In April 2007 the St. Charles County municipality of Dardenne Prairie held a design charrette led by new urbanist firm DPZ, the goal was to plan a walkable town center. Dardenne Prairie was incorporated in 1983 and they wanted a town center? Were they crazy? I attended several of the charrette events to observe the process.
Many of the residents attended came ready to oppose anything different than the standard suburbia typical of St. Charles County.
Over the few days I witnessed the local residents buy into the urban/walkable vision. Not urban as in high rise buildings but buildings defining the streets and connected via sidewalks. Urban as in not suburban. In 2009 the city hall was finished but I didn’t get out there until earlier this month.
When I arrived I briefly chatted with Mayor Pam Fogarty, but I’d arranged to meet my friend Alderman Scott Kolbe for a tour. Dardenne Prairie has three wards with two aldermen per ward for a total of six. These municipal offices are non-partisan. Buildings near the road and on-street parking are all part of Dardenne Prairie’s new urbanist City Plan.
While city hall opened in 2009 the park opened in September 2011.
Kolbe tells me residents of the subdivision directly behind the park welcome the activity and encourage people to trespass through their yards to reach the park. I can imagine a paved path in the future. As I left city hall people were walking to city hall. If you connect the dots people will, at least on nice days, walk rather than drive.The sidewalk has to replace the roadside drainage ditch for that to happen. Down the street a senior housing development conforms to the new city plan, built up to the sidewalk with a pedestrian entrance facing the street.
It will be years before Dardenne Prairie has a complete walkable downtown but they are putting the right pieces in place to make sure each new private development contributes toward the long-term vision. – Steve Patterson