MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT, DENSITY, CLUSTERING, AND URBAN DESIGN
A major aspect of Smart Growth is creating "liveable, walkable neighbourhoods and communities". Mixed use development, clustering, density, and urban design are all critical aspects which must be strategically incorporated into development in order for walkability and liveability to be achieved. The overall goal is to create complete neighbourhoods where a diverse range of residents can live, work, and play while having a much lower dependence on their automobile due to the compact nature of the development. This type of neighbourhood has many environmental and social benefits which include a reduction in automobile needs and associated emissions, more options for alternative modes of transportation, range of housing options, higher degreee of community activity, and a greater sense of community. This approach to creating liveable, walkable neighbourhoods through mixed use development, clustering, density, and urban design follows that of "Traditional Neighbourhood Design" or "New Urbanist Development".
Conventional development approaches have created homogenous zones where land use is generally restricted to a single use such as residential or commercial; this is mainly due to the restrictiveness of zoning. Mixed use development on the other hand aims to mix uses which have the benefit of more efficiently utilizing infrastructure, enhancing a sites development potential, and fostering complete neighbourhoods. A mixed use area is a zoning district which allows for a variety of uses within a zone. These mixed use zones are often highlighted by a neighbourhood centre which allows residents to live, work, play, and learn within these centres. Because mixed use development puts users and uses within close proximity, residents are much more likely to use alternative modes of transportation such as walking or biking. This in turn fosters more interaction between residents while also increasing their use of public spaces. This creates pedestrian oriented environments which have a high degree of "sense of community" which in turn can spark economic growth due to the higher degree of activity in the neighbourhood centres.
Clustered development is an alternative planning approach which compliments mixed use development. Clustered development aims to lower the impact of development by grouping (or clustering) residential properties in a subdivision closer together. By clustering properties closer together, the rest of the land can be utilized for parks, open space, or recreational opportunities. Promoting compact development with increased open space through clustered development follows the principles of a liveable, walkable neighbourhood. Compact development lessens the dependence on automobiles while increased open space provides opportunities for trails and increased connectivity between different areas/uses.
Density is a term used within planning which refers to the number of people inhabiting a given area. This can be represented as "residential density" which is the number of dwelling units in a given area, or "population density" which is the number of people in a given area. A higher density means more people/dwellings within a particular area and it is widely known that higher densities are generally more sustainable. The benefits of increased density include less demand for infrastructure, more affordable housing, wider range of housing choices, and a reduction of reliance on automobiles. When attempting to increase density for sustainability purposes, the approaches can attempt to either make development more compact and more efficiently use the land (smaller lots) or increase the number of people who inhabit a given area (introducing laneway housing). Figure 4 shows the correlation between density and the number of miles driven per household.
Urban design is related to the arrangement, appearance, and functionality of towns, particularly with regards to public space. Urban design is a key factor when creating liveable, walkable neighbourhoods. Urban design has a strong influence on the sense of community, character of the community, safety, walkability, pedestrian perceptions, and the use of alternative modes of transportation. Strategic urban design within residential and commercial developments can have numerous benefits, particularly in the social realm. Introducing aspects of traditional neighbourhood design such as front facing porches closer to the road can foster social interactions between neighbours, as opposed to the double-garage front facade facing the street which is seen in conventional urban design. An example of strategic urban design whithin commercial developments is the "eyes on the street approach" whereby buildings face the street and utilize windows and porches so that a clear view of the street is allowed. This increases the safety within a neighbourhood by allowing residents to police themselves to a certain degree while also increasing the perceptions of safety for pedestrians on the street.