New Urban Lifestyles

New Urbanism in Ayer
New Urbanism in Ayer

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.

Ayer New Urban

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.

Ayer New Urban Grove Pond Neighborhood

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.

New England Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU-NE) 

Smart Growth Massachusetts      

Strong Towns


The principles of urbanism can be applied increasingly to projects at the full range of scales from a single building to an entire community.

1. Walkability

  • 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

2. Connectivity

  • 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 (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

9. Sustainability

  • 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.