Three Lessons and Policies, continued–Neighborhoods in the Master Plan,

 

Residential developments should be diversified, fit in with natural features, and spare native plants and woods, Houses should be socially welcoming, with distinct front doors. Avoid exposing utilitarian spaces, such as garages, to community spaces.

Residential developments should be diversified, fit in with natural features, and spare native plants and woods, Houses should be socially welcoming, with distinct front doors. Place garages out of sight.

In 2007, Homewood published its Master Plan, an opus of city leaders and residents  led by a team of professional planners from the KPS Group. Below you will find a summary of the plan’s section addressing Neighborhoods, considered the foremost of three major components, which include Green Infrastructure, posted in November,  and Activity Centers and Corridors, to come.

[The full 71-page document is here.]

The Master Plan calls for more connectivity within and between neighborhoods and better integration of neighborhoods with trails and green spaces. Lakeshore Drive and other roads are barriers to the trail.

The Master Plan calls for more connectivity within and between neighborhoods and better integration of neighborhoods with trails and green spaces, and fewer cars. Busy roads divide the popular Greenway Trail from neighborhoods; cyclists often drive and park to access the trail.

The guiding principles are simple — a word cloud from the section would feature words like ACCESSIBLE, GREEN SPACE, and PEDESTRIAN in 100 point type–but are not universally embraced. The plan notes approvingly that Homewood, as a “first-ring” suburb of Birmingham, has a more urban feel than some of its sister OTM cities, and already follows the preferred pattern of narrow, interconnected streets, classic architecture and built-in community destinations such as neighborhood parks and small shopping districts. The plan seeks mainly to preserve and carry forward these strengths in the city’s four main neighborhoods–Edgewood, Rosedale, Hollywood and West Homewood.

The Master Plan calls for neighborhoods to be anchored by destination points, or focal areas. None is on the map for extreme west Homewood.

The Master Plan calls for neighborhoods to be anchored by destination points, or focal areas. None is to be found marked for neighborhoods in southwest Homewood and off South Lakeshore.

However, it also points out shortcomings in city planning and zoning, asking for more informal neighborhood gathering spaces, better mobility within neighborhoods, more diffuse traffic patterns (fewer stop signs?) through neighborhoods, and less pavement. It wants fewer cars on the road (without suggesting better public transit) and smoother physical transitions from neighborhoods to adjacent commercial and institutional areas, with neighborhoods being neither abruptly exposed nor walled off from them.

In Rosedale, two houses are sandwiched between the Lee Community Center and the Islamic Academy.

In Rosedale, two houses are sandwiched between the Lee Community Center and the Islamic Academy (background).

Finally, the plan cautions city leaders–especially the Planning Commission–to be “intentional” in reviewing new proposals and to use a checklist of guiding principles, especially for development proposals in areas that might be exploited and become “targets” for redevelopment (Rosedale?).

 

Neighborhoods in Homewood generally

pp. 16-17 – General Neighborhood Development Guidelines, especially for areas that may become “targets” for redevelopment:
  • OVERTON

    Overton Park is an accessible, natural neighborhood gathering place. The Master Plan calls for each neighborhood to have such destination points, and also smaller, informal gathering spots and green spaces.

    Build development into, and in harmony with — not on top of — local topography, streams, slopes, green spaces, wetlands, wooded areas, trees, etc. Employ accepted conservation techniques wherever possible to avoid disturbing natural features and systems.

 

  • The Moretti apartments, a high-density development, is seen here from a Rosedale back yard.

    The Moretti apartments, a high-density development, is seen here from a Rosedale back yard.

    Put condominiums, apartments and other high-density dwellings near commercial areas and travel corridors; avoid developing isolated islands of such housing, or placing them in lower-density surroundings (don’t build apartments in the middle of a block of single-family houses.)

 

  • Enhance or create destination/gathering places/focal points near the center of each neighborhood, including natural or built features such as parks, streams, shopping areas, public facilities, etc. At least 15% of total residential design should be devoted to this use.

 

  • This fenced, channelized stream in west Homewood is a barrier between Patriot Park and the residential neighborhood. The Master Plan calls for better accessibility between neighborhoods and their focal points.

    This fenced, channelized stream in west Homewood is a barrier between Patriot Park on the left, and the residential neighborhood, right. The Master Plan calls for better accessibility between neighborhoods and their focal points. Pedestrian bridges maybe?

