Newtown Town Center | Baxter Hankin

Walkable Town Center Masterplan Newtown / United States / 2019

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The design of this new town center for Newtown creates a historic-style downtown district between Main Street and Saint Rose Church. New buildings, built between existing retail and office spaces, come up to meet the sidewalks. Street trees are planted, and new public squares and parks are created. This recreates the feeling and sense of community of a historic New England town center, with a critical density of businesses and people in retail spaces, offices, apartments, and rowhouses.


The aura of this type of place can become an iconic brand for Newtown. It can increase the quality of life and attract people who want to live in a place with a beautiful, enjoyable, walkable downtown. It can also attract companies that want to operate in a place that can attract employees who want to live in such a place. This brings in businesses and people all within close walking distance of each other, spurring economic transactions and increasing the commercial tax base.


Newport RI, Portsmouth NH, Newburyport MA, Westport CT, Stonington CT, Brattleboro VT, and Northampton MA, to name a few, are all small towns with vibrant and historical town centers that help to promote business and a sense of community in the context of a central walkable district. This project is an effort to recreate this sort of place, building Newtown’s identity into a unique and sought-after brand.


 


 


​If this town center is to be built, it should be built in phases, not all at once. This decreases the risk of such a project, and allows the town to incrementally gauge how much demand there is for new construction on this scale. Additionally, it is critical that it is composed of small, irregular, historically inspired buildings that conform to slightly irregular narrow streets with sidewalks. This is precisely what creates the village-like character and economic driving force of historic New England towns. Additionally, public spaces must be included to give people a place to gather and relax.


Parking must be moved to the peripheries of the downtown, so that it does not infringe on the character and walkability of the town center. This parking should ideally be in parking garages in order to get the most value per acre out of the land in the center of town, and to maximize the amount of parking per acre. Some parallel parking on the streets for shorter visits to the downtown can be useful as well.


A town center of this sort is most possible through partnerships between the town, local real estate developers, and land owners. This has been done to create the town center of Storrs, CT, for example. The town provides the vision for the various developers to then each build their piece of the puzzle. The new town center benefits both developers and the town: profits per acre increase, and the tax base increases.


To ensure this sort of development more organically in the future, zoning is a useful tool. Form-based zoning codes can be implemented to ensure that new construction contains parking in the rear, and goes up to the edge of the sidewalk and adjacent buildings, creating a more vibrant and walkable downtown with a village-like feel. This sort of place has increased economic activity, because people are more likely in such an area to visit more often and walk between multiple businesses during the same trip, especially if spending time and walking in this area is enjoyable.

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    The design of this new town center for Newtown creates a historic-style downtown district between Main Street and Saint Rose Church. New buildings, built between existing retail and office spaces, come up to meet the sidewalks. Street trees are planted, and new public squares and parks are created. This recreates the feeling and sense of community of a historic New England town center, with a critical density of businesses and people in retail spaces, offices, apartments, and rowhouses. The...

    Project details
    • Year 2019
    • Work started in 2018
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Parks, Public Gardens / Public Squares / Urban Furniture / Town Halls / multi-purpose civic centres / Urban development plans / Neighbourhoods/settlements/residential parcelling / Restoration of old town centres / Feasibility Studies / Apartments / Single-family residence / Multi-family residence / Office Buildings / Business Centers / Corporate Headquarters / Offices/studios / Multi-purpose Cultural Centres / Theatres / Museums / Concert Halls / Libraries / Cinemas / Pavilions / Bars/Cafés / Pubs/Wineries / Restaurants / Art Galleries / Urban Renewal / Monuments / Strategic Urban Plans / Lofts/Penthouses / Book shops / Media Libraries / Markets / Recovery/Restoration of Historic Buildings / Art studios/workshops / Building Recovery and Renewal
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