Thursday, October 29, 2009

A New "Old Town" Community

At my dinner the other night, I discovered the "new" old-town style of Mt. Laurel. The website describes Mt. Lauren as a "Traditional Neighborhood Development" or one that encompases Smart Growth and New Urbanism. Paraphrasing here a bit, the goal is to "get people out of their cars," provide destinations within walking distances of homes, and create a new town center to hold these amentities.

The 600-acre development is focused on sustainability and reportedly worked to save as many trees as possible; for those unable to save, the development reuses whenever possible. Lights are also designed to "protect the night skies" and provide sufficient light. Given that the skies don't really need protecting (ok, ignoring greenhouse gases, etc.), I assume the design is to allow for stargazing!

Amenities include a Fire Station...

(not a bad-looking fire station!)

Swimable/canoeable (yes, I made those words up) Spoonwood Lake and other outdoor park spaces

Schools and churches

Very cute shops (I totally want to check out the little Grocery store and Hardware store, but alas all were closed at 8PM). I also spied a bridal shop (fabulous looking windows), florist, and salon, with fantastic storefronts.

Homes are available in various styles, but most of the development (houses included) is very reminiscent of Craftsman style to me.

I enjoyed dinner at the Standard Bistro, a restaurant serving contemporary Southern cuisine focused on using fresh natural foods like local organic produce and free-frange and organic meats.

The restaurant and surroundings reminded me of Serenbe in Palmetto, Georgia, a similarly designed community focused on sustainability. (Note: Serenbe has received tons of press, well deserved IMHO, and rather than toss a few photos in, I'll probably do a full posting in the future. Suffice it to say, if we could afford to give up our jobs entirely and start afresh, I would try to convince Mr. Southern that we needed to move there.)

Interestingly, the Mt. Laurel development is a Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company project, led by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, co-founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism. The company has many international projects and has received quite a bit of press for their New Urban community designs.
click to view Midtown project page
One project you'd likely recognize is the oft-blogged Alys Beach Resort in Florida's Panhandle. I was fascinated to learn that many of the urban developments I've witnessed over the years in various cities were all DPZ projects: Kentlands and Diamond/Summit in Gaithersburg, MD, Legacy in Dallas, TX, Riverside in Atlanta, GA, Providence in Huntsville, AL, downtown Naples, FL, and West Palm Beach, FL. Jean, of Fine Art Daily, might be interested to learn that DPZ helped downtown Stuart plan for its future growth and preserve the historic courthouse.
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As a city-girl now living in the 'burbs, I'm in love with the idea of being able to walk to places. Mr. Southern, I'm sure, would not like the small yards. And, despite all the great press of sustainability, I'd guess not all of these projects are welcomed with open arms.

For those interested in learning more about urban planning and development, their website has an interesting reading list here and here. Fellow Atlantan Architecture Tourist has also blogged about New Urbanism here and here.

What do you think about it?


Note: all photos from DPZ Projects; the lighting was much too dark for my poor photography skills at Mt. Laurel!


  1. Very interesting! I'd love to see some houses like these in our town. Thanks for doing the research.

  2. I have some friends that live out there but I've never been! Thanks for sharing so many great photos.

  3. I believe it is a brilliant concept! We must focus on more sustainable urban living environments versus the sickening suburban sprawl.

  4. Thanks, I didn't know about this one. I think theses are great. But it makes me long for the real thing in a real urban environment. I have a low tolerance for sustainability marketing.

    Pardon if I've mentioned it before: Been to Glenwood Park? They even had a beer festival a few week ago. We should have been there.

  5. This would get me out of my car - I love walkable neighborhoods. They seem to have planned this really well. Very relaxing.

  6. Terry- I don't think you've mentioned it. Shoot that I missed the festival! Must check it out.

  7. I like this. It looks like it would be easy to get around on foot.

  8. I love the idea, but less keen on the idea that is so planned. Lacks some charm that comes with a little bit of grit if you know what I mean? Thanks for sharing, I didn't know about it!


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