Monday, May 16, 2022

Richardson's Ten Best Planning Decisions:
9 - Development by Neighborhoods

Like many suburbs, a large amount of its land area is devoted to residential housing. The manner in which Richardson expanded is more of a strength than not despite that expansion being unremarkable to a casual observer.

Map of Richardson's Neighborhood and Homeowner Associations.
Source: City of Richardson

This is the second entry in my series: Richardson's Ten Best Planning Decisions.

The introduction to this series is found here. These items occur in no order of importance at least so far.

I like to say that Richardson was the first "boom" suburb north of Dallas. Garland, and Farmer's Branch also had housing expansion in the 1950s but Richardson's quality was different. 

That difference was led by the original builders of the Richardson Heights area: Lindsay Embrey and George Underwood Jr. The first Richardson Heights homes broke ground in 1954.

Their development of Richardson Heights led to the defined pattern that swept north through Richardson. In some ways, Richardson set the standard for northward suburban expansion from Dallas. Plano and to the west, Carrollton, took cues from an early Richardson in this observers humble opinion. 

The pattern for Richardson especially early on was defined neighborhoods. Neighborhoods built within ten years of each other are significantly different. Nobody would claim that Richardson Heights (1954) is the same as Estates North (1962 - otherwise known as The Reservation) despite most homes being built within ten years of each other. 

I wrote an article for Richardson Living on housing affordability a few years ago. In doing research I noted that between 1973 and 1976 typical Richardson housing home prices were between 2.5 and 4 times the expected average salary for a starting college degreed individual. Now they are between 6 and 6.5 times the starting salary for a graduate. That might be conservatively optimistic for many areas of Richardson.

The urban purist who sees the suburban pattern as a mistake would take exception to me calling this a "best planning decision." Point taken. Richardson's residential suburban pattern does have the same problems as expansive, auto dependent suburbs. Vast single family home areas don't necessarily produce enough revenue to maintain their own infrastructure.

Even so in Richardson's case the early housing was in an era where it was unique enough to have its own identity. This lead to established neighborhoods and neighborhood associations that advocated for the betterment of their areas and established identities that added value.

These identities were prominent enough that the City of Richardson now has a monthly meeting with the neighborhood and homeowner associations presidents once a month for most months of the year. Further, they established a Neighborhood Leadership workshop several times a year to provide hands on information to these neighborhood leaders.

So Richardson's defined neighborhoods are a strong point and one of the ten best planning decisions in Richardson.  


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