Planning the Expansion of a Historic Village Center
Village Place Pinehurst, North Carolina
• 35-acre underutilized site adjacent to historic village core • Planned for walkable, mixed-use development complementing historic, pedestrian-oriented character of community • Village Place Master Plan is creative, flexible document providing foundation for innovative zoning • Three-day charrette created an initial “concept plan”, with visual renderings, based on community input • Elaborate, $168 million development proposal in 2014 failed to win village council support • Efforts to hone the concept and find the right developer continue
Village of Pinehurst village core photo courtesy Pinehurst Resort.
The Village of Pinehurst is a community of about 13,000 people in the Sandhills of south central North Carolina. It is home to the historic Pinehurst Resort, founded on 598 acres by James Walker Tufts in 1895. Both the resort and the village were given National Historic Landmark status in 1996 for their “historical, significant role in U.S. golf history,” according to village literature, though the village itself was not incorporated until 1980.
According to the Pinehurst Resort, “Tufts wanted to create a village where people of all means could afford to visit.” The original village, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, included private cottages, rooming houses, and hotels. By the early 1900s, a fire station, department store, and livery stable were added to what Tufts hoped would become a “beautiful, healthful, New England-style village, where those suffering from respiratory and other ailments could come with their families and friends, and recuperate in the land of abundant sunshine and . . . the medicinal qualities of the pine-scented air.”
Preserving the Pinehurst Character: Planning for “Village Place”
Though the village established a Local Historic District that encompasses much of the village core in 2006, several areas surrounding the village center remain unbuilt or do not fit with the pedestrian-oriented, historic nature of the village. The goal of the district was to safeguard Pinehurst’s character when construction would take place, whether redevelopment or new infill.
To further guide planning for one of the larger developable areas adjacent to the village core, the village adapted the Village Place Master Plan (originally called NewCore Master Plan), also in 2006. The Master Plan reflects the desires of residents and officials to maintain the ambiance of their community on this underutilized infill site, which offers significant redevelopment potential. The need for such a proactive plan was obvious: without an overarching vision, corresponding plan, and updated regulations, the opportunity to create a thriving and appropriate extension of the historic village center might not exist.
Modified twice in the two years following its adoption, the Master Plan created by Nashville’s Walker Collaborative was an outgrowth of the community’s Comprehensive Long Range Plan adopted in 2003. The Long Range Plan identified an important area just north of the village center as needing special guidance and a planning structure that would help shape future redevelopment and prevent market forces from proceeding in an ad hoc fashion.
The area, now called Village Place, is home to a broad mix of different and sometimes incompatible uses. Some of the buildings date to the creation of Pinehurst, such as the 1895 steam plant, while other historic structures also remain, including a 1915 fire station and the mid-century Manor Inn, which is still in use. However, other uses clearly underutilize the land in relation to its inherent value. Among these are a public works office and staging area, parking areas for municipal vehicles, outdoor storage areas, a construction supply business in a metal building, and a fire department training tower.
The objective of the Village Place Master Plan is to formulate a creative, flexible document providing the foundation for innovative zoning to accommodate a variety of uses (including non-traditional residential development), and providing for more open space and parking. The goal was to articulate a vision that could lead to the creation of a walkable, livable, and economically functional neighborhood, reflecting the preferences and needs of residents, current property owners, and potential new investors.
In conducting the planning process, six factors were considered:
Proximity to the historic village core
Need to accommodate existing uses
Character of current and adjoining uses
Likelihood that the area would be redeveloped gradually
Needs of its citizens
A steering committee was appointed by the village council in 2004 to provide general guidance and direct both the consultant team and village staff.
A central feature of the planning process was a three-day charrette conducted in 2005, involving residents, staff, and the steering committee in collaboration with the consultant team. The charrette produced an initial “concept plan” that evolved into an intermediate document with visual renderings and detailed descriptions of each component. This concept plan was further refined by the steering committee.
Defining the Study Area: The Physical Space of Village Place
At an initial 19 acres, Village Place lies immediately adjacent to, and north of, Pinehurst’s historic core, and close to established residential areas dating from the village’s formative period. Some peripheral lands to the north and west that have potential to be developed (or redeveloped) were later included in the project area to ensure that any development on the opposite side of existing streets would also meet the Master Plan’s guidelines. It was also decided that the streetscape elements of the plan should be honored around the perimeter, so the area includes adjacent rights-of-way, as well, and amounts to a total area of approximately 35 acres today.
As the less appropriate municipal uses (occupying one-third of the planning area) are gradually changed or removed, and as the historic buildings are renovated and repurposed, it is likely that the owners of the less compatible private uses will, over time, voluntarily relocate to other sites, allowing redevelopment of these high-value parcels to provide additional convenience retail, entertainment, and office space, in addition to a variety of moderate density housing for which there is a growing and largely unmet demand. This kind of evolution could enhance the market strength for retail in the village center while relieving some of the pressure on rents caused by an increasing shortage of office space.
One of the great strengths of the Village Place Master Plan is that it possesses a strong physical design element. The Plan displays the locations of new streets and potential liner buildings, and is not simply a collection of policy statements supplemented by a list of goals and objectives.
