Thursday, October 23, 2003

New Urbanism Just Down the Street

In writing yesterday about the war over Lakewood's West End project, I suppose I did so with the mental backdrop of a not dissimilar east-side project opening this week just a few hundred yards from my house: Lyndhurst's Legacy Village. Like Lakewood, Lyndhurst went through a small civic civil war a few years ago after TRW announced it would be moving its headquarters and putting the land up for sale. In the end, the struggle was resolved in favor of the developers, as these things generally are in America. But a major difference in the parcels was this: rather than having to condemn a century-plus-old developed area as "blighted," the challenge facing Legacy Village developers was to build on some of the last few acres of open wooded area in Cuyahoga County.

The "legacy" in the name refers to the fact that the land, until it was sold for development, was controlled by the descendents of legendary Cleveland-area Congresswoman Francis Payne Bolton. They did a nice job more than a decade ago in balancing commerce and nature by selling a major parcel to TRW for its headquarters, while still retaining an equally large portion at the corner of Richmond and Cedar Roads as nearly pristine land. I remember the first time I hiked through the area not long after moving to our house, exploring the ruins of what was once a giant Bolton estate, only to stumble upon the skeleton of what was probably a deer. It looked for all the world as if it had been there for decades. While as a walker and lover of the outdoors I'll of course miss that private wooded expanse (even if I never walked through it again, I would enjoy just walking or driving past it), the thinking person side of me can't pretend not to love the fact that there will now be another quality bookstore within walking distance of my house--even if the ersatz Middle American retro architecture of this "lifestyle center" (and you thought it was merely a shopping mall?) isn't very appealing. After all, retro architecture and building communities based on walking are both key components of what's come to be called the New Urbanism.


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