On Tuesday, March 6, Brent Toderian, former city planner for Vancouver and now independent planning consultant to communities of all sizes around the world, spoke at Red River Theatres to an audience of about 100 planners, architects, landscape architects and others from across the state about density. The event was presented by PS21 of Portsmouth, and funded in large part by New Hampshire Housing (and others). Plan NH was a partner.
When done well, density is a great tool for addressing myriad challenges, including creating affordable places to live, fluctuating energy costs, climate change and its consequences, the aging/changing population, public health, and in many places, a loss of community identity.
Toderian used a multitude of images from around the world, including Portsmouth (where he had spent the day before), to illustrate some of his ideas. As he himself admitted, it was like a “fire hose” of information.
At its heart, density starts with the alignment of land use and mobility: how is the land to be used, and how do people move in, around, and out of it? Toderian prioritizes people on foot (and we at Plan NH add people in wheelchairs to this top priority), then people on bicycles, then public transportation, then goods, and then cars. If the land use emphases “nearness” – that things we need are nearby, it is easier to walk. It is critical that these two concepts be developed together for a given project – or community planning in general.
In addition, density done well includes good design, both architectural and of the space itself – the “public realm” – what does it look like at eye-level? Is it interesting (eg, a mix of things), comfortable (trees?)? Is it easy to get about?
Finally, density done well includes amenities and a diversity of uses and designs (different, but compatible) – places to live, green spaces, services and more.
Todearian’s talk the evening before in Portsmouth (which was very similar) will be posted on PS21’s website soon. We encourage you to take the time to view it.
This article first appeared in Plan NH’s March 7 2018 newsletter.