The developers of a major New Urbanist planned community in Chesterton, Indiana–about 45 miles east of Chicago–have changed course. According to the Gary Post-Tribune, the Coffee Creek Center is no longer going to try and be “a neo-traditional community setting standards in land use sustainability, ecology & quality of life.”
Instead, the new developer is seeking to build a large shopping mall or perhaps a big box retail development along with a standard single-family home residential district.
This represents an interesting phenomenon. Over the past decade, “new urbanist” developments with integrated housing and commercial districts, pedestrian-friendly environments, and ample public spaces have attracted the attention of large-scale real estate developers. Modeled after successful projects like Celebration, Florida, developers found a new market niche that could be pitched as an alternative to the typical “cookie cutter” sprawl developments.
According to the article, sales for Coffee Creek were anemic. It is unclear whether the recent downturn in the housing market is to blame for this, or rather changing consumer preferences. Nevertheless it will be interesting to see if this is a harbinger for a general retreat from New Urbanism.