The struggles of New Urbanist communities outside Indianapolis

Several New Urbanist communities outside of Indianapolis are struggling to sell homes and fill commercial space:

The Village of WestClay was supposed to be a different kind of neighborhood — one that turned back the clock and led suburban living toward a more community-centered, urban lifestyle.

Along with Saxony in Fishers and Avon’s Village of Turner Trace, this model of “New Urbanism” offered a home where you could leave the family car parked in the garage, trading your big backyard and high fence for a front porch and neighbors you really got to know…

It’s the stores and restaurants, though, that have lagged. About 65 percent of 275,000 square feet of planned commercial space has opened. Clustered together like a traditional downtown, the businesses at the center of the neighborhood have struggled the most…

Nationally, retail has proven to be the hardest part to build, said John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism. The Chicago-based think tank advocates New Urbanism as the future of development.

I remember reading about how this also seemed to happen in Celebration, Florida (see Celebration, U.S.A.). Many businesses are unwilling to build or open a location without an already-existing residential base that provides a steady source of customers. But if you are trying to put the New Urbanist pieces together, provide a community with residences within an easy walk of stores and other amenities, you need some businesses to be there from the beginning to help sell the homes. Couldn’t these new developments offer special low prices to businesses for a few years as an incentive?

The suggestion at the end of the article is that these problems could be avoided if New Urbanist principles were applied in cities or denser areas, not in newly-constructed New Urbanist developments plopped in suburbia. We’ll have to see what happens in the lean economic times of today and perhaps more prosperous years in the future.