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November 19, 2017, 06:23:42 pm
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Author Topic: Urban Design Scorecard attempt  (Read 231 times)
cannon_fodder
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« on: April 21, 2017, 01:22:08 pm »

After enthusiastically discussing recent gatherings in Tulsa that encourage Strong Towns, walkability, and other urban concepts I found myself in a discussion with a builder who finally just asked "what counts as a good urban design."  I'm not an expert or even among the knowledgeable amateurs, I'm just a nerd who is interested in the subject, so just stammered a bit.  I think I conveyed a basic idea, but looking over development threads on here there is no common basis of commparison.  No overriding guidance. 

So I searched for something online and came up with plenty of for urban community and overall development grading, or specifically for larger residential projects, but nothing that would really give a basis of comparison for a discussion of developments in and around Tulsa.  Lets get a discussion started and see if we can't come up with something.

I've put a little but of thought into it and came up with a general list to try to start a discussion to end up with something we can use as a basis.

Here are the elements that I've come with so far, in no particular order (again, with a mind towards designs for urban spaces):

-   Pedestrian friendly
-   Fronted as much as allowed
-   Parking (I'd say generally as little as you can get away with)
-   Lot ratio allowance utilized (if  you can build on 75% of the lot, 4 stories tall, how much of that allowance did you use?)
-       Best use of the land/space
-   Fit with the area/neighborhood
-   Adds net value to the tax base
-   Architectural aesthetics
-   Quality of materials (“built to last”)
-   Reusable (if original tenant moves out, is it easy to use it for some other office, residential, etc.)
-   Mixed use (if allowed)
-   Zoning exceptions or variance (could positive or negative)
-   Uses existing infrastructure (do we need new highway exits, roads, sewers, pipes, etc.)
 
I've given no real thought to how many "points" each category should be worth or weighted, I figure that's step two after deciding what factors matter.

I'd like input to correct me where I'm wrong, add things I don't know, and otherwise to work out a decent scorecard.  What are the proper "grading" criteria, how many points are each worth, etc. when grading an urban project.  We discuss them enough on here, it would be interesting to do a rundown like we do for restaurants.  Clearly the result will still be subjective and maybe worth non more than most internet discussions, maybe the whole exercise is silly, but lets see what we come up with. 
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2017, 02:17:56 pm »

First: It's not silly. It's cool.

Are we talking about structures or uses? If it includes the latter, I'd award points for a unique concept or service that isn't provided in the area. I.e., not another cell phone store, nail salon, and Subway.

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TheArtist
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2017, 08:17:16 pm »

Not going to go into a full out answer or critique but to perhaps adjust your list.

Either pedestrian friendly or pedestrian lively depending on the location.

A couple critiques.

"Fit with area or neighborhood" definitely needs some qualifications.  Great if your talking about usage as in, "in many instances" retail on ground floor in a retail area, housing in a housing area, etc.  And fine if you realize that some areas/neighborhoods are architecturally "mixed" having eclectic architectural styles, while in others there is value in adding to an already existing architectural or historical style.  But I don't think any "what counts as good urban design list" should wade into the often times ugly debates and arguments concerning aesthetics.  Let the locals do that. Absolutely stay away from aesthetics as in "is this pretty or a nice style or not" topics.  Aesthetics as in "this percentage of the front wall plane should be windows and doors etc" is ok, but don't call it aesthetics.  (Personally heard too many arguments from developers against "others telling me what looks nice, how do you define it, etc. just stay away from it at all costs. They will focus on that, not hear any of your other arguments, and you will have lost. DON'T GO THERE TRUST ME!)

 Quality of materials... As someone who dreams of someday hoping to do a little building myself, I know on a tighter budget I may have to start with "cement covered styrofoam" as a cost saving feature.  Remember, yes its cheap, but its also cheap to then remove later and upgrade with brick, wood or stone once you start making some money.  I would rather build a two or three story building with perhaps the upper floors not built out until later, with a cheap facade, than build a 1 story building with an expensive facade that would be far more costly or not possible to add more floors. Be cheap and in a way I can expand and make more money for that makes more economic sense than building small but quality and not be able to make money. Sometimes you need to have a "critical mass" of something to make a go of it.

Quick search and found this which appears to have some good basic recommendations.  Again, its better to focus on "quantifiable appearance" things like "percentage of frontage wall plane that can be blank, or the amount of wall articulation, permeability, etc. versus "what design style or look, aka french, modern, or brick, etc."


https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/planning/community/profiles/uptown/pdf/4_4_development_form.pdf
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 08:39:42 pm by TheArtist » Logged

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