TigerDirect (CA)

New Urbanism - a return to the traditional main street (con't) 

Block upon block of attached three storey buildings feature retail shops on the first floor and living quarters above.

It’s a throwback to the way traditional main streets, including in Windsor, were always built.

But Shelby Town Center, as it’s known, has only been around about a decade.

Developer Vince DiLorenzo has built 66 units including 17 rentals.

This street has all the amenities of an earlier period of American life including brick facades meeting the sidewalk (no lawns in front) and old fashioned street lamps.

“The concept is that you live upstairs and work downstairs,” DiLorenzo said.

Each unit is about 1600 sq. ft with the living area on the two floors above the connected retail shop on street level, measuring about 350 sq. ft.

DiLorenzo had no problem selling the units – which ranged between $210,000 and $230,000 – prior to the US housing crash.

But it wasn’t average Americans who were buying them.

“People in the United States, it’s very difficult for them to change what they’re supposed to do,” he laughed.

“You know somebody told them to drive down the street and what they do, they don’t question, they don’t ask why.

“So when you get a novel idea like this it’s a little bit different from what they are used to.”

Instead many immigrants from Europe took to the concept “because they remember how they used to live in their country,” he said.

But it’s an idea that makes eminent sense for small business people.

DiLorenzo points to a barber who used to pay $1000 a month rent for a chair in someone else’s barber shop.

Now he has a unit in Shelby Town Center where he pays the same amount “and he gets to live there too.”

Small businesses are ideal for the storefronts, from hair salons to accountants and lawyers, to computer repair shops.

DiLorenzo says the market for sales plunged after the recession and he has been renting out units now - sales are pretty much dormant - at up to $1400 a month.

He has almost 20 units still available.

The developer said the New Urbanism concept 10 years ago was so radical it took some convincing of municipal authorities to get approval from the Shelby Township municipal government.

“It took a long time, it wasn’t easy to get the township to go along with it, they wanted just the old fashioned condos and apartments.”

That’s ironic.

Because what the municipality thought was old fashioned was in fact modern American which in turn had replaced the traditional 100-year-old neighbourhood that DiLorenzo was now proposing.

New Urbanism, after all, is an attempt to recreate that old fashioned main street feeling.


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