New Town St. Charles: Your future is here (it’s ugly)

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{an aerial photo of New Town St. Charles}

For all the hype, New Urbanism has largely failed to live up to its ideals – and it's a wonderful idea as it exists in theory and academia. Despite the complaints from New Urbanism adherents that if only they were allowed to enact their plan in entirety the new communities would flourish, development after development is failing.

The pattern is becoming familiar: a developer, real estate agents and homebuilders want to build new; an entire new city complete with schools, libraries, churches and cafes is announced; buyers are sold on a walkable community; amenities are incomplete, businesses close or need to be subsidized; residents drive more than ever (their new town was built miles from existing amenities).

New Town is next.

Markham: Another Failed New Urbanism Development


{a view of Markham}


{a view of New Town}

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  • S

    One more thing….when I moved here from St. Louis County, I cut my 1.5 to 2-hr daily commute (270 to 64) IN HALF. Gained 5 hrs a week of free time! Takes 25 minutes to get to work, with NO bumper-to-bumper headache. If I had moved to Webster or Kirkwood, my rent would be double and I’d still be sitting in traffic an extra five hours a week.

  • S
    • Adam

      Yep, it’s an exurban subdivision with a rectilinear grid. If you like it good for you. It’s still irresponsible development.

  • S

    This article was written six years ago, during the recession, and clearly you’re not a resident. While you are entitled to your opinion, it makes you come off looking like a smug city-dweller. Truth is, I’ve lived in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and now I’m renting in New Town. Ugliness is subjective and exists everywhere. I live in a loft with 15-ft ceilings and stained concrete floors. From my apartment, I can walk to a free trade coffee house, my dog’s groomer, my dentist, a wine bar, a restaurant with patio dining, a sports bar, pet supply store, a barber, two beauty salons, a pilates studio, a couple of insurance agencies, a few specialty stores, a great corner grocery (with a deli that serves Boar’s Head products), two swimming pools (one has a lazy river!), an ice cream place, sand an organic farm where I can purchase fresh eggs and produce (and rent a plot if I want to grow my own!) People fish in the lakes, kayak, and float. The community holds movie nights, free concerts, and other activities, year-round. I can literally walk out my back door and sit in a grassy ampitheater and enjoy a concert! I am Caucasian, but my neighbors are Asian, African-American, gay, straight, young, old, families with children, and singles. It’s a great place to have a dog; there are many dog walkers. Sure, I DO commute to my job in Chesterfield, and the nearest full-sized grocery store is a few miles away, but here I have off-street parking, and no fear of walking alone (day OR night) as a woman. Here people wave to you and make some effort to meet their neighbors. Some people I’ve met here moved in 10 years ago and are buying their second or third home here. There are houses going up all over. There is much to appreciate in this community, but I’m most appreciative that I’ve yet to meet any pretentious hipsters here. Please, stay in the city!

    • Alex Ihnen

      That’s great – love that New Town works for you. The point wasn’t, and isn’t, that no one would like living in New Town, but rather New Town only completed maybe 1/4 of the original plan, that New Urbanism is more “new” than “urbanism”. Just recently, a large swath of what was going to be New Town was rezoned as a traditional suburb. Again, I appreciated that you enjoy living there, and that the location works for you.

    • Adam

      It’s still sprawl, and therefore ethically questionable and economically disastrous for the region in the long term. Also, ditch the hipster nonsense if you want your posts to be taken seriously. It’s lazy. Since you lived in the city you’re well aware that “hipsters” (whatever that means—I challenge you to even define it) comprise a small fraction of city residents.

    • STLEnginerd

      I like New Town, I just wish it had been built near some of the current built environment. The amenities and the style are both pretty cool. By putting it where it is it is neither a quaint urban village nor is it a neighborhood of a larger city. It’s sort of in between which is unfortunate.

      Imagine if New Town had been built adjacent to an established business center like Clayton, or Downtown. It’s impact would have been much greater.

      Also, selling New Town by cutting down the city is no better than them dismissing New Town because it’s not a ‘true’ city.

      • onecity

        It should have been built where Bass Pro is at.

  • Peter Paul

    Idiot

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks for the comment. Anything in particular you disagree with? The larger story of New Town, and New Urbanism, in my view, is one of failed promises. I’m assuming New Town is a wonderful place to live, but it was planned to be at least 3x as large, to be connected to Old Town St. Charles via a streetcar, and to be able to support a lot of local businesses. What it is, is an urban-ish suburb where everyone drives out of the neighborhood to go to work and shop. Maybe it’s time I get out there again and see what I can see.

      • Patrick

        I never got the concept. It really is out in the middle of nowhere. And if you want a walkable (more or less) area you have city neighborhoods and suburban areas like Kirkwood, Webster, etc.

        • John R

          Well if your universe is St. Charles Co or even if you work in parts of NoCo, this is probably something that appeals to folks looking for an alternative to traditional suburban life while still providing new(er) construction and convenience.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Yes, it’s a new type of suburb, called New Urbanism. That’s the critique.

        • onecity

          The old town in St. Charles seems to offer everything New Town offers, with a lot more town amenities. It would have made a lot more sense as a way to extend the existing street grid.