The Townhouse Center Inc. is a not-for-profit based in Miami whose mission is to build urban neighborhoods around the globe by promoting their fundamental building block: small, attached, prototypical, adaptable buildings.”
The above was taken from the About page of the Townhouse Center. A not-for-profit run by Andrew Frey, Executive Director. I met Andrew at an Urban Land Institute event in DC a few months ago. I obvioulsy like what he has to say and what he promotes because it is exactly how most of Brooklyn is organized and it has already achieved many of the Townhouse Center’s goals. Here is the rest of the Townhouse Center creed:
Urban neighborhoods like New York’s West Village or Upper West Side, Boston’s South End, Washington’s Georgetown, and areas of Chicago, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Singapore are beautiful, dense, pedestrian-centered, mixed-use, resilient places where people engage with each other, share ideas, and create economic opportunity and culture. Neighborhoods like these are what many people dream of for their city.
Building more of these neighborhoods should be simple – all are made up of the same general kind of building: townhouse, rowhouse, shophouse, brownstone, and other small, attached, prototypical, adaptable buildings that are reused for generations. Many cities have large areas with potential for this low- and mid-rise density, for example Miami recently adopted zoned regulations that allow townhouse development on more than 1000 acres.
But in recent decades we have built to the sky and the horizon – large, single-use towers and subdivisions designed to spread fixed costs. Local governments have exacerbated the situation by adding regulatory costs like required parking. In urban areas, large projects require assemblies of land cleared of small buildings and often left vacant for years. For example, downtown Miami has more than 30 vacant lots that are a half block or larger.
Townhouse Center believes that we should re-start building the buildings that add up to the urban neighborhoods people want. We are the first organization dedicated to sharing information about small-increment urban buildings in order to reduce costs and shift stakeholders’ focus to financial benefits and benefits in design, convenience, compatibility, sustainability, economic development, and culture.
Townhouse Center’s work complements other progressive urban planning and development policies – like smart growth, pedestrian-centered streets, mass transit and transit-oriented development, affordable housing, and green building. However, if we aim to implement all these other policies but continue to build large, single-use projects, we will not achieve the goal of urban neighborhoods that future generations will admire.