Old-Fashioned Towns Inspire Village-Style Neighborhoods

Article excerpt

ATLANTA _ As far as Mary Moulds is concerned, back alleys are back in style.

She's lived in a variety of suburban subdivisions, but until she moved into her new home in Peachtree City, Ga., three months ago, not one of her houses had an alley. Now, when she takes out the garbage, she finds it offers a chance to chat with her neighbors in her subdivision, Honeysuckle Ridge.

"That alley's fun," she said.

Honeysuckle Ridge's back alley is just one of several citified ideas that developers, builders and planners in communities scattered around metro Atlanta are transplanting to the suburbs through what some planners dub "village-style" developments. In Conyers, Ga., developer Alvin Vaughn is building an 84-home subdivision that will include sidewalks, a small neighborhood park, curbside trees and no cul-de-sacs. Henson Village, sandwiched between a shopping center and two more typical suburban subdivisions, is the first development to be built under Rockdale County's new "traditional neighborhood district" zoning regulations. In Roswell, Ga., developer Henry Hays is proposing a grocery store-anchored shopping center that will not look anything like a typical strip mall. Instead, his 180,000-square-foot project will spread shops among nine colonial-style brick buildings developed under the city's new "parkway village" zoning.

Some proponents of "village-style" development say they want to remake suburbia by steering away from cookie-cutter houses and strip malls. They say new suburbs should draw inspiration from old-fashioned towns and city neighborhoods, and combine different sizes and types of houses close to shops and offices.

"Your typical suburban (development) is exactly what we are trying to reverse," said David Lackey, former Rockdale planning director. He believes the new neighborhoods should create pedestrian-oriented communities to replace the car-centered ones that have sprawled across the suburbs since World War II.

"From an urban design standpoint, you'd like to have a sense of place," Lackey said.

That means designing subdivisions with streets laid out in traditional grids and connecting alleys instead of curving streets ending in cul-de-sacs. …