For many of us, the term “Main Street” brings to mind fond memories of quaint old downtowns lined with unique shops and Ma and Pa restaurants. A great place for a leisurely stroll and window-shopping. A place where you could run into your neighbors, and where the owner of your favorite ice-cream shop knows your order (a double-scoop of Rocky Road) before you say a word. Main Street was not just a place to run errands, it was at the foundation of the town’s identity.
Unfortunately, in the second half of the 20th century, with the proliferation of highways and suburban sprawl, American Main Streets began to fall into disrepair and disappear. Pulse-quickening gridlock, road rage, and the endless parking garages of shopping malls and strip centers replaced evening walks and friendly encounters with neighbors on the sidewalk or at the local store. At Parkwood Homes, it has always been our mission to buck these trends and help families reconnect with their neighbors and communities. It’s why we choose to build in intelligently-planned communities that emphasize walkability, it’s why our homes have deep, livable front porches, and it’s why we love building new “main streets” with our live/work commercial townhomes.
Working in the late 1990s with visionary planner Andres Duany in the revolutionary Kentlands neighborhood outside Washington, DC, Parkwood Homes was among the first builders in America to take a chance on reintroducing the old American concept of a Main Street to a newly built development. By mixing first floor shops, second floor offices, and third floor apartments in one building, we hoped more people would leave their car keys at home and lace up their walking shoes.
The sidewalks of Kentlands’ Main Street are alive with nearby residents walking into town for dinner and shopping, and even people who have simply walked downstairs from their apartment above the store.
Our designs were inspired by the best historic cities and towns in the Washington, DC area—Georgetown, Alexandria, Annapolis, and historic Frederick. But even though these buildings look like they’d be at home on a 200 year-old street, they’re designed and constructed using the best modern building practices, so they provide practicality and energy efficiency in addition to classic charm and grace.
Good planning and bold entrepreneurship made this blast from the past a modern reality in Kentlands, the great success of which has often been cited as proof of concept for a whole movement, called New Urbanism, which seeks to incorporate the best parts of historic towns and cities into modern planning practice.
After enjoying great success with the development of most of the live/work buildings along Kentlands’ Main Street, Parkwood Homes’ Steve Wilcox decided to take this vision a few miles further north. Parkwood was among the original builders in The Villages of Urbana, building single-family homes, townhomes, and the live/work commercial townhomes we had become known for on Kentlands’ acclaimed Main Street.
Now we’re taking the next logical step in our vision of revitalizing the walkable community. Parkwood’s new corner live/work buildings are coming to The Villages of Urbana. Featuring a new design that wraps the street corner and includes a distinctive extra-large center unit, it’s hard to look at this building without evoking the warm, nostalgic feelings of a historic American downtown. Each corner unit has a courtyard in the back that we hope will come alive with things like patio seating, live music, and small events. Helping to make the town as a whole more walkable than ever, these units will be built alongside our current live/work commercial townhomes in Urbana across the street from the library.
We are very excited about this next step in the development of our live/work commercial townhomes and how they will contribute to Urbana’s evolving Market District. There was a very strong response to our March release of the first corner building (five units), and we’ll be releasing the next one very soon. For more information about the new set of buildings, click here.