Traditional Neighborhood Development: It’s All About Density

Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) uses compact, mixed use development and high residential densities to achieve walkable, vibrant neighborhoods.

When they think of “compact” and “high-density” development, most people think of skyscrapers, high-rises, and millions of people: Manhattan. But that’s not the kind of density TND uses. A more useful model is downtown Brattleboro, Northampton, or Keene. Two- to four-story buildings with residential and commercial uses mixed in a central core, surrounded by a mix of single- and multi-family homes on small lots.

Technically, the minimum residential density for a neighborhood to feel “walkable” is about 4 units per acre (single-family homes on quarter-acre lots; the Round Lake Road TND at left is a little more dense than that). When you get upwards of 30 units per acre, things start to feel more urban (think Manhattan).
Putting commercial and residential properties in close proximity (apartments above retail and office space, for example) makes a downtown vibrant and useable by its residents. Ideally, some residents live, work, and shop largely in a walkable radius.

Before cars existed, people lived and worked within a much smaller radius than they do now. TND seeks to shrink that radius to pre-automobile levels, at least in part. Doing so has obvious environmental benefits—less driving means less gas—but it also has other, less tangible benefits. Residents who walk to work and errands run into their neighbors and know their shopkeepers and local officials. This leads to an increased sense to community.

That, after all, is TND’s ultimate goal: to create community.

(This is the third in a series of posts about TND. For background, read the first and second.)