This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
The Seattle Times offers a run-down of the mixed success of mixed-use urban villages in the suburbs. Focusing on Redmond Ridge, Snoqualmie Ridge, and the Issaquah Highlands, the Times notes that, while the villages have succeeded in offering walkable neighborhoods, jobs have been slow to materialize:
“We did envision people taking their bikes or walking to work,” said Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, who lives on the Ridge. “We need to create an environment where there is a critical mass of a certain sector, like software or aerospace. Right now, the Ridge doesn’t rise to the ideal that most folks thought of.”
The developments were pushed during the 1980s and ’90s as a return to pedestrian centers of days past. Parks, narrow streets and convenient transit stations were designed to get residents out of their cars. Jobs and retail were supposed to encourage people to work and shop where they live. Essentially, urban villages would deliver what isolated subdivisions hadn’t — a sense of community.
I don’t think it’s actually possible to design a neighborhood or village or township where everyone can walk to work, for the simple reason that people change jobs too frequently these days. And with more and more families having two working parents, there’s an even greater likelihood that their jobs will be located miles apart from each other, let alone from their shared house. It’s not uncommon for people to change jobs every 2-3 years, and changing houses that often can be a real challenge, especially if it means disrupting your kids’ life.
Given that, I think we need to define success downard for these villages. If they reduce the number of car trips on evenings and weekends — trips to the bank, grocery store, etc. — they’ll have been successful. Also, links to transit are important. Being able to walk or bike to a transit stop is probably more useful than luring a software firm into the neighborhood, since it will give people more freedom to work where they want.