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.

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

About the Authors

Randall Arendt
Randall Arendt FRTPI is a landscape planner, site designer, author, lecturer, and an advocate of "conservation planning". He is the founding president of Greener Prospects and serves as Senior Conservation Advisor at the Natural Lands Trust in Media, Pennsylvania. He is also the former Director of Planning and Research at the Center for Rural Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he also served as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. In 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute in London, and in 2004 he was elected as an Honorary Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Among his books are Rural by Design, Conservation Design for Subdivisions, Growing Greener, Crossroads, Hamlet, Village, Town, and Envisioning Better Communities: Seeing More Options, Making Wiser Choices. He has recently completed a thorough updating and substantial expansion of Rural by Design for the APA.

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