hoping to see a connection between mixed-use building development and public transportation. Until the public embraces bus service as a shared identity (not just for the poor) that makes life easier (no more worry about where to park), I don’t see urban landscape changing any time soon.

  4. I’m familiar with that development. I try to keep up with it through the planning process in the papers. I’m not sure if I’d call it a true TND. I think it takes some cues from TND but in the end it isn’t a TND. In many ways I’m very wary of developers throwing around certain terms like “mixed use” or “Traditional Neighborhood Development” cause they are feel good labels. I believe true mixed use and TND’s are wonderful. And something I hope we get here in LMT. And again I’ve seen some really well done examples nearby. But I fear developers have started throwing around certain smart growth labels and terms where they simply do not apply. We have some examples here in LMT. Hamilton Crossings for one and even worse projects like the Remington Allen Organ project. Allen organ was at one time billed as a “Mixed use” development. When it became obvious it was an almost egregious mis-use of the term the label morphed into a “duel use” project. (To my knowledge “duel use” is a pretty meaningless term, so you can make it mean whatever you want) In LMT it meant that rather then an integrated project it’s a typical commercial strip ‘smushed’ together with garden apartments. No integration. No compatibility. Some lip service to walkabilty. ect. ect.

    I suppose cues to good design is better then status quo?. . . And it’s a step in the right direction. But I’m vary wary of mis-labeling projects. And in some ways feel it can do more harm then good. Esp when local leaders just accept mis-labeling. What happens then is the community thinks it’s getting smart growth when it isn’t or it’s getting a watered down version.

    Jaindl actually called his warehouse project in LMT “smart growth” and a ‘mixed use’ project in the papers. To me that project represents one of the few land-uses where Euclidean zoning (the exact opposite of mixed use) is absolutely necessary. The development has zero integration. In fact it represents taking fundamentally incompatible uses (warehouses and housing) and putting them way to close together. Mixed use is all about reducing buffers on uses that within the right context can be compatible and integrated in a meaningful way. Simply connecting two separate incompatible uses with sidewalks doesn’t make something mixed use.

    One of the solutions in Jaindl’s plan B (which is better then nothing once we knew we couldnt stop the plan) is to build 15 foot high berms around the warehouses. So rather then an integrated project where you can reduce buffers we’re actually building physical barriers. And I was supportive of it. Berms were an item I thought critical. Since it’s the only option we have to protect neighbors. Strip commercial, warehousing and residential are simply not compatible uses.

  5. Here is a blogpost I did on one of my favorite true mixed use developments in the suburban setting located relatively nearby in Lancaster.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: