Driving along I-95 from Virginia to New England, I noticed how many townhouse-style developments have cropped up where apartment complexes would have been built a decade ago. Here is an example of the demand for housing shifting in a small but significant way. True, cute urban-looking townhouses plopped down on greenfields next to highway on-ramps, miles from the old city or town center, is not exactly smart growth. But there seems to have been a change in what people are looking for in their homes, and developers recognize it.
People are looking for front entrances to their houses that take them directly to a street, not to a parking lot. And they value a traditional architectural style that fits with the region they are moving to. Is there more of a sense of community in this type of development than in the apartment-style complexes? Perhaps not a lot more. But if a townhouse includes a bit of yard space out front (many do not), there’s more of an opportunity for neighbors to meet each other on their own turf. This is a quality often missing in high-density apartment and condo developments, as I noted in a previous Rooflines post.
It seems to me that the shift in the market in recent years toward townhouses is a small step forward. Now if we could just develop real village centers around the townhouses, with shops, transit and recreational opportunities, we’d be on to something big.