It's a different way of looking at how cities build neighborhoods.
Speaking to the Midlothian Rotary Club Tuesday, Monte Anderson explained new urbanism and how this trend in property development can change Midlothian and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
"New urbanism is not new, it's just most developers don't plan their projects that way anymore" said Anderson, of Option Realty, developers of MidTowne, a mixed-use residential development that has already won state and regional awards for its innovative design.
"Think about the neighborhoods that were built in the 1940s," said Anderson. "The houses were built out of quality materials and reflected the tastes of individuals. There was also a sense of neighborhood - front porches, sidewalks, corner stores and schools - where people had a stake in the community and made friends with the people who lived next door."
Anderson graduated from Midlothian High School in 1976 and has been a developer for more than 20 years. His projects have won numerous awards for innovative design and reviving communities.
"We said from the beginning we wanted the right piece of property in just the right community and a city board that understood what we were trying to do," said Anderson. "We found that in Midlothian.
The MidTowne property is a 133-acre infill tract that will link walkable Old Town Midlothian located northwest of the site to a 110-acre town center/ urban village now being planned immediately east of MidTowne.
Anderson said the project has hit some utility easement snags, but dirtwork on roads should be well underway by May. He said retail development on the northern section would be followed by residential development on property south of George Hopper Road.
The project site is also situated between the Frank Seale Middle School, the Sports Park and Midlothian High School, significantly expanding the walkable area of Midlothian's traditional neighborhoods.
The vision behind MidTowne's new urbanist design lies in its classic town planning principles. The project incorporates a village green, along which are located three neighborhood parks.
To stitch this development into its setting, the village green incorporates two terminated vistas: to the south, a future neighborhood elementary school and its planned bell tower feature; to the west, the rotunda of the newly renovated High School.
MidTowne also includes a full palette of other strong urban design elements:
Housing Diversity: MidTowne's 430 residential units will serve a wide range of lifestyles and budgets — estate homes, granny flats, brownstones, cottages, live-work units and flats-over-retail are all in the design.
Multi-generational living: An assisted care living facility will be located adjacent to a future day care center. The elementary schools, Frank Seale Middle School and Midlothian High School all figure into the plan.
Green Building Practice: All homes will be Energy Star and non-residential buildings will extensively incorporate environmental friendly concepts.
Pedestrian Orientation: Project features 12,000-feet of six-foot wide pathways; and a minimized street presence with 27-foot, two-way mews and 20-foot slip streets.
Neighborhood School Oriented: Children of all ages will be able to walk to all schools - elementary, middle and high.
Street Edge Focus: MidTowne will have two street fronts, both bounded by 40-foot landscaped buffers; all existing perimeter electric service will be underground; all garages will be alley-based, so that no homes or masonry walls will back up to perimeter streets.
Hastings, who served as Planning Director while MidTowne worked its way through the city's review process, said MidTowne's planned development regulations submitted by TBG Partners were crafted to balance public oversight with developer flexibility.
Hastings said the design team also paid careful attention to the city's newly-adopted comprehensive plan and EnVision Midlothian 2025, to guide their concept and design decisions for this project.
Although the developer made many changes to MidTowne over the course of five Planning and Zoning Board and City Council hearings, ultimately the project earned unanimous votes of approval from both boards.
If MidTown goes according to plan, it should build out in four to five years.