Packin' in the People
Welcome to LASN's Downtown issue. In this issue
we celebrate several projects that bring communities
together. Slower traffic, centralized amenities, the
feeling of harmony and a sense of place, downtowns
are an evolving phenomenon that are sometimes
very cool, and more and more are being touted as
the sustainable foundation for human growth and
visitors from outside the area as it does from the
Like I said . . . I get it: central amenities, centralized
utilities; fun food and family all within walking
distance. The allure is great and the community is
vibrant. Sustainable, however, it is not. Oh, I'm sure
that a great deal of the landscape is sustainable, in
that it is xerophytic, low maintenance and capable
In a recent editorial meeting for LASN's upcoming of filtering stormwater. However, there is not one
'Green' issue, we reviewed a planned mixed-use thing in that community that is not imported; that's
community project near Tianjin, China. What the rub.
caught my eye, and became the motivation for
There is a great cry out there for environthis column, was the plan involved moving more
than 50,000 people into a 1.042 square mile area, mentalism . . . Cut the sprawl. Centralize
about half of which was a lake and wetlands. The community. Save and protect wilderness. On paper
project was submitted specifically for the Green . . . Good. But good is relative as was pointed out
issue, however, the elephant in the room was how in a news item that came in too late to make this
a project packing 50,000 plus people into less than issue: "Concerns over Loss of Wetlands and Prairie,"
a half square mile (320 acres) section of the area which you can find at LandscapeOnline.com. It
could be sustainable? Certainly the project was discusses the impact on the environment from
not self-sustainable, especially when it appeared expanding farmlands. In effect, as communities
that the project was completely surrounded by centralize and densify, farmlands centralize and then
similar developments. Over the past several years I expand into the surrounding lands and habitats.
have written many times about the New Urbanism Cause and effect. Yin and yang. Building up does
movement, where developments are being built in not reduce the need to carve out the wilderness. It
which private property is measured by the amount just transfers the cause from sprawl to agriculture.
of interior living space, and landscape is described Unfortunately, history shows us that when crop
in terms of public property. Some of these project production becomes too centralized, it also become
are actually pretty cool, and many are chock full susceptible to plight . . .
of sustainable elements and recipients of enough
Now, before I get all into doomsday scenarios
LEED Gold, Silver and Platinum points to make
one think they were paving the streets with the and lose the train of thought . . . This issue is about
downtown development and the projects inside
are great examples of how downtowns can be that
In southern California, not far from where I central point of community. But the great thing
live, is a development called the Spectrum. This about a great downtown is having a great residential
development, or more accurately, this community, area to retreat to at the end of the day. There is no
is a couple of square miles in area and contains doubt that having a central area to gather resources
numerous apartments, an industrial section and and come together for industry and entertainment is
in the middle a great outdoor mall with retail, both desirable and efficient. My point is that, unlike
entertainment and restaurants enough to serve the that commercial where the little girl is so sure that
surrounding inhabitants. I get it. Much cleaner and "more, more, more" is always better, packing 50,000
way less dense than anything I have seen in NYC. people into a square mile is not an ideal downtown,
It is really a nice area to visit and, I imagine, to and adding a little wetland to the project certainly
live in. The tallest apartment is maybe five stories, does not make it sustainable . . .
God Bless . . .
with a few commercial buildings reaching up to a
dozen stories or so with maybe 5,000 people living
in the community. We often visit the mall for
George Schmok, Publisher
dinner, shopping and a movie. It draws as many
John 8:45 … "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me…"
12 Landscape Architect and Specifier News
Editorial Administrative Assistant
Associate Editor/Digital Information
University of Georgia
Buck Abbey, ASLA
Associate Editor: Ordinances
Green Laws Org.
Russ Adsit, FASLA
Executive Director, IECA
Janet Lennox Moyer, IALD
Don Roberts, FASLA
Lois E. Schmok
David Brian Linstrum
Circulation / Fulfillment
Web / Tech Manager
Web / Tech Assistant
Chief Operations Officer C.O.O.
714-979-LASN (5276) x113 • 714-979-3543 (Fax)
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