Take a Walk

3/1/2006

Portsmouth's Northern Tier :: Think "Walkable Urbanity"

The new buzzword in planning and development, "walkable urbanity" is a descriptive term that encapsulates the pleasure derived from walking through a well-designed, interesting and safe urban area. In September 2005, Urban Land featured an essay written by Christopher Leinberger explaining the concept. Below is an excerpt:

"Just what is walkable urbanity? Since the rise of cities some 8,000 years ago, humans have tended to be willing to walk about 1,500 feet before pursuing an alternative means of transportation - a horse, a trolley, a bicycle, or a car. This distance translates into the equivalent of the amount of walking required to traverse about 160 acres - roughly the size of a superregional mall, including its parking lot. That is about the size, plus or minus 25 percent, of lower Manhattan, downtown Los Angeles, Atlanta and most other major downtowns in the country.

If the upper limit of a walkable area is 160 acres, what would make anyone want to walk it? Certainly no one is inspired to walk the distance from one end of a superregional mall parking lot to the other. The reason people will consider walking that distance is to engage in an interesting streetscape experience and to people watch along the way. It is the sights and sounds of the city that entice pedestrians to walk the many blocks of a downtown. It may even make them forget they are unintentionally getting some exercise.

Walking in a downtown streetscape environment can be an adventure, an experience, a movable negotiating session, a stroll, a romantic walk, a time to collect one's thoughts on the way to a meeting, or - one of the best things about walking downtown - an opportunity for an unexpected street encounter with an acquaintance. Business deals have even been known to be triggered by a chance meeting on a downtown street. The downtown walking experience is vastly different from the mind-numbing experience one gets in a climate and light controlled mall, especially after walking across one of the least pleasant modern landscapes: an asphalt parking lot.

Creation of the urbanity requires a complex mix of uses, including retail boutiques, hotels, grocery stores, housing, offices and artist studios, all brought close to the sidewalk, with different styles of well crafted architecture to experience along the way - architecture that is meant to be experienced up close"

Whether working on a residential or commercial project, DeStefano Architects carefully considers the size and scale of new structures as well as the materials used to create them so they appear to have always been a part of their surroundings. In addition we go out of our way to ensure wide acceptance of our projects by working closely with local committees and boards. Often, even before conceiving a commercial design, members of our team will meet with abutters, residents and local merchants to hear their thoughts and comments and solicit support. To learn more about DeStefano Architects visit www.destefanoarchitects.com or call 603-431-8701.



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