Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Evening with Richard Bernhardt

Last night, Chapel Hill on Prince Street hosted the 5th in a series of six lectures hosted by the RRCDC in their Reshaping Rochester! Planning for the Public Realm series. The speaker this time was Richard Bernhardt, the executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Department of Nashville/Davidson County.

Mr. Bernhardt is a town planner who strives to preserve, create, and enhance community character. Sustainable communities, neighborhoods, and places rely on community input, context-based land use decisions, and traditional neighborhood design principles. Planning policies serve to enhance sense-of-place and quality of life by building upon the character of the community versus standard land use and density based policies. The focus of his speech was the transect/character based comprehensive planning practiced in Nashville-Davidson.

Mr. Bernhardt proposed a five ingredient recipe for comprehensive regional planning based on the Urban-Rural Transect (more on the transect itself later). The ingredients themselves seem like the simple common sense necessary for any reasonable plan to succeed, but elaboration on the topics reveals some intricate pro-urbanist influence.

Nashville Flavored Comprehensive Planning:
  • Begin with the Public
  • Establish a Vision
  • Be Proactive
  • Be Thorough and Consistent
  • Make it Easy to Do the Right Thing

Beginning with the public largely entails educational efforts like this absolutely excellent (and now an Urban Resource on the sidebar) Neighborhood Guidebook. This very to the point, yet well developed and detailed manual helps everyone feel included in the design charrette process.

Establishing a vision means things like creating a master plan that supports compatible infill for example. Being proactive entails the use of various community characterization manuals to create true Jacobsian self-reinforcing city districts.

Being thorough and consistent manifests itself in the type of work done to prioritize sidewalk construction along all roads in the region. The consistency of priority stems from the transect. Making it easy to do the right thing involves the process of zoning (though its really more of a street level zoning or an abolition of large single use zoning, making it not really zoning at all) the planned areas in order to be effective.

The Transect

The Transect, developed by architect and urban planner Andres Duany, describes the built environment from the most natural and rural to the most urban areas across a region. The “built environment” that the Transect describes is comprised of four basic Community Elements – open space, neighborhoods, centers and corridors. Each of these Community Elements are found within most of the Transect Categories, but the scale, character, and intensity of the Community Element varies depending on the Transect Category in which it is located.
  • T1 - Natural
  • T2 - Rural
  • T3 - Sub-Urban
  • T4 - General Urban
  • T5 - Urban Center
  • T6 - Urban Core
  • SD - Special Districts

Some other assorted notes from Mr. Bernhardt's presentation in no particular format of coherence:

  • Utilization of Vision Workshops and Appearance Preference Surveys
  • Designated critical streets REQUIRE parking structures with liner buildings
  • Pedestrian first streets may not have parking entrance/exit
  • Developing small block groups to respect scale and historic structures with building height and terraced setbacks regulations
  • Use of form based codes to pay attention to the street scape (Bedford Avenue UDO)
  • Buildings built as a result of Urban Design Overlays increased taxable value 75% in 5 years vs. 27%, the county average

I was told the RRCDC has finished Rochester's planning document surrounding the work done in the Downtown Design Charette. You can review the document at their public office at the Hungerford Complex on East Main Street. I am waiting to hear from their staff on how to procure a copy. Posters of the core drawing are still available for $10. The next speech shifts gears significantly and focuses less on the built environment (though you could argue it is still man-made). Walter Hood, professor of Landscape Architecture will be presenting on the topic of improving Urban Green Space at the Visual Studies Workshop just up Prince Street.

This weekend promises to be a busy one for the blog as I will be taking Amtrak on Saturday for the first time in almost 18 years. I will also be doing a real-time case study of Syracuse before shuffling off to small-scale Cooperstown for a turn-of-the-century baseball experience featuring our own Rochester Red Wings.

1 comment:

CWhittaker said...

It was good seeing you on Tuesday night. I went to talk to Rich after the lecture for a few minutes. We discussed briefly the possibility for enhanced transit within the inner loop, since he had worked on something similar in Orlando. Also, since I had done an internship in grad school for Orange County, we knew some of the same people.