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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Getting around on streets, sidewalks, trails
- Sidewalks are the basic pedestrian infrastructure.
- Streets should remain interconnected (not dead-ended), providing alternate ways to get from point A to point B.
[Blocks longer than 500 feet should have pedestrian cut-throughs to adjacent streets.]
- Streets should be as narrow as practical and lined with trees to naturally calm traffic.
- 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.
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.
House and yard design
- Plan commercial and residential buildings with “enduring”architecture–but what does that mean?
- Allow for porches and courtyards to transition from the public street and offer a welcome to visitors; Clearly distinguish the front door.
- Set the garage back; don’t show a blank wall to community areas.
- Retain native plants;
Future Land Use
p. 35 Here are specific references to neighborhoods:
“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.
- Neighborhoods 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 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.
Streets and slopes should be planted with trees.
Next up, Activity Centers and Corridors~