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Norton Commons

 

Norton Commons, which is built on a large swath of prop­erty previously owned by the Norton family and known as WAVE Farm, is a place in the tradition of Louisville’s great, distinctive, historic neighborhoods like Cherokee Triangle and Old Louisville. It’s a revitalization of the way we used to make cities, towns and neighborhoods. It’s an attempt to make a healthier neighborhood, physically, emotionally and environmentally.

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a cadre of architects, design­ers and urban planners grew dissatisfied with the way cities had been growing in America in the wake of World War II. The prevalence of the automobile meant people could now easily live, work and shop in distinct locations, and govern­ment zoning encouraged business to remain far away from single-family residences. Sprawl ensued.

In 1993, architects and urban planners Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, a husband-and-wife team at the intellectual forefront of this movement of dissatisfaction, formed the Congress for New Urbanism to formalize th development philosophy. Car-centric development, they said, created congested roads, long commutes, pollution, health problems and wasted space with its large, surface parking lots. Lower density, meanwhile, left people feeling disconnected from one other and their communities.

The solution? Make neighborhoods like we used to: They should be dense, mixed-use, walkable, cater to both pe­destrians and cars, feature single- and multifamily hous­ing and respect traditional architectural forms. This would, they said, lead to more environmentally friendly cities, more economically resilient neighborhoods and districts, and happier citizens.

Not long after New Urbanism began taking across the country, Duany and Plater-Zyberk were contacted by longtime developer David Tomes, who partnered with local construction and development firm Traditional Town LLC, directed by Charles Osborn III, to plan a traditional com­munity in Louisville, a community now thriving as Norton Commons. Not only does Norton Commons feature vibrant mixed-use areas, all of its buildings conform to the traditional architectures of Louisville, like Neoclassical, Italianate, Victorian, and Arts and Crafts styles.

Norton Commons is one of Louisville’s most robust neigh­borhoods, and it’s easy to see why. Schools, businesses, parks, markets, shops, restaurants — a full community all within walking distance of your home. And with every home in the North Village featuring geothermal heating and cooling, one of the largest such developments in the coun­try, it’s also on the cutting edge of energy-saving, environ­mentally friendly technology.

So when it comes to the charm, sure there are ways to enumerate it: the principles of healthy design, or the clas­sical and vernacular architectural traditions. But really it’s the sense of connectedness and belonging, the long, tree-shaded walks or chats at a table in the village center on a summer evening, that make Norton Commons a place worth living.

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