NU principles drive revitalization plans in Rockford, IL

The Rockford Register Star recently profiled the efforts of Montreal-based planning firm Live Work Learn Play, Inc. to revitalize the urban center of Rockford, Illinois.

While the city has increased its population about 40 percent since 1950, the city itself has more than quadrupled in square mileage. That sprawl has spurred residents to think about development in new, more sustainable ways. That path appears to point in the direction of New Urbanism.

[NU] has influenced how Rockford rebuilds even large streets like the reconstructed part of Harrison Avenue, which features a multi-use path, landscaping and accommodates automobile traffic; the removal of the pedestrian mall and restoration of Main Street downtown featuring a pedestrian friendly sidewalk, space for cafe style seating and on-street parking; and plans for the West State Street corridor project that would not only improve the roadway but also provide green space and pedestrian amenities.

“We are really trying to create a more walkable, connected city,” Zuroske said. “Every project we do, in many respects, is assisted through a planning philosophy grounded in those principles.”

An especially notable aspect of the proposal is the way in which it stands as an example for how New Urbanism can apply both to high-density urban areas and smaller traditional downtown settings. Although developments such as Seaside, FL are often the first that come to mind when some people think of New Urbanism, the principles can serve as a redevelopment strategy for greenfield and infill plans alike. In fact, it's happening all across the country and abroad!

Additionally, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey makes the case that there are financial reasons to embrace New Urbanism — it not only helps revive neighborhoods and build value but also results in more efficient and cost-effective provision of services.

Morrissey argues the aging infrastructure downtown eventually must be addressed whether it is redeveloped or not. As the nation emerges from a recession, energy prices are sure to rise....

“If you look at a map of Rockford, the highly condensed areas are easy to serve in many respects by locating fire stations and police there, you can cover a lot more people in a shorter time,” Morrissey said. “Crime, poverty and poor infrastructure are challenges in those condensed areas and that’s a whole other set of problems, but all things being equal New Urbanism is less expensive than sprawl.”

Read the whole article here.


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