Community redevelopment, density and pricing are going to be important issues moving forward from the recession in New West urban centers.
“I deal with a lot of naysayers,” said Roger Millar, director of Missoula City/County Office of Planning and Grants. “They tell me density and mixed-use development is ugly.”
But the fact is cities, like Missoula, have fewer homes with children. So the sprawling development patterns, which are sustainable anyway, are going to be unnecessary and unwanted.
Part of the future will be looking at creative ways to redevelop existing neighborhoods, said Ben Lloyd from Comma-Q Architecture, Inc. in Bozeman.
This redevelopment will require density, which people in the West will have to become more comfortable with.
“Here in the West density is a concept that’s fairly new,” Lloyd said.
But the urban cores like Bozeman or Missoula have a population that is demanding more urban benefits, like mass transit, walkable neighborhoods and less square footage for living.
Design is crucial on redevelopment and high density projects, Lloyd said. He suggested using materials that mimic the existing neighborhoods and buildings. Future construction must have a recognition of what was done in the past.
“You’re making history now, in essence,” Lloyd said.
To make density and redevelopment projects more palatable, communities have to have good projects to point to as examples, Millar said.
“We have to change people’s perception about what infill is,” he said, pointing to the conflicts infill project have caused in Missoula.
Part of that process will be to really publicize good infill projects, said Rachel Winer of Idaho Smart Growth. These examples will help communities understand the importance of density and help the private and public sectors work together to develop strategies to promote density.
Lloyd and Millar both said private and public partnerships will be crucial going forward. The old building and zoning codes don’t work anymore and something new needs to be developed, Millar said.
“What we’ve got is 40 years of how to say ‘no’ to bad ideas instead of how to say ‘yes’ to good things,” he said.