(ATLANTA - Jun 24, 2009)
Andres Duany, founder of the internationally recognized planning firm Duany, Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), returned to the Atlanta Regional Commission today to present the findings from February’s design charrette for creating Lifelong Communities. In meetings with the ARC board, other local elected officials, planners and developers, Mr. Duany outlined the principles and design guidelines that grew out of a nine-day design charrette last February and discussed how to move from concept plan to implementation.
Mr. Duany encouraged local officials to take the time during the current slump to analyze what their communities will need in the future. “Whatever worked before, won't work now,” he said. “Now there is time to think, so it's a perfect time to do something different. Elected officials can really begin to understand what the emerging issues are and prepare accordingly.”
The Demographic Imperative
Like most other regions in the country, metro Atlanta’s older adult population will grow from one in 10 today to one in five by 2030. Not only will the region very quickly become home to more older adults, this growing senior population is like none before it. They expect and demand different things. As caregivers for their own parents, they have been well-educated about the challenges of growing older. They want to live in the communities they have helped develop and love, and they expect to have the options and choices they desire.
Current development patterns will not meet the needs of a rapidly changing population characterized by fewer households with children, more individuals who do not drive, more who no longer want to mow the lawn or deal with steps and more looking for services and opportunities for social interaction within their neighborhood. While metro Atlanta has made tremendous progress in creating vibrant, livable places through such efforts as ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative and the work of the Livable Communities Coalition, the rapid growth in metro Atlanta’s older adult population demands new and diverse housing options, transportation alternatives and community designs that promote active living. The Lifelong Communities Principles that emerged from the charrette can serve as a guide as local governments work to revise their codes and development policies to meet the needs, preferences and changing lifestyles of their residents as the population grows older.
Lifelong Community Principles
The February charrette brought together experts in aging, health, active living, housing, transportation, planning and architecture. Together this interdisciplinary team helped create standards that address how communities must be planned and designed to meet the needs of the nation’s rapidly growing older population.
Lifelong Communities incorporate seven core planning principles: connectivity, pedestrian access and transit, neighborhood retail and services, social interaction, varied dwelling types, opportunities for healthy living and consideration for existing residents. Communities must reweave a street grid pattern. This provides the most options for getting from one destination to another, reduces traffic and creates a viable street network for multiple modes of transportation. Increased pedestrian access within the local community can lead to vibrant streetscapes, destinations worth walking to, connected and safe sidewalks. Providing neighborhood retail and services within walking distance of residences reduces auto travel, increases walkability and creates sustainable community hubs. Physical spaces that provide opportunities for social interaction, such as parks, community centers and neighborhood gardens, help reduce isolation and foster a greater sense of community.
Diverse dwelling types within a community allow individuals to downsize, move from rental to ownership or find housing with supportive services including intensive care settings, like a nursing home, without having to leave the community. Healthy lifestyles require environments that promote physical activity, incorporate ready access to fresh fruit and vegetables through farmers’ markets and neighborhood groceries and provide for health clinics and medical offices within walking distance of residences. This transformation must occur in such a way that existing residents can remain in the community as change takes place.
Lifelong Communities transcend silos that have historically segmented services, community facilities, architecture, healthcare, public spaces, transportation and streetscape planning. Through thoughtful planning, good design and targeted programming, Lifelong Communities can foster lifelong mobility, lifelong social interaction and lifelong healthy living. Lifelong dwellings that incorporate elements that allow the building to change with its inhabitants, rather than inhabitants having to constantly find new dwellings as their needs change, and lifelong services complete the picture to create livable, accessible places for individuals of all ages, free of the types of barriers that all too often isolate older adults from others in the community and diminish quality of life.
The final charrette report, “Lifelong Communities: A Regional Guide to Growth and Longevity,” is available on ARC's Web site.