A Downtown with Rural Character
Credit Lew Oliver, Inc
Vibrant and Rural are terms not generally used together. Healthy downtowns are vibrant, active, busy. Yet, it’s important to honor Auburn’s rural roots – that organic character and charm. The design will influence the experience for residents and visitors. So, how to design a feel that’s both vibrant and rural? Town Urbanist, Lew Oliver does just that.
A partner in Auburn’s master planning, Lew’s Whole Town Solutions expand beyond building design, into creating “environments that enhance the landscape, dramatize views, and preserve existing natural areas.” His resume includes landmark projects such as Serenbe, Vickery, Glenwood Park and most recently, Pinewood Forrest.
Building on the framework of the initial planning charrette for the south side of the Downtown project, Lew presented a first rendition for discussion with Auburn’s Mayor and City Council on December 19, 2019. The plan will be refined further to accommodate various requirements of the City Hall building, as well as engineering adjustments, land availability, and market conditions. Perimeters of the plan are set up to tie in to adjoining properties for any future developments.
City Hall sits at the high point of the property, with a large civic garden for special events or general gathering space. As shown, it measures about 1½ football fields long. A boulevard style street winds through the property, on either side of the new City Hall, with on-street parking and low speed design.
Most residential lots laid are out in a flowing form, with green space views from every home. There’s an alley system of crushed gravel drives in the back, for access to garages and trash pickup. The homes face gardens and lawns with a sidewalk network of ‘green streets’ – walking areas that are safe and inviting. A variety of lot sizes include options for households of different sizes, tastes and price points.
Examples of rural character home architecture and common green space from other Lew Oliver communities
“Suburban development means teachers live in one area, bankers in another. Communities are divided by price,” said Lew. “It misses the interaction with neighbors that I grew up with, and I feel strongly we need to get back to that kind of planning.”
“This is an exciting time for Auburn,” said Mayor Linda Blechinger. “The City Hall, more residential side of Downtown is coming together, and the beautiful Historic side will be just as wonderful. Altogether, this is something we can be proud of for our city.”
“2020 will be a busy year,” added Dave Schmit. “Along with design, infrastructure and financing coming together, we’ll be working to make sure the code is revised to line up with the plans. It will be important to balance design with feasibility so that whatever development comes after this will be in keeping with the vision.”