[Video above includes story of Townhouse Center origins recorded during CNU 20, starts at 2:56:00.]
Townhouse Center Inc. is a not-for-profit based in Miami whose mission is to build urban neighborhoods by promoting their fundamental building block: small, attached, prototypical, adaptable buildings.
Urban neighborhoods like New York’s West Village or Upper West Side, Boston’s South End, Washington’s Georgetown, and areas of Chicago, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Singapore are beautiful, dense, pedestrian-centered, mixed-use, resilient places where people engage with each other, share ideas, and create economic opportunity and culture. Neighborhoods like these are what many people dream of for their city.
Building more of these neighborhoods should be simple – all are made up of the same general kind of building: townhouse, rowhouse, shophouse, brownstone, and other small, attached, prototypical, adaptable buildings that are reused for generations. Many cities have large areas with potential for this low- and mid-rise density, for example Miami recently adopted zoning regulations that allow townhouse development on more than 1000 acres.
But in recent decades we have built to the sky and the horizon – large, single-use towers and subdivisions designed to spread fixed costs. Local governments have exacerbated the situation by adding regulatory costs like required parking. In urban areas, large projects require assemblies of land cleared of small buildings and often left vacant for years. For example, downtown Miami has more than 30 vacant lots that are a half block or larger.
Townhouse Center believes that we should re-start building the buildings that add up to the urban neighborhoods people want. We are the first organization dedicated to sharing information about small-increment urban buildings in order to reduce costs and shift stakeholders’ focus to financial benefits and benefits in design, convenience, compatibility, sustainability, economic development, and culture.
Townhouse Center partners with urban neighborhood stakeholders and outside organizations and experts on activities that build toward the goal of widespread urban neighborhoods, making the case for small urban buildings, studying their challenges and opportunities, producing free resources, and engaging in outreach and media campaigns.
Townhouse Center’s work complements other progressive urban planning and development policies – like smart growth, pedestrian-centered streets, mass transit and transit-oriented development, affordable housing, and green building. However, if we aim to implement all these other policies but continue to build large, single-use projects, we will not achieve the goal of urban neighborhoods that future generations will admire.
If your organization or company’s activities relate to building urban neighborhoods, please consider partnering with Townhouse Center. Or if your foundation has a specific program or a general mission connected to promoting beautiful, dense, welcoming, enduring neighborhoods, please contact Andrew Frey, Executive Director, at 786 261 3380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.