In the Town of Ayer, and across Massachusetts, across New England and the nation a new lifestyle movement is well underway; it is a shift towards a New Urban Lifestyle. People are discovering, rediscovering, appreciating and moving back into traditional compact and walkable town and city center neighborhoods.
The renewed interest in a life and lifestyle that is not designed around a completely automobile-dependent existence, but rather designed around a more traditional walkable and multi-modal transportation-oriented way of life.
The historic or traditional residential neighborhoods of Ayer, including the Hill District Neighborhood, the Grove Pond Neighborhood, the Acre neighborhood for example are currently experiencing a wave of new buyers and investors. These wonderful traditional Ayer neighborhoods display all the desirable New Urban Lifestyle (building, street & block) characteristics and qualities such as; traditional & highly connective urban street grid pattern, short walkable block lengths, narrow streets, good sidewalks, modest-scale homes of varying architectural styles, comfortable lot density, houses strongly address and uplift the neighborhood sidewalk & street, lots of traditional front porches for sidewalk and neighbor social interaction and cohesion, close and walkable proximity to Downtown Ayer & Main Street, within a 5-10 minute walk to commuter rail station.
The fine historic neighborhoods of Ayer that have survived the “darkest days of urban flight & suburban sprawl” are well-positioned for a noteworthy 21st century New Urban renaissance of reinvestment, restoration, preservation, renewal and neighborhood revitalization. The AOCED believes that over the next 7-10 years the historic neighborhoods of Ayer will emerge as the most desirable and high-value districts in the town and region.
The AOCED encourages the long-time residents, new residents, prospective builders & developers, potential investors and all those interested in New Urban Ayer and these magnificent historic neighborhoods to join in and participate in our ongoing Ayer Historic Neighborhood Urban Design & Architectural History Walking Tours that are scheduled weekly between May-October.
PRINCIPLES OF URBANISM
The principles of urbanism can be applied increasingly to projects at the full range of scales from a single building to an entire community.
- Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
- Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
- Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases
- Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
- A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys
- High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable
3. Mixed-Use & Diversity
- A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
- Diversity of people - of ages, income levels, cultures, and races
4. Mixed Housing
- A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity
5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design
- Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit
6. Traditional Neighborhood StructureDiscernable center and edge
- Public space at center
- Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
- Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
- Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.
(The Rural to Urban Transect - Smart Growth Development Pattern)
7. Increased Density
- More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
- New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities
8. Green Transportation
- A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
- Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation
- Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
- Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
- Energy efficiency
- Less use of finite fuels
- More local production
- More walking, less driving
10. Quality of Life
- Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.
Benefits of Urbanism
1. Benefits to Residents: Higher quality of life; Better places to live, work, & play; Higher, more stable property values; Less traffic congestion & less driving; Healthier lifestyle with more walking, and less stress; Close proximity to main street retail & services; Close proximity to bike trails, parks, and nature; Pedestrian friendly communities offer more opportunities to get to know others in the neighborhood and town, resulting in meaningful relationships with more people, and a friendlier town; More freedom and independence to children, elderly, and the poor in being able to get to jobs, recreation, and services without the need for a car or someone to drive them; Great savings to residents and school boards in reduced busing costs from children being able to walk or bicycle to neighborhood schools; More diversity and smaller, unique shops and services with local owners who are involved in community; Big savings by driving less, and owning less cars; Less ugly, congested sprawl to deal with daily; Better sense of place and community identity with more unique architecture; More open space to enjoy that will remain open space; More efficient use of tax money with less spent on spread out utilities and roads
2. Benefits to Business: Increased sales due to more foot traffic & people spending less on cars and gas; More profits due to spending less on advertising and large signs; Better lifestyle by living above shop in live-work units - saves the stressful & costly commute; Economies of scale in marketing due to close proximity and cooperation with other local businesses; Smaller spaces promote small local business incubation; Lower rents due to smaller spaces & smaller parking lots; Healthier lifestyle due to more walking and being near healthier restaurants; More community involvement from being part of community and knowing residents
3. Benefits to Developers: More income potential from higher density mixed-use projects due to more leasable square footage, more sales per square foot, and higher property values and selling prices; Faster approvals in communities that have adopted smart growth principles resulting in cost / time savings; Cost savings in parking facilities in mixed-use properties due to sharing of spaces throughout the day and night, resulting in less duplication in providing parking; Less need for parking facilities due to mix of residences and commercial uses within walking distance of each other; Less impact on roads / traffic, which can result in lower impact fees; Lower cost of utilities due to compact nature of New Urbanist design; Greater acceptance by the public and less resistance from NIMBYS; Faster sell out due to greater acceptance by consumers from a wider product range resulting in wider market share
4. Benefits to Municipalities: Stable, appreciating tax base; Less spent per capita on infrastructure and utilities than typical suburban development due to compact, high-density nature of projects; Increased tax base due to more buildings packed into a tighter area; Less traffic congestion due to walkability of design; Less crime and less spent on policing due to the presence of more people day and night; Less resistance from community; Better overall community image and sense of place; Less incentive to sprawl when urban core area is desirable; Easy to install transit where it's not, and improve it where it is; Greater civic involvement of population leads to better governance.