    Focal areas should be accessible from within the neighborhood and from other neighborhoods, by car or on foot. Every neighborhood should have accessible public green spaces with seating, shade, and play areas for children.

 

  • These Gillon Street residents say no one asked them when they dead-ended their street at Oxmoor Road. The seldom used cul-de-sac collects litter; one of two houses zoned commercial has been converted to a tobacco shop.

    These Gillon Street residents say no one asked them when they dead-ended their street at Oxmoor Road. The seldom used cul-de-sac collects litter; one of two houses zoned commercial has been converted to a tobacco shop.

    Getting around on streets, sidewalks, trails

  1. Sidewalks are the basic pedestrian infrastructure.
  2. Streets should remain interconnected (not dead-ended), providing alternate ways to get from point A to point B.
  3. This bridge in Edgewood connects South Forrest with Broadway neighborhoods.

    This bridge in Edgewood connects South Forest with Broadway neighborhoods.

    [Blocks longer than 500 feet should have pedestrian cut-throughs to adjacent streets.]

  4. Streets should be as narrow as practical and lined with trees to naturally calm traffic.
  5. Planning should de-emphasize the use of the automobile.

Specific principles of neighborhood and housing design

pp. 19-20 Neighborhood buildings and focal areas should be developed in harmony with natural land features, and easy to navigate.

  • Retain natural wooded areas along the roads.
  • Plan built areas to “look into” open spaces, rather than back into them, or wall them off from view.
  • A thick evergreen buffer screens the rear of the Publix development from neighborhoods around Columbiana Road. It is also an impermeable barrier, with no access for pedestrian or vehicles from the neighborhood. Could this development have been better integrated to the neighborhood?

    A thick evergreen buffer screens the rear of the Publix development from neighborhoods around Columbiana Road. It also creates an impermeable barrier, with no pedestrian or vehicle access possible from the neighborhood. Could this development have been better integrated to the neighborhood?

    Integrate different areas–residential, activity, natural, etc. so that screen buffers aren’t necessary, i.e., there should be space to “step down” development from dense commercial or institutional areas to single-family housing.

  •  Require easy bike, car and foot traffic flow within neighborhoods and between neighborhoods and adjacent areas.
  • Retain and add medium-density housing (row-houses, duplexes, small garden houses) to assure concentration of residents next to neighborhood focal points.
What is "enduring" architecture?

What is “enduring” architecture?

House and yard design

  1. Plan commercial and residential buildings with “enduring”architecture–but what does that mean?
  2. Allow for porches and courtyards to transition from the public street and offer a welcome to visitors; Clearly distinguish the front door.Garages should not be a prominent; don't let a blank wall face community space.
  3. Set the garage back; don’t show a blank wall to community areas.
  4. Retain native plants;

 Future Land Use

p. 35 Here are specific references to neighborhoods:

The Master Plan often invokes the concept of "human scale" when talking about neighborhood buildings.

The Master Plan says development should follow a “human scale.”

“Homewood intends to reinvest in replicating and building upon the best characteristics of its traditional neighborhoods throughout the city. Homewood envisions for its residents living in neighborhoods that focus upon and complement the city’s green infrastructure in ways that reflect human scale (not giant) and pedestrian orientation of the community.”

p. 54-55 Development recommendation specifically for neighborhoods: 

  • The Planning Commission should consider using a checklist of master plan development principles when reviewing new development proposals.
  • PLAYINYARDNeighborhoods should have outdoor places to gather and for children to play other than private yards.
  • At least 15% of total residential development should be dedicated to accessible, usable, pedestrian-sensitive open space with focal points appropriate to that neighborhood.
  • The city has been investing in sidewalks.

    The city has been investing in sidewalks.

    The neighborhood should have complete, walkable and interconnected streets. Street frontage should have curb, gutter and sidewalks.

  • Blocks longer than 500 feet should provide pedestrian cut-through paths to adjacent streets.
  • Pedestrian-scale (lower) light fixtures–about 12-feet high–should be provided along areas accessible to pedestrians.
  • Trees add shade, visual respite, and also hold up steep slopes.

    Trees add shade, visual respite, and also hold up steep slopes.

    Streets and slopes should be planted with trees.

 

 

 

 

Next up, Activity Centers and Corridors~

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