The Edmond Sun


August 20, 2013

New urbanism concept is alive in Oklahoma

EUFAULA — American journalist Lincoln Steffens wrote from Moscow: “I have seen the future, and it works.” He wrote this in the early 1920s after seeing the effects of the Russian Revolution. But Steffens was wrong, and now the Soviet system is seen as a modern form of barbarism.

But a  true glimpse of the future may be seen in Oklahoma at the site of the community of Carlton Landing that is adjacent to Lake Eufaula. It is being constructed in accordance with the tenants of what is known as the “new urbanism” design movement. That concept has been pioneered by architects, urban planners and environmentalists.

Communities created in accordance with it feature a discernible center — often a town square or corner — with residential and commercial units located in close proximity to it. Stores and schools are also within walking distance of the residential dwellings.  

And, the websites that are dedicated to the new urbanism reference terms such as walkability, smart growth, pedestrian friendly development and the mixed use of urban areas.

There are now communities throughout the United States that have been built in accordance with the new urbanism   concept.    

Grant Humphreys, who is overseeing the development of Carlton Landing, recently explained that the project is a result in part of a trip he  took to Florida where he visited the municipality of Seaside, that was constructed by developer Robert Davis in accordance with the tenants of the New Urbanism movement. Seaside was where the Jim Carrey movie “The Truman Show” was filmed, and it has also been featured in several documentary films about the new urbanism movement.

Humphreys, who is the son of former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, had been vacationing with his family amidst the rustic beauty of Lake Eufaula for decades, concluded that that area would be an appropriate locale for a similar community.

He began to purchase land adjacent to the lake in the summer of  2007 for that purpose. He reports that within 12 months his firm had acquired a total of 1,600 acres, and planning for Carlton Landing began in earnest.    

An architect from Miami, Fla., Steve Mouzon, was retained, and he designed a plan for Carlton Landing that was in accordance with what is known as the “traditional neighborhood design” school of urban design that allows for walking paths    and many shared public areas.    

Most of the 2,000 homes that are planned will feature large front porches that will allow residents to interact with their neighbors and more than 200 acres will serve as a natural preserve with walking trails. Approximately 60 acres have been reserved for organic farming that will produce vegetables that residents will have access to.

Humphreys reports that the communal aspects of Carlton Landing will also include a weekly free outdoor movie and a  variety of programs for children as well. The Carlton Landing Institute will provide cultural events such as concerts and  stage productions. And, Carlton Landing will soon be a self-governing municipality.  

Over the upcoming Labor Day holiday, according to the developer, the Italian cultural heritage of neighboring Krebs will be celebrated at Carlton Landing with an Italian dinner that will include the “Choc beer” that was  first brewed by Italian immigrants in Krebs from recipes they got from Choctaw Indians. Also, the classic Italian movie “The Bicycle Thief” will be shown.

It is possible that in time people will come to Oklahoma for the purpose of visiting Carlton Landing to see first hand a successful community that was designed in accordance with the tenants of the new urbanism concept.  

William F. O’Brien is an Oklahoma City attorney.

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