New Urbanism and how it changes community

        We hold major corporations to a certain social standard. We’d like to think that all major companies treat their employees well financially, that they care about the wellbeing of the communities they reside in, and their global impact. Although that isn’t always the case, we do have companies who strive for the best interest of their employees. I was recently reading about the development plans Facebook has for Anton Menlo to provide housing for some of their employees and it got me thinking about our redefinition of community. I’ve spoken before about how interesting I find it that we are redefining community to be closer to work and other people who are culturally different, so this project naturally peaks my interest.  I can’t wait to see how it redefines their immediate community.

        It’s no secret that the San Francisco Bay Area has housing problems, most of which are caused by rising housing demands and housing prices. It is also safe to say that part of the housing crisis is in turn caused by the massive impact of the technological advances of Silicon Valley. Suddenly we have a major influx of people rushing once again to the Bay Area in hopes of said jobs, we find ourselves revitalizing the city. So, to have a major company like Facebook come in and help the housing stress is very exciting. Their plan is to not only help the employees but also allow non-employees to live in this complex as well. Of course like with any major change there is some hesitation, mainly about whether or not this will actually help low income housing, and the effect it will have on the employees. Only time will tell on that aspect, but I remain optimistic that it will benefit the overall community, as it is not the first time a major cooperation has done something like this to help its employees.

        Another prime example is Celebration, Florida, though flawed in execution, the small suburb in Florida was originally designed by the Disney Corporation.  It aimed to be shaped for pedestrians. It has that quaint personal feeling that many fear is missing from the industrialization of larger cities. Over the past few decades it has been subject to criticism. The city originally designed to bring together community and be geared towards an economical alternative to other major cities, has found itself having quite the opposite effect. Homes that were originally 60,000 are now well over 100,000, many residents lost their homes in the recent years. Although remaining true to its quaint appearance, it has created a segregated community where over 90% of the community is Caucasian upper middle class residents, quite a contrast to its original inclusive nature. It seems that the pretty picture it painted was flawed in reality. But, it has proven to be a sustainable model as far as its hybridity of city and suburb. So where does this leave us with respect to Anton Menlo? The question must be asked, can we have it all? Is it possible to remain diverse, inclusive, affordable, and quaint?

        It seems plausible. In Texas there is a city making waves, reminding us what is it to be a community, Mueller. Mueller has quickly become the poster child for “new urbanism.”  The city is shaped for pedestrians and pushes aside the automobile calling itself a transit oriented community. It’s a sustainable model that has yet to be plagued by the issues surrounding Celebration, Florida. Hopefully we will see this Anton Menlo complex thrive, or at least contribute to the conversation of solving the housing crisis in California. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, perhaps our suburb/urban dreams may not be dreams much longer.

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