New Community Design Tool

Posted by on July 18, 2003

Free tool helps municipalities plan livelier, healthier neighborhoods

University Park, Pa. — Whether the goal is helping rural areas retain open space while accommodating development, transforming stagnant suburban and urban tracts into more traditional neighborhoods, or fostering public health and decreasing traffic with pedestrian-friendly amenities, a new, free Penn State University tool promises to ease the chore of navigating complex municipal planning codes.

Called PennSCAPEs (Pennsylvania Strategies, Codes and People Environments), this tool is available to elected officials, developers and concerned citizens who want to learn about community design strategies that promote healthy lifestyles and compact, walkable neighborhoods that are sensitive to the environment in new and existing urban and rural communities. While not favoring rural over urban styles, or vice versa, the tool highlights and dynamically illustrates ideas for mixing businesses and residences, offering variety in housing choices, and providing settings for passive and active recreation. PennSCAPEs details issues and practices in community design in more than 500 illustrations, and includes simplified sample codes that municipalities may incorporate into their own zoning regulations.

One special feature of PennSCAPEs is that it simplifies the numerous, and often cumbersome, residential zoning classifications into three types of neighborhoods — rural residential, clustered residential and mixed-use. Within the context of each neighborhood type, options are illustrated for five key “building blocks” of design: open space, stormwater management, streets and blocks, lots and buildings, and building performance. All of these components are highly illustrated in a specially created multimedia format.

To access PennSCAPEs on the Web, visit To obtain a media copy in CD-ROM format, or for more information on the Hamer Center for Community Design Assistance, call (814) 865-5300 or e-mail The center’s Web site is

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