With Buena Vista's South Main on the left, preserved open space surrounds the planned unit development (PUD.) This development follows the idea of the urban transect.
When most think of ‘urban planning,’ small, (i.e. less than 5,000,) rural communities are not at the forefront of the conversation. Most might envision the original, square street grid, large transportation systems, or master-planned communities. But (urban) planning is not always large cities; the small communities count too!
Whether the planning is large or small, short or long term, all cities use planning to make their communities sustainable socially, economically, and ecologically. The rural-urban transect, credited to DPZ & Company, includes the rural community as a stop from the natural environment to the built, urban core of cities. Large cities have more planning sectors to focus their energy, while small towns might have one or two downtown corridors. Small towns might have less of a focus on incorporating both affordable and market rate housing, while a larger city will have stricter housing typology policies. The Congress for the New Urbanism promotes looking at planning communities at the neighborhood scale; which in most instances can be applied wholly to an entire small town, like Buena Vista. Downtown Colorado Inc. recently visited Buena Vista to complete a ‘main street assessment’ of BV’s downtown corridor. DCI assessed current conditions and how to improve the Main Street business district, specifically economically.
These rural communities were settled behind an (usually) economic reason: there was economic opportunity in a given area too far from a large city for a daily commute. Buena Vista, Colorado is an excellent example; originally settled as a mining town along the Arkansas River, people descended to BV to live and work. The automobile and freight transportations connections were established in all cardinal directions for accessibility purposes to the larger cities around – Colorado Springs, Pueblo, & Grand Junction, to name a few. The mining factory brought the opportunity, and the small community had to plan for population fluxes, water droughts, physical circulation questions, etc.
The bottom line: anywhere people settle, there will be a need for planning to account for a sustainable community – a community that can survive socially and economically without completely depreciating the surrounding environment.
Does your small town value and implement planning as much as, say, New York City does?
Credits: Images by Katie Poppel. Data linked to sources.