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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Utah New Urbanism

While Daybreak has been at the forefront of new urban development in the Salt Lake Valley, Daybreak is not the only community to attempt a traditional neighborhood design in Utah. Tooele, Farmington, Cedar City and St. George now have new urban communities in the works. These communities may have been proposed already at that time, but I am fairly certain that the developers were watching Daybreak's progress intently.

Heritage at Cedar City is a fairly ambitious master-planned community that will boast amenities similar to Daybreak's including trails, green space, and a community center. An interesting amenity of this community that I have not seen in other new urban communities are horse stables. Apparently there will be equestrian activities for residents to enjoy in this new community. The Heritage is part of a larger plan called Goodboro. This community will be built five minutes west of Cedar City on land that is fairly desolate. I know the man that sold them this land and believe me they payed a pretty penny for it. They will place around 4000 units on this property with an average density of 10 units per acre - definitely dense for this area of Utah. Much like Daybreak, Goodboro will take a long time to finish. The developers estimate that the community will be built out in about 11 years.

Another proposed development in Southern Utah is the Elim Valley community. This supposedly new urban community will be built on the current airport in St. George after the new airport has been built in a different location. Right now it is just in the planning phase and they will not even break ground on the development until 2011. They do have a map of the proposed layout of the community. Again, the development is no where near the scope of Daybreak, but then no one owns so much land near a city like Kennecott. The real draw to this community is the surroundings. With a beautiful desert lake, national parks, green forests, and many other recreational opportunities just minutes away, this community will be able to attract residents easily.

In Davis County a small traditional neighborhood has emerged called The Preserve at Farmington Greens. The Preserve is relatively small with only 140 lots on 90 acres near land designated as wetlands by the US Army Corps of Engineers. This small community displays many new urbanistic features, but as it is so small cannot achieve the scale of amenities or degree of new urbanism that Daybreak can. I have yet to visit this community, but I hear that it is quite nice and a little cheaper than Daybreak. Nice option if you want to live in Davis County.

The final new urban community in Utah (that I am aware of) is Overlake in Tooele. While this community claims to be representative of new urbanism, it has fallen far short of the mark. The craftsmanship of the homes leaves something to be desired. The materials being used are not sustainable and the architecture is is horrible. Almost all of the homes/townhomes are the same beige color and the grass is weed ridden. To Overlake's credit many of the features of new urbanism are present: front porches, walkable distances to parks/greenspace, alleyways etc. This community is in its infancy, but it is definitely not off to a good start. Actually, I felt sorry for a lot of the homeowners at Overlake. I visited the community today after visiting a friend in town and found that many of the homes have lost their roof shingles or vinyl siding in the gusting winds that were blowing through the area. Hopefully the developers will deliver on their promise of new urbanism, but they will definitely have to do better in their second phase.

Smart growth in Utah is off to a decent start with Daybreak and plans for other communities that are being drawn up, but new urban communities are not easily built. One of the biggest hurdles is actually making mixed use communities legal. Financing such a development is risky and marketing it to people who are used to suburbia and McMansions? A difficult endeavor to say the least. Kudos to those who take on risk to develop smart growth communities and to those who decide to live in a sustainable environment.

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