I'm back from my favorite town...Savannah, and new thoughts on odonomy abound (more later). I just spent a week surveying great developments in South Carolina and Georgia.
The development work I was most struck with were the interesting developments on the Marietta Street Corridor in Atlanta and DPZ-planned Habersham, near Beaufort, SC (all the photos here are of Habersham).
The biggest surprise of the trip was my first visit to Hilton Head Island, which I may blog more about later. Hilton Head showed me that a sustainable type of sprawl actually exists. Its really remarkable job integrating infrastructure for bike/ped transport was some of the most stellar I've ever seen. Of course, Hilton Head was built for bike use from its inception, and its relentlessly controlled planning represents a resort-style urbanism (or sustainable sprawlism?), the kind that is way out of the adoptable range and integrative capacity of most suburban communities. But the respect to the landscape was superb. Hilton Head's nearly unbroken sea pine canopy and high standards for vegetated screening are a work of amazement. You really do get the impression that alligators coexist happily with humans in that sprawl. I'm surprised as a planner that I haven't heard more about Hilton Head, especially as we are now increasingly confronted with the problem of sustainably "retrofitting" our suburbs.
Both Hilton Head and Habersham made me appreciate the potential of landscape design to make sprawl more sustainable...and a rich experience - the kind that appeals strongly to most Americans. Call it golf-cart urbanism if you like, but I really like it when golf-course tested landscape architects get involved in urban design. The results are very interesting, and I was quite surprised at the level of thought we can glean from these experts to carry over into our TOD's and urban developments.
So far, Habersham is the best TND sprawl I've seen (but...my...what beautiful and interesting sprawl!). While Habersham for sure appeals to the second home 55 and over crowd that populates these places around Hilton Head, evidence abounds that a fair amount of families with children live in the neighborhood.
If you are an urban designer, landscape architect or planner, a good vacation to consider is a trip to Savannah/Hilton Head. You are guaranteed at least three treats: Savannah's Historic District (with its unparalleled grid of insights - yes more odonomic contemplation is in order!), Hilton Head Island's tremendously cohesive and well-integrated bike paths (with a trail system featuring boardwalks through the swampy areas, BMP's and parks), and Habersham.
Habersham, in a way, represents a more urbanistic approach to do Hilton Head, and it employs road and landscape design at a level of subtlety that left me there for hours carefully observing the details. To me it represents the best imaginative work of DPZ I've seen so far. You can tell they really went out of their way to prove that design for 18 mph can be interesting - never "one size" and "one solution" and always respecting and purposefully integrating the existing trees and site conditions.
If you do go... Do NOT forget...Be sure to bring a bike!
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