Tonawanda News


October 19, 2012

ADAMCZYK: Ahead of the curve


Wait a minute. This describes the Village of Kenmore as well. In a not-so-convoluted way, Kenmore, a development tract carved out of farmland beginning in the 1890s, is precisely what the New Urbanists have in mind when thinking about a thriving, human-scale community.

Kenmore was founded in 1899. It seems to be a mere 113 years ahead of the curve.

New Urbanists are proud of certain suburbs in America, the ones in which they’ve had a hand in developing. Kentlands, Md., is one. I’ve never been there, but picture close-together houses on narrow streets, broad porches, short trails that get you from your front door to the places you shop, small parks and park benches every few hundred feet, lots of trees and an old-timey feel to it. (“Neo-traditional,” they call it.) Founded in 1988, houses start at around $400,000 there.

Except for the date and the dollar figure it sounds vaguely familiar to this longtime Kenmore resident. Throw in the brick and the flower pots on the main drag (it’s called a “streetscape”) and all Kenmore needs is a gelato vendor on wheels to complete the picture.

What America is lusting after, if the topic is proper living, has been available in Kenmore since Old Man Eberhardt hired his first surveyor. The trip to Chautauqua simply confirmed it.

Downtown Hamburg turned itself into this sort of thing, and parts of Niagara Falls are working on it. North Tonawanda, you’re next.

These architects, municipal planners, students and dedicated hangers-on like me came together, from outposts as far away as Chicago and Long Island, to better figure out how to make communities more like Kenmore. The founders of Kenmore could better be described as real estate speculators than urban design visionaries, but there you are. Some blindingly smart planners of the American future (and me) gathered in Chautauqua last weekend to bat around concepts that have been demonstrated as workable in a community, here, that started up in the McKinley Administration.

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