50-ish New Urbanists Walk Into A City….

Last week, I boarded a buss with 51 other restless and talented urbanists on a 3 day, 2 night tour with the City Building Exchange Express. It will take me weeks to unpack everything I experienced, saw, and heard, on this trip. I want to share some initial impressions and thoughts to expand on my Facebook and Instagram posts, and to add a little accountability in imparting what I learned in future blog posts.

This year was extremely special because I could share this adventure with my much better half, Married to a New Urbanist. With her work at Strong Towns, I think she knew more people on the bus and and at our stops then I did. While I may be familiar with the history or designers of these places, she knew more about the current struggles of these places through the Strong Towns network.

The tour started with sunny 80 degree in San Antonio, Texas, and despite a couple of tornados and a 40 degree temperature drop, we headed north to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This was my second or third adventure with this tour which is lovingly named the Magical Mystery Tour. The City Building Exchange hosts this opportunity to take learning to the road with an intensive tour of innovative neighborhoods/developments that highlight best practices. There is something to learn at every stop. The drive time between stops provides the opportunity to discuss and share observations which is as colorful and insightful as the places we visit.

Several high level takeaways that I plan on expanding on in future musings.

  1. There is always a home for crazy and unconventional ideas, and once it is proven successful, it will be repeated. The San Antonio River Walk is one of the craziest drainage projects ever which I saw repeated in Oklahoma City.
  2. Old patterns are timeless. Historic places like Grapevine, Texas, had several tiny shopfronts which, after significant opposition, Monte Anderson is repeating in numerous projects with overwhelming success.
  3. Market studies should be trusted and transportation studies should be trashed. We toured the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco and the Klyde Warren Park/Freeway Cap in Dallas. One was inspired by market demands and the other was the result of a transportation studio.
  4. The development of community requires more passion and less aspirational design. The Community First neighborhood outside Austin, is a new community of tiny homes built on a mission to provide forever homes to the housing challenged. The land plan will never make it into a glossy urbanist book. However the community and placemaking of this neighborhood is authentic and loved. The richness and attention to detail is in the development of the community of the people.

If you want to see or learn more about this tour, please check the following hashtags on your favorite social media platforms which were used: #mmt #cbx2022