Cherokee Village (pop 4,900) was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop a plan that combines its heritage as a regional modern forest community with future development. What do you do with a 1950s polycentric road network structured around highway arterials and cul-de-sacs exclusively for automobile travel and residential-only land uses? Local developers in this 21-square-mile ”bedroom community” of single-family homes asked: What if future development and placemaking for Cherokee Village were to be oriented around notions of hospitality and its attendant ways of living together? The region’s subaltern tradition of camp meeting grounds, artsy resort culture, scouting camps and dinner theaters in the woods are forms of urbanism that we extended.
If the 20th century greenway was a conservation and mobility corridor preserving wildness in urbanized areas, the rural greenway in forested communities is an urbanizing corridor for hosting new hospitality landscapes. Here, the greenway pattern language employs a continuous network of paths and activity nodes accreted from three general conditions in Cherokee Village: 1) repurposing 80 miles of unimproved roads, 2) retrofitting trafficked roads as living streets, and 3) developing a secondary independent trail network. The greenway network is a multifunctional infrastructure bundling ecosystem services with tourism, recreation, festival space, natural resource recycling (forest thinning to yield timber), and living environments through camps and housing diversity including RV parks.
Greenway networks combine transportation investments in scenic trails and recreation facilities with water management landscapes that deliver the 17 ecosystem services all healthy ecosystems deliver including biodiversity, pollination, conservation, habitat, and fire (via forest thinning) and flood management. The network promotes safe and green non-automotive travel including pedestrian/bicycle trails connecting neighborhoods and schools. Cherokee Village received an Our Town planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The botanical garden project received a 2022 Architects Newspaper Best of Design Award, while the cultural mapping project informing the plan, City in the Woods, was a 2022 Plan Award Category Winner for Special Projects.
The greenway network consisting of new trail networks combined with signature projects are developed as context-sensitive corridors responsive to place, function, and movement modality. Greenways can be permanent armatures or placeholder installations that expand and contract until investment brings higher and better uses. In the western portions of the Village, mostly vacant and overgrown, greenways can formalize itinerant uses, like jogging and cycling that may already be occurring on vacant roads. Unimproved roads can be adapted as trails, which may in turn sponsor tactical urbanism. Grassroots-led event programming and design improvements capitalize on the sense of place—akin to Cherokee Village’s own growth from a cluster of camps and vacation spots. A bridlepath network could initially support weekend horseback riding. As this community grows, an equestrian arena and stables could be added, even supporting an equestrian residential development. Likewise, pedestrian and bicycle trails could link recreation parks, campgrounds, vacation cottage courts, and RV parks with a new festival ground. Presently, the Village lacks a central outdoor gathering place for area concerts and entertainment venues. Greenway infrastructure supporting diversification and informality may be the most cost-efficient way to prototype the phased development of novel living environments desired by the market without capital-intensive investment that gets ahead of the market.
“Wow! Very impressive.” — Jonathan Rhodes, Community Developer and Client; and “The idea of outdoor rooms that harken back to their ecological history and purpose is artfully imagined in this assemblage. The backdrop of dense forest is used to great effect here, especially as the rooms are imagined at great height with hanging gardens and a zipline.” — James Burnett, President, OJB Landscape Architecture and Jury Chair for the AN Best of Design Award
The University of Arkansas Community Design Center is an outreach center of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and one of a few university-based teaching offices in the United States dedicated to delivering urban design work. Originated in 1995, the center advances creative development in Arkansas through design, research, and education solutions. Nationally recognized in public-interest design, the center has its own downtown facilities and 5-6 professional design/planning staff, some who also teach. Beyond the focus on urban projects, UACDC has developed eight place-making platforms to shape civic design and public policy at state and municipal levels. These interdisciplinary platforms include 'missing middle housing,' 'agricultural urbanism,' 'transit-oriented development,' 'context-sensitive street design,' 'watershed urbanism,' 'big box urbanism,' 'smart growth,' and 'low impact development,' vocabularies which are locally articulated but hold universal currency.