Startups and the Rise of New Urbanism

Among one of the most important planning movements of the last 50 years, New Urbanism has found much of its success in the South. This movement centers around traditional neighborhood design, creating a sense of community through mixed-use development that incorporates diverse price points, while integrating beautiful streets and structural standards with commercial conveniences.

Baldwin Park (Orlando), Birkdale Village (Charlotte), Daniel Island (Charleston, South Carolina) have been some of the most notable communities in the Southeast that have achieved success not only in residential development, but also in attracting commerce. Most recently some are also attracting startups.

While dense urban cores still dominate the startup space, New Urbanism is offering another option for the region. Their plans encourage neighborly, in-person interactions, which are becoming more important in an era of impersonal connectivity.

While many urban areas are experiencing unprecedented housing affordability crises, New Urbanism can help recreate density — oftentimes at lower costs and with modern convenience. Varied housing types and price points bring people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and incomes into real contact. Civic bonds are formed in a walkable environment. Shared spaces encourage inclusion rather than exclusion.

Norton Commons, where I serve as general counsel and marketing director, encompasses a 600-acre plan in northeast Louisville, and has matured into one of the most successful New Urbanist communities in the South. By the close of 2016, the community, which is just a little over a decade in age, will be home to more than 1,000 residences, three schools (including a new public elementary) and dozens of parks, playgrounds, pools, bike paths and green spaces. Roughly 50 percent of the 60+ business owners in the community are residents. The overwhelming majority of them are independent businesses, such as lawyers, writers, artists, engineers, boutique-owners and restauranteurs.

Cutting-edge infrastructure investments continue to be a top priority in attracting development. The community has invested heavily in eco-friendly energy efficient geothermal technologies, which bring big savings to residents and businesses. In fact, Norton Commons is soon set to become one of the largest geothermal communities in the United States. AT&T and other telecoms are quickly deploying gigabit fiber throughout the South, and our community is one of the first in the region that can boast of speeds rivaling larger urban cores.

Lucina Health, a new startup that uses aggregated data and obstetrics analytics to help reduce preterm birth rates, recently located in the community in March. The company is building out its staff of 15 and has the potential to invest up to $3.5 million in the Louisville area over the next several years. The startup cited the health-conscious, multi-generational environment in Norton Commons as aligning perfectly with the mission of the company. Lucina was just the latest addition to the emerging health tech cluster: Care Innovations opened an IT and health product innovation center in Norton Commons in 2015.

As the South continues to develop and attract new talent, look for New Urbanist communities to be right in the thick of things in the quest for startup locations. The easy accommodation of expansions places these communities in a far better position to allow startups to thrive and scale-up.

Marilyn Osborn Patterson is General Counsel and Marketing Director for Norton Commons, a New Urbanist development in northeast Louisville.

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