Comprehensive Plans

Land Use and Successful Development Projects: "The Payoff of High Quality Design Can Be Big"

It’s the first day of autumn.  We at the North Carolina Land Use Litigator thought we’d take this chance to look at the world of real estate and land use a little differently.

Our study takes us this morning to urban planner Roger Lewis’s piece from The Washington Post, entitled “Building a Beautiful, Durable and Sustainable Streetscape Is a Team Effort“.  
We’ve been talking for years about the intricacies of land use planning, the cooperation and complex solutions required for the development of any project.  Well, this piece addresses the nuance, opportunity and challenge real estate development faces with something as seemingly “basic” as street design.  From the article:

Planning, constructing and maintaining streets is not just a utilitarian matter. Streetscapes constitute the public realm we all see, share and use every day.  Designing that realm, like designing good architecture, should aspire to achieve aesthetic as well as practical goals.  A good street is a public space, one that can be visually appealing as well as functional and sustainable.


Applying conventional standards may be necessary but is never sufficient.  To achieve quality, to offer aesthetically satisfying experiences for users, street design must go beyond conformance with technical criteria.  Creating a beautiful, durable and ecologically sustainable streetscape requires a multidisciplinary team.  Talented urban designers, landscape architects and graphic designers, in addition to technically proficient civil and environmental engineers, must work collaboratively.


Compared with the cost of engaging a team to collaboratively design a street, the cost of construction and then decades of maintenance is enormous.  Yet the payoff of high quality design can be big: a beautiful, sustainable public space through which driving, walking and biking is a delight.

You thought land use and structure design would be the most harrowing decisions?  Not always. Lighting.  Plantings.  Access.  Colors.  And, yes, streetscapes.  These can all matter, and the public and the politics are just as likely to cite federal, state or local law as to cite an article like Mr. Lewis’s piece in support of a particular vision.  
Thus, having a good team of planners, engineers, businesspeople and lawyers will ensure that every step of any development project is crafted, tuned and positioned for success.

“Walt Disney should have followed our design, huh?”
Mike Thelen practices in Womble, Carlyle’s Real Estate Litigation and Land Use practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients, from local governments to businesses, in land use and land development matters in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

Follow the North Carolina Land Use Litigator on Twitter at @nclanduselaw and “like” us on Facebook here. 

Categories: Comprehensive Plans

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