Envisioning Better Communities

Seeing More Options, Making Wiser Choices

By Randall Arendt

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Randall Arendt's work has shaped a generation of planners, designers, and landscape architects. In Envisioning Better Communities, he brings his insights to a broader public, with a profusely illustrated demonstration of how local officials, planning commissioners, and everyday citizens can work to make their communities more attractive, more habitable, and more sustainable.

Despite the widespread acceptance of good design and planning principles throughout the professions, too many of our towns and rural areas remain needlessly ugly and inefficient. In side by side comparisons of similar places and kinds of buildings, Arendt shows that we need not live amid sprawling, characterless visual blight. Simple design choices and effective municipal decisions can have tremendous impacts on the quality of our communities.

Written in Arendt's well-known clear, accessible, nontechnical style, this book creates a sense of hope for those who face the everyday challenges of working with developers and landowners to create places that make economic, environmental, and aesthetic sense. Arendt shows us that with diligence, thoughtfulness, and care, we can make our communities better in countless ways.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2010
APA Planners Press and Urban Land Institute

Table of Contents



Part One: Balancing Development and Conservation through Community-wide Planning

Part Two: Conservation Subdivision Design-Recommended Procedures

Part Three: Residential Neighborhood Design Principles

Part Four: Improving Downtown Appearance and Viability

Part Five: Transforming Highway Commercial Strips into Mixed Use Centers and Corridors

Conclusion: Where to Go from Here

Appendix 1: Image Preference Survey

Appendix 2: Making Your Design Review Process Defensible: A Case Study from Washington State

Appendix 3: Road Access Control Ordinance

Appendix 4: Birmingham Crossroads Overlay District Standards, Milton, Georgia

Appendix 5: Suggestions for Further Reading

About the Author

Art Credits



"Few activities affect more powerfully the quality of life than the elementary design of our communities and the way they are blended with the natural environment. Randall Arendt has provided the rules to combine this vision with attainable goals."

—E.O. Wilson, Harvard University

"This is precisely the kind of tool local planners need. Most of us know in our gut what kind of communities we'd like to live in; this helps make it clearer what needs to happen for those wishes to come true."

—Bill McKibben

"Envisioning Better Communities reminds me of Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language, and I believe it is equal to that work. The well-constructed and easily understood procedures, logic, and graphics will appeal to a wide audience. Schools of planning and design will flock to have this in their libraries and studios."

—Prof. Jon Rodiek, Texas A&M University; editor, Landscape & Urban Planning

"Local officials and planners, in addition to developers and interested citizens, will find a true cornucopia of practical ideas for helping their communities grow with sense and grace. This book will become an extremely useful ready-reference to practitioners in towns and counties on both sides of the metro-edge, whether dealing with new sites or infill and redevelopment."

—Judy Corbett, Executive Director, Local Government Commission