Clarifying Design Expectations - Home Page

Graphic of an artists rendering of an intersection with high-visibility crosswalks, many people walking, people biking, a bus, and many trees with buildings

The design of new development is often driven by the physical planning requirements and outlined in zoning codes. Setbacks, height and bulk limits, and building density are factors that directly affect the development outcome. This practice tends to quantify the development process and minimize the experiential, design-related aspects. As a result, it is not uncommon to see relatively high-density developments that are physically separated from transit and surrounding structures, unfriendly to pedestrians, and have poor associations with adjacent uses. These types of projects reinforce the negative perception of high-density development and can produce undesirable results such as loss of open space, noise, and traffic congestion without providing the benefits of best practices including high-quality pedestrian space, usable open spaces, and a sense-of-place.

Zoning should define the location, intensity, and use of a new development, while design should direct the aesthetics of a development. Ideally, zoning and design should be coordinated so that both convey the best practice expectation. The following tools and processes can be used to help jurisdictions create and communicate a clear vision for design in their community.

Design Guidelines
Policy & Implementation
The Role of Local Government & Transit First Policies
Guiding Principles of Land Use
Flexible Zoning Strategies
Street Design Implementation
Revising Transportation Analysis Practices
Transportation Demand Management
Rethinking Vehicle Parking Requirements
Parking Management
Best Practices to Attract Successful Developers
Clarifying Design Expectations
Integrating Retail into Transit Oriented Development
Community Planning for Rail Transit
Additional Resources

Clarify the Vision Early

Jurisdictions can guide placemaking and design quality through articulation of the vision to citizens, developers, and staff in all city departments by establishing design recommendations, or guidelines, early on in the process.

Develop a Design Review Process

A design review process is needed to truly and consistently implement a community’s long-range vision and to provide a framework for coordinating the agendas of multiple public agencies.

Pursue Catalytic Projects

Pursuing a single project with best practices design in a strategic location has a “catalytic” effect that stimulates similar development.

Case Studies

  • Orlando, Florida, USA - Traditional City Design Standards

  • Austin, Texas, USA - Smart Growth Matrix