How Can Small Buildings Help Large-Scale Planning?

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By Andrew Frey

Seven50 is a regional plan, a big plan. The most vibrant urban neighborhoods, like Boston’s North End or New York’s West Village or Miami’s Little Havana, are made of many small buildings. What do big plans and small buildings have to do with each other? Plenty!

A regional plan can help small buildings by recommending certain policies. For example, to reduce development pressure on natural and agricultural areas, a regional plan might recommend that local governments directly create incentives or remove obstacles to building on small urban vacant lots, which are often plentiful but seen as costly or inefficient.

Or another example, less direct but equally significant: to make passenger rail more financially sustain- able, a regional plan might recommend that local governments stop requiring that new buildings include off-street parking. This policy also helps small buildings because parking requirements disproportionately burden small properties.

Conversely, small buildings can help a regional plan achieve its goals. Small buildings add up to urban neighborhoods that are dense and mixed-use, which support walking, biking, car sharing, and mass transit. These neighborhoods promote public health and use water and sewer infrastructure more efficiently. Neighborhoods made of many small buildings (as opposed to a few big ones) help spread the wealth created by revitalization.

In fact, small buildings aren’t just helpful, they are necessary for some of the highest goals of a regional plan. What are your ideas for how Seven50 can help small buildings?