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Glossary of Terms

Adaptive Reuse: The rehabilitation and utilization of existing (often historical) structures for a different use than the structure was originally built to accommodate.

Big-Box Retail: Large stores - such as discount stores, department stores, warehouse clubs and other chain stores -- that occupy at least 75,000 square feet of floor area. Big-box retail typically requires large parking lots and draws consumers from a greater distance.

Brownfields: Abandoned, idled or underused industrial and commercial facilities with real or perceived environmental contamination. The potential health and safety risks can complicate expansion or redevelopment.

Bulbouts or Curb Extensions: Reducing the distance required to cross a street by enlarging the curb at pedestrian crossings. This technique reduces vehicle speeds and directs pedestrians to marked crossings, improving overall safety. Bulbouts also provide space for attractive landscaping.

City Neighborhood: A term used here to describe neighborhoods that are not intensely urban in feel but are located near the city center.

Greyfield: Vacant or unused commercial or industrial properties with development potential (such as strip malls, shopping centers, factories, etc.). Often, the development potential of a greyfield is affected by environmental factors, such as soil or groundwater contamination.

Infill: Redevelopment of existing neighborhoods that are already served by utilities and public services such as mass transit. Using these areas for new housing or other development preserves open space elsewhere and provides a smart alternative to sprawl. Infill development requires less public spending for utility lines, sewers, emergency services, schools and other public resources.

Live/Work Unit: An apartment, condo or home in which an individual both lives and has an office or shop, eliminating the daily commute. The work unit is often separated from the living unit by walls or located on another floor of the building.

Mix of Housing Types: From single-family detached homes to rowhouses to apartment buildings, smart growth neighborhoods with a range of housing types accommodate people of all ages and incomes.

Mixed-Use: Development that accommodates homes, stores and offices in one area, often with ground-floor shops and apartments or offices on upper levels. Mixed-use development enhances a neighborhood's walkability and decreases reliance on cars.

Public Spaces: Parks, plazas, sitting areas, building entrance areas, sidewalks, trails, piers and similar places that the public may frequent. They should be attractively designed and have amenities such as benches, lights, plantings or fountains.

Redevelopment: Rehabilitation, rebuilding and new construction within an existing neighborhood or larger-scale development.

Road Narrowing: This technique slows vehicle speeds by visually or physically narrowing driving lanes, making streets safer for pedestrians, bikers and others. Road narrowing can be as simple as striping for bicycle lanes or as comprehensive as a complete makeover of the streetscape with landscaping, wider sidewalks, bike lanes and fewer vehicle lanes.

Sense of Place: The landmarks and surroundings -- constructed or natural -- that cause someone to identify with a particular place or community.

Sharrow: Shared-lane pavement markings intended to help cyclists better position themselves on roadways. Sharrows (a term derived from share + arrow) are used when bicycle lanes cannot be striped for varying reasons.

Sprawl: A low-density land-use pattern (typical of U.S. suburbs built after World War II) that forces residents and employees to depend on cars for transportation. Sprawl consumes large quantities of energy and land and requires a high ratio of road surface to development.

Strip Development: Commercial development on one or both sides of a street with shops and services set back from the road to make room for parking. Strip malls generally have little landscaping and discourage walking.

Town Center: A city's focal point, with a mix of land uses that meet nearby residents' daily needs. A town center will generally include stores, restaurants, offices and community facilities such as parks, schools, libraries and places of worship. A variety of housing types within walking distance to these services is essential to any successful town center.

Traffic Calming: Street design strategies that reduce vehicle speeds, provide space for pedestrians and cyclists, and otherwise minimize the adverse impacts of motor vehicles in developed areas.

Transit-Oriented Development: The development of housing, commercial space, community services and job opportunities convenient to public transportation. Transit-oriented development reduces dependence on cars, which in turn protects the environment. Linking residents to nearby jobs and services often spurs the economic health of a community.

Walkable/Walkability: A developed area built on a human scale that encourages foot traffic over car traffic. Attractive streets, shade trees, proximity to services, and various safety measures help make an area "walkable." Commercial buildings in a walkable area will tend to be close to the street, with their main entrances oriented to the sidewalk and attractive ground-floor windows or displays.

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Kaid Benfield's Blog

Kaid Benfield writes about development, community and the environment on Switchboard.


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