Ridgefield: Building Livability

Ridgefield, an area which was once known for its urban sprawl, is now trying to reshape its planning and development process to accommodate for its steadily growing population. The city’s population has grown over 44 percent in the last six years and is expected to reach over 25k by 2035 (almost triple the current population). In lieu of this growth, there are big development plans where in the center of the City 692 homes will be built and next to that… another 453 homes with pockets of retail.

With the recent attention, the city’s planning committee has increased its design and planning standards to fit a grand vision of enhanced livability; they want to embody walkability, sustainability and high quality architecture and amenities. The committee plans to enforce stricter rules when assessing developments, rather than just allowing anything to be built. This means no big box store fronts with tacky facades, no sea of parking, and no profuse use of concrete.

A newly adopted optional mixed-use overlay gives developers more flexibility, allowing builders to put up homes across the street from retail, adding to walkability. The committee is also considering the idea of offering “density bonuses” to encourage even more mixed-use development. Anchored by a national wildlife refuge there’s also an importance placed on being environmentally conscious, and future developments hope to reflect that. Builders will have to adapt to the natural topography, vegetation, and character. 25 percent of all developments must be dedicated to common and open areas and trails that weave through each neighborhood. Ultimately, these changes will cost everyone more but it’s part of the vision to build a quality and fresh new brand for the city.

With construction slated to start in March or April, the first project will sit across from the new Columbia Hills neighborhood and park. It is a three building development that will be called the Hillhurst Commercial Center. The designs boast public spaces with seating and art, as well as internal parking. Materials used include stacked stone, cedar-wrapped siding and stucco. The tenants include a few pre-commitment retailers such as a taproom, an indoor cycling studio, The Barbers, and a couple coffee shops. More tenants will be added as the building expands, with plans of two stories with available office space.

Overall, it’s a small first project but it is representative of Ridgefield’s future Identity.