“New Villages,” as they were dubbed in the latest issue of The Futurist magazine by a planner Robert McIntyre, are compact, pleasantly urban settlements situated considerably away from city centers. They present some of the charms and facilities of cities, owning to their density, but have the primarily rural surroundings that were a major factor which drew people out to the suburbs, as well as the friendly atmosphere of a small town where you know all your neighbors.
The concept of New Villages presents certain similarities with the so-called “transit villages” that can already be spotted around the country. Beginning in the mid-’90s, when architects and local planners showed more and more interest in pedestrian-friendly, urban developments, transit villages began to spring up outside cities along revitalized rail lines, from Mission Valley near San Diego, to Ballston and Bethesda outside Washington, D.C.
Such villages were very appealing to young city workers and empty-nest parents. Their most important characteristics: They were eminently walkable, densely constructed without the feeling of insufficient space, and provided an offer of a real community atmosphere with plenty of common spaces.
The basic difference between transit villages and New Villages is their location: while transit villages are in most cases reinvented older suburbs that are close to cities, New Villages are promised to reinvent the sprawl further out.
The demand for such developments is real, and it’s only going to get bigger as consumer preferences suddenly shift away from the McMansions preferred by most boomers. Results of a study by the nonprofit Congress for New Urbanism show that, although less than 25 percent of middle-aged Americans are interested in living in dense areas, 53 percent of 24-34 year olds would decide to live in transit-rich, walkable neighborhoods, if they had the luxury of choice.