In a previous SUN Spot (February 2014), I wrote about the principles of New Urbanism (NU) and how Stapleton was one of the largest NU communities in the country. In April of 2014, Stapleton United Neighbors (SUN) conducted a resident survey. Included were 25 statements about the built environment, transportation, economic and social principles of NU. Residents were asked to rate each statement on a scale of 1-5, where 1 = strongly agree and 5 = strongly disagree. A total of 769 residents responded to the survey. This article focuses solely on the question “Do Stapleton residents value New Urbanism principles?”
Support for New Urbanism Principles
The chart below shows that Stapleton residents positively value nearly all of the 25 NU principles. Most important are parks and other public social spaces where people can gather, as are non-public gathering spots such as neighborhood restaurants. Non-auto transportation opportunities are also highly valued, including the ability to walk to destinations within the neighborhood, children being able to walk to their neighborhood schools, and feeling safe walking around the neighborhood. Public transportation—specifically a light rail connection to the neighborhood—is among the top-ranked principles.
Important but less valued than the social spaces, walkability, and non-auto transportation options are: (1) having a neighborhood that has housing options which can meet the needs of multiple generations, (2) having a mixture of housing types, and (3) having businesses and services located within the neighborhood.
On average, residents are neutral toward smaller lot sizes, architectural diversity, and having an economically diverse neighborhood. There is also less support for higher-density neighborhoods and the interspersion of mixed housing types (condos, townhomes, apartments, single-family homes).
These results suggest that some residents may not recognize the connection among the principles. For example, the walkability of a neighborhood, including the ability to reach destinations on foot, requires higher-density neighborhoods. Small lots sizes, as well as multifamily housing types, are necessary to increase residential density. Having a neighborhood that meets the needs of different generations requires not just having different types of housing but a range of prices. Generational diversity and economic diversity are highly related.
Satisfaction with Stapleton and Support for New Urbanism Principles
There was also a question on resident satisfaction with living in Stapleton. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 = extremely dissatisfied and 10 = extremely satisfied, the average is 7.82. Looking at the NU principles and satisfaction, some interesting pictures emerge.
Residents who are the most satisfied living in Stapleton strongly value the same NU principles highly valued by all residents—parks, walkability, and alternative transportation—but they also highly value smaller lot sizes, higher neighborhood density, and the close proximity of housing types. In other words, residents most satisfied with Stapleton embrace more of the NU principles than those who are less satisfied.
Do residents with longer tenure in Stapleton value NU differently than the newer residents? Yes and no. For many of the NU principles, there is no difference based on length of time living in Stapleton. However, residents who have lived in Stapleton for six or more years value generational and income diversity, different types of housing that is interspersed, smaller lot sizes, and neighborhood bus service significantly more than new residents.
Among the newcomers who have lived in Stapleton for two or fewer years, they value having a neighborhood where children can walk to school and having places in the neighborhood where adults can meet, such as a small restaurant, significantly more than those who have lived here longer.
Putting It All Together
Stapleton residents like living in Stapleton and largely value the tenets of New Urbanism. Those who rate the NU principles highest also are the most satisfied living in Stapleton. One of the nation’s largest NU experiments—which we call Stapleton—is still ongoing. Only time will tell how it will ultimately turn out.
Dr. Kathlene has several published articles and produced a documentary on how New Urbanism can reinvigorate healthy, productive civic engagement. On the SUN board, she sits on the Transportation Committee. She has lived in Stapleton with her family since 2007, followed by three other households of extended family members.