April 9, 2006

The Neighborhood Unit

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s). In the 1920s, Clarence Perry standardized the quarter-mile as the optimal daily-routine distance for the neighborhood unit. Writing in the New York Regional Plan and its Environs (1929), he developed the neighborhood unit as "the framework of a model community."

The neighborhood unit was designed to support 6,125 residents or 1,241 families. The spatial unit is centered on an elementary school as well as small parks and playgrounds. At 160 acres, the neighborhood radius is one-quarter of a mile or a 5-minute walking distance. Heavy through-traffic is confined to major arterials at the edges of the neighborhood and an internal street system accommodates local traffic. Local shops are also located at the periphery of the unit. These are the principles for a low-cost suburban development. Perry provided criteria for several types of neighborhood units including an industrial section, an apartment house unit, and a five-block apartment-house unit (or "how a slum district might be rehabilitated"). The Neighborhood Unit Concept, Clarence Perry, 1929 (Washington State Univ.) The idea of the neighborhod unit has evolved over time. Iterations of the neighborhood unit have been developed by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright in Radburn, NJ (a garden city with several neighborhood units organized around a common green and train access to Manhattan), by Jim Rouse (the Columbia New Town: eight villages grouped around a town center which also serves as a regional shopping mall), and a more recent incarnation advocated by the Congress of New Urbanism.

Plan of Radburn, NJ, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, 1929 (Queens Univ.) Miami Lakes Town Center (CNU Florida)

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