Friday, September 11, 2009

Great Ideas Dept.: Building around Train Stations, 2009

Great to see that someone's put that idea to work of building clusters of residences and stores around existing commuter railroad stations. Yesterday they snipped the ribbon at "'The Highlands at Morristown Station,' New Jersey Transit’s first Transit Oriented Development (TOD)",* a $75 mil, 5 story development with 200 apartments, street-level retail and "amenities."

The Highlands "continues a major multi-phase redevelopment effort underway in Morristown that will ultimately result in some 526 new residences — all within walking distance of the Colonial-era Morristown Green and the Train Station," according to Betsy Kraat's story in Metro Green Business.

Within walking distance! This is one of those quiet-sounding little elements that turn out to be essential for life's optimal functioning. Simply put, a lifestyle that's based on walking around a lot is a healthier one, whether you're going on errands or for a regular (what used to be called) "constitutional."

Then, as with all the built-in systems we inherit from nature, there are a host of interwoven benefits. You burn less gas and put fewer miles on your car when you can walk to get food and take care of things — or here, jump on the train downstairs — so you're both reducing greenhouse gases and saving money.

More savings come on remedies and doctors' prescriptions and all means of tension relief that you need less of, because you're out getting exercise and sunlight and fresh air, and meeting and mingling with your neighbors, too. (Don't get me started on all this!)

(* — re: "TOD," I'm relieved to see that the official acronym was in place for the opening, because in our culture, a project just cannot be taken seriously without its initials, preferably three.)
A Bit of Backstory

I first saw this clever concept in a since-deleted article on Long Island's Newsday in August, 2007, where the Jersey developers may well have gotten the idea, and I wrote about it for Idea Champions Heart Of Innovation blog.

"Building 'Living Space' around Railroad Stations" (Heart of Innovation, 8/21/07)

A student at the New York Institute of Technology, John Patrick Winberry, has come up with a concept with great synergy, that admirable quality of solving more than just the problem at hand.

"More than a place to park your car"
"Imagine that at each major stop along the Long Island Rail Road, communities of housing, dining and shopping were built above existing parking lots. Parking garages would be underneath the new buildings. Given the location, generally within walking distance of an existing shopping area, residents would have little need for a car.

"A railroad station would no longer be a stop along a route, but a destination in itself. Even better, each of these hubs would be connected along the main arteries of the LIRR, ensuring easy accessibility within Long Island without the use of a car. The apartments would attract young professionals wanting easy access to commute to work in Manhattan and a lively community to come home to without having to drive."
(...And in here, Aug. 2007, pointing to there.)

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