SCHAUMBURG, IL-In some ways, the Midwest and Chicago market is more progressive than the traditionally trendier East and West Coasts. At least that was one view shared last week at the National Edge City Conference here.

“This market is a very progressive market,” Providence, RI-based land use planner and author Randall Arendt tells “There’s less progress in so many other markets.”

One example of non-traditional land use planning can be found in many of the suburban Downtown redevelopments, as well as some in-fill projects in city neighborhoods, where multifamily units are built above first-floor retail uses such as grocery stores and restaurants. While it creates higher density, Arendt and other proponents note that it frees up space elsewhere in the project area that could become a park or green space.

“A surprising number of developers and governments are saying, ‘Hey, let’s try something different’.”

However, Arendt would like to see green space written into more ordinances and planned unit developments. “Most planned unit developments stink, and I’m being kind,” he says. “They demand very little from developers…If something is important, why not make it a requirement?”

For instance, Arendt points to Radburn, NJ, a suburban community with a Downtown area designed to include first-floor shops and offices close to a train station. However, green space is a key element, he notes. “It’s built like a park,” he adds.

In residential neighborhoods, Arendt would like to see trees required on the parkways between curbs and sidewalks. “Tree-planting is the single-most important thing to retrofit,” he says.

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