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New Urbanism is Rebuilding Union Village

Marble Hall, an immaculately kept Victorian building adorned with two turrets on each side, has stood proudly for well over 200 years. Erected in 1810, the building was a symbol of its time, being a part of the largest Shaker settlement in the United States, Union Village (click HERE to learn more about Marble Hall at Union Village). Union was in southwest Ohio. Just between Cincinnati and Dayton, east of Monroe and west of Lebanon.

As settlements moved west, so did the Shaker population and, by 1912, the village had disbanded after a long decline. It’s over 4,000 acres were sold to the Church of the United Brethren in Christ which is now Otterbein Senior Living Community. As Otterbein grew it had ample space to do so, but it had long questioned what to do with the land it owned across the street from its main facility.

The senior facility wanted to build a community where its employees could live and where family members of its residents could live to be close to their loved ones. In 2014, Otterbein decided to build a new master-planned community and resurrected the name Union Village.

The community was designed by architect Mike Watkins. It encompasses 1,230 acres just across Route 741 from Otterbein. The site is connected to nearby Interstate 75 via Route 63. At full completion, Union Village will be home to over 10,000 residents with 4,500 residential units with a mixture of single-family homes, townhomes, and condos. The Center Building is the first retail building in the development. It features as pub and a branch of the local LCNB bank as well as the village’s realty office and Otterbein Senior Life.

Central to the community is a 200-acre greenway system complete with meadows, wooded parks, and a multi-use pathway system with connections to nearby Armco Park and Warren County Sports Park.

In a recent interview (which you can access HERE) Watkins explains:

“Union Village is a place that enjoys a range of housing types (single-family houses of various sizes, townhouses and future apartments), all within walking distance rather than segregated by berms and collector roads. The neighborhood has a mix of uses that will continue to grow over time. It has a variety of parks, greens, squares, and plazas. What makes this diversity compatible are the design principles on which the community is based. Buildings respect the streets and civic spaces. The streets have on-street parking as much for convenience as to protect the pedestrians on the adjacent sidewalks. Rear lanes provide vehicular access to garages, thus eliminating driveways along the streets. Add shade trees and the sidewalks become delightful (and safe!) for pedestrians again. Building massing and materials are timeless and traditional.”

Union Village’s Master Planning process embraces the transect approach laid out in the SmartCode. The SmartCode is an open-source form-based code developed in 2003 by DPZ and has been adopted in over 200 communities across the world. In 2015 the Master Plan won the Urban Planning John Russell Pope Award.

The transect approach has allowed Otterbein to recruit a diverse set of developers to the Union Village Developers Guild. Interested developers are vetted by Otterbein to build the types of housing and mixed-use buildings desired, up to the standards of the code in addition to pattern book design standards.

In its first phase, Village West, the community will add one hundred new homes to the southwest corner of the site. As of this year, over twenty houses have been constructed in addition to six townhomes, one mixed-use building along with the Village Green which hosts concerts and other neighborhood events.

As Union Village evolves, a timeline that developers estimates to be around 30 to 40 years, it will grow into a community as naturally as the old towns before it, all while Marble Hall stands gleaming in the distance.

By the way, did you hear that CNU is coming to Cincinnati to host its 32nd Annual Congress in the Queen City next year? If you want to learn more about Union Village and other exciting projects happening around the region, make sure to watch our newsletter for more information or attend this year’s Congress in Charlotte, NC. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Cincinnati!

To learn more about Union Village, visit their website by clicking HERE.

Photos Courtesy of Union Village Ohio.

Author BIO:

John Yung has dedicated his 16-year career towards advancing communities in development, planning, and zoning. As Planning Director for Urban Fast Forward, he leads the urban development and policy division with a focus on revitalizing and enriching city centers and neighborhoods. Mr. Yung became an advocate for New Urbanism in 2004 after reading Suburban Nation in college. In 2010, he was a crucial part of the team that developed, implemented, and regulated the first Cincinnati-area form-based code in Bellevue, KY. He is co-Chair of the Local Host Committee for CNU 32 Cincinnati and a founding member of CNU-Midwest.

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