New Urbanism Is Popping up in the Strangest Places

Ever since the Department of Defense began privatizing its housing stock in 1996, members of the military dont all find themselves living in uniform, Army base-styled housing any more. The New York Times recently profiled a new military housing development, The Villages at Fort Belvoir, in Fairfax County. The first of the villages, Herriford Village with 171 houses and townhouses designed in a local Georgian Colonial style, was occupied last year:

It has a Main Street with shops and a clock tower, playgrounds, and village greens with open-air pavilions and centralized mailboxes where residents can socialize informally. There is not a tin hut or cinderblock house in sight.

A priority was designing a place that would foster a sense of community among the residents, deemed crucial for family morale when soldiers deploy overseas during wartime.

New Urbanists, who insist that the details of traditional design — porches and alleys and sidewalks — can help spin the supportive web of society, see a perfect client. “Military neighborhoods become ghost towns with heavy deployment,” said Joseph Scanga, a principal at Calthorpe Associates, which is working with the Army and the Navy. “They struggle more than average to build and maintain community.”

According to author William L. Hamilton, it is not clear yet whether The Villages at Fort Belvoir succeed in that mission. But it’s a social experiment worth watching.

(Hat tip to Larry Gross for forwarding this article.)

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