IBJ Story on New Urbanist project in Bloomington

The Indianapolis Business Journal has a report (including 10 photos) on a new urbanist project in Bloomington. The article is generally positive and features the developer as someone willing to engage the community rather than fight it. Another nice point was the exposing of the silly zoning standards that exist in nearly every city in Indiana. The exchange goes as follows:

Press needed community support. The development, though consistent with the surrounding area, was inconsistent with Bloomington zoning standards, which called for suburban-style development. The lot sizes, setbacks from the street and street widths Press asked for and was granted in August 2004 were all below the city’s minimum requirements.

Press argued that his requests were consistent with the neighborhood; it was the suburban-style requirements in the zoning ordinance that didn’t fit. Neighbors backed him up in letters and at city meetings.

“Why require bigger lots when smaller lots are actually more in keeping with what’s around it?” Micuda asked. “That’s very intuitive to planners and architects, but you have to show it to the neighbors. [Press and his architects] were able to do that very successfully.”

In the future, builders might have an easier time. Early this year, Bloomington revised its standard zoning requirements to allow narrower lots and reduced setbacks. It also added a “traditional subdivision” option that would make it easier for New Urbanism projects to get approval.

“We put that in place largely because of the lessons we learned [from South Dunn Street] and because of how much people liked Matt’s project,” Micuda said.

The development also included “Granny Flats” for possible rental units in order to satisfy the need for less expensive housing. New Urbanism can be criticized as being over-nostalgic or architecturally staid, but I have few problems with an infill project like this. A return to the fundamental design of a pre-auto society has to be seen as a positive in general.

IBJ Photo Robin Jerstad

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