Developers look to create small towns in the big city

Here’s the latest post on Baldwin Township issues from Ground Level’s blogger there, Brooke Walsh:

In a recent post, I suggested Baldwin’s future developments may need to be a hybrid between the crammed developments of suburbia and the sparsely laid out plots of rural areas — smaller neighborhoods, with ample land surrounding them.

It turns out the suburbs have the same idea.

According to a recent Star Tribune article, half of the roughly two dozen developments that have gone up in the Twin Cities in the past year have fewer than 50 houses. It’s a big switch from the way developers used to do things.

The reason for the switch?

For one, smaller developments pose less risk for both the developer and buyer. Lower cost to build-out and fewer homes to sell means the developer is much more likely to recoup his money. Buyers, likewise, want the houses around them to be sold. It turns out buyers are tired of sitting in half empty developments.

But the piece of the puzzle most relevant to Baldwin is this: according to the Star Tribune story, the main reason people are moving to these developments is because they want to feel a sense of community. They want to know their neighbors, and smaller developments help people engage each other better.

None of Baldwin’s developments were ever as massive as the Twin Cities projects these new mini-developments are beginning to replace, but it’s interesting that the very thing many are suggesting is important for small towns — the development of micro-communities — is also catching on in the big city. People want to feel connected to the place where they live, and a well-designed housing development can help with that.

But if the suburbs are able to offer a small neighborhood feel close to the city, how does Baldwin differentiate itself? Perhaps more parks and trails? Perhaps homes set close enough together to build community, but with ample backyards?

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