Reflecting the vision agreed upon during the public engagement period, the physical master plan foresees the creation of a connected, walkable mixed-use district, offering alternatives to standard house lots, plus village-scaled office and professional space. An early concept plan prepared for the village by Raybould Associates, for example, shows new buildings fronting onto new and existing streets, forming a more finely grained and somewhat rectilinear grid, with parking behind. In addition, it shows a number of small open spaces or internal greens connected by footpaths to streets and sidewalks.
It is envisioned that specialty shops and convenience retail will be appropriately situated close to the historic village center at the southern end of the study area. Possible new uses for the historic buildings have been explored, including spaces for public meetings or performances in the firehouse, and offices or a restaurant and microbrewery in the steam plant. Other possible uses considered for the steam plant include a dinner theater, an art-film cinema, a gourmet food shop, and a high-end deli.
The plan recommends that design standards govern the appearance of new infill construction to ensure compatibility with the traditional Pinehurst village character. That character is generally defined by one- to two-story wood-and-brick buildings with traditionally pitched roofs. However, taller features including cupolas and third floors would be permitted on “landmark” sites such as those serving as “terminal vistas”. The plan also suggests enhancing the pedestrian scale by applying architectural approaches to reduce the apparent massing of larger buildings, such as multiple projecting and recessed façade elements or roof dormers. In addition, new buildings are expected to maintain a traditionally close relationship with public streets and not be separated from them by front parking.
The streetscape project currently underway connects a commercial section on the southern edge of Village Place to the village center via brick sidewalks. “The streetscape project along Community Road replicates in many ways the treatment of the streets in the village center in that brick is the chosen material for sidewalks and curbing,” says Bruce Gould, Village of Pinehurst principle planner. “Matching decorative streetlamps and decorative sign posts that are identical to those present in the village center will be added, as well. This will give Community Road the same look and feel as is currently present in the historic village core.” The streetscape enhancements and replication will continue along the road that borders the northern and eastern side of Village Place in hopes of setting the stage for private properties in this area to upgrade and enhance their own appearance.
Finally, because most of the area lacks the coordinated planting of specimen trees consistent with the character of the historic core and the surrounding older neighborhoods, special efforts will be taken to ensure that the relatively few significant trees in Village Place will be retained, and supplemented with new plantings reflecting Pinehurst’s historic character.
These four graphics illustrate the location of streets and potential buildings; proposed planning areas with different uses; new streets, sidewalks, and back lanes (in yellow, brown, and blue); and proposed green spaces, a new plaza, and commercial streetscapes. Click to view in larger format. Graphics courtesy Village of Pinehurst.
Finding the Right Development: The 2010 Comprehensive Plan and a 2014 Proposal
The 2010 Comprehensive Long Range Plan indicates that the Village of Pinehurst should not allow Village Place to develop as a separate entity from the existing village center; a disconnect between the two could further deteriorate the existing village center. The Comprehensive Plan also indicates that the buildout of the village core should occur gradually over time to reach Village Place, thereby ensuring continuity between the two areas.
In 2012, the village council commissioned a market analysis of the feasibility of developing the area, though it did not proceed with the consultant’s proposed acquisition strategy or infrastructure relocation plans due to their cost. Two years later, an elaborate $168 million destination development for this area was proposed to cover 15 acres, most of the Village Place planning area. The proposal in its various forms included three boutique hotels, nationally branded restaurants, a spa, microbrewery, upscale shops and grocery, offices, and residential above ground-level retail. In his presentations, the developer said that Village Place, as he envisioned it, might include a restaurant by Food Network’s Robert Irvine (with a taping studio next door), a winery by NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, and Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality restaurant.
Though the concept “drew some rave reviews on first blush,” according to an article in local newspaper The Pilot, the village council ultimately took no formal action on the proposal by LandCore. “I am not ready to entertain that grand of a development,” said council member John Strickland, while Mayor Pro Tem John Cashion said the proposal “was just Hollywood.”
According to mayor and former urban planner Nancy Fiorillo, “Eventually we need to develop the Village Place site because it’s the last real commercial location left inside Pinehurst.” And yet, “[w]e can’t have another little village there,” she admits; Village Place must complement rather than compete with Pinehurst’s existing village core.
There remains no clear consensus from the village council as to what form the development of Village Place will take, or how or when it will occur. Former Pinehurst planning director Andrea Correll concludes, “The redevelopment of the service area for an 1890 resort is a mammoth undertaking. . . . It is real feat to undertake redevelopment in the historic core when the last time it was done was over 75 years ago.”
Read about other small town and suburban mixed-use developments and redevelopments in Randall Arendt’s Rural by Design: Planning for Town and Country, a completely revised second edition with 80 percent fresh material and 900 color images. Details and multiple reviews can be seen on the American Planning Association book website. The focus of this new work has been expanded to include many examples from growing suburban communities in recently rural areas, with new chapters on form-based coding, low-impact development, visioning, sustainability, the green infrastructure network, and transfers of development rights. Additional new topics addressed include complete streets, pocket neighborhoods, official mapping, gateway planning, redeveloping commercial corridors, mitigation banking, vernal pool protection, waterway daylighting, and restoring wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and floodplains.
Randall Arendt 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. 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 six books are Rural by Design: Planning for Town and Country, entirely updated and greatly expanded in April 2015, for the American Planning Association.
Header photo of Village of Pinehurst streetscape with sign courtesy Pinehurst Resort.