August 03, 2015

Collierville Gives Enthusiastic Nod to Old-Time, Walkable Communities

By: Kevin McKenzie
Commercial Appeal
In the early 1900s, the Belvedere subdivision in Midtown, with its shady median and sidewalks that invite traversing a neighborhood on foot, became the first notable development for the Boyles.
A century later, Boyle Investment Co., founded in 1933 by sons of Edward Boyle, is tweaking its rules for parts of two major developments in Collierville with that past in mind.
The Memphis firm is aiming to re-create the walkable, mixed-use communities built before automobiles and cheap oil provided the foundation for modern suburbs.
“We’ve got to learn some lessons that our forefathers understood back before World War II,” said Russell Bloodworth, an executive vice president for Boyle.
Key parts of the design include shorter blocks for pedestrian access, narrow streets, parallel parking and mixing commercial and residential uses in the same neighborhood, and sometimes the same building.
Collierville’s Planning Commission and Board of Mayor and Aldermen quickly embraced recent Boyle Investment requests to revise outline plans for parts of two planned developments presented in the 1990s:
Forty-eight acres of the Price Farms planned development, called the Village Hamlet, at the southwest corner of Houston Levee and South Shea roads. A Kid Tech child care center located there.
Three areas totaling 116 acres of the Schilling Farms planned development, parts of a dozen areas totaling 447 acres south of Poplar along Schilling and Winchester boulevards.
Bloodworth said visiting Poundbury, a village in England built using traditional design philosophies championed by Prince Charles, convinced him.
While there a few years ago for a workshop on block design, offered by The Prince’s Foundation For the Built Environment, he saw the benefits of small irregular blocks that made the village “permeable” for pedestrians.
Narrow streets with no traffic signs were shared by people on foot and cars — shared more safely because vehicles were slowed to about 5 mph by the street design, he said.
Bloodworth said the economic times provide more reasons for developers to embrace mixed-use development.
It might take a decade to fill a single large office building, he said. But with a hotel, town homes, “live/work” buildings, banks and other uses in one development, future prospects are diversified.
“A lot of people are thinking about it and being forced to think about it because of the economy,” he said.
Bloodworth said similar principles are found in the proposed Unified Development Code, which officials said could be considered for adoption by Memphis and Shelby County governments as early as next spring.
He said Bob Martin, the former planning director for Franklin, Tenn., was instrumental in drawing his attention to the traditional or sustainable movements.
Martin was a mentor for Jaime Groce, Collierville’s chief planner, who succeeded Martin in 2006 and served as Franklin’s planning director before moving to Collierville last year.
Collierville doesn’t have many examples of the new or “neotraditional” design, Groce said. Villages at Porter Farms, Oak Grove, the town’s I-269 Small Area Plan and a new one being drawn up for downtown show elements. 
“It was just a lost art; we just forgot how to do it,” Groce said.