Location: Wyoming, Michigan
Project start date: July 2012
Form Based Code adopted by City of Wyoming: December 2013
The City of Wyoming Form Based Code (FBC) is the zoning ordinance that supports the implementation of a comprehensive citizen-driven master plan that envisions the transformation of a once thriving first-ring suburban commercial corridor near downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. The master plan created a vision for an incremental suburban retrofit that transforms the area into compact and walkable urbanism (selected pages of the master plan have been included as part of this submission for reference). The master plan was created by the same consultant team as the FBC.
CONTEXT OF PROJECT
This area of Wyoming, once referred to as “Miracle Mile”, boasted the region’s first enclosed mall and the world’s largest movie theater. It was home to a vast array of destination shopping that was fueled by the city’s exponential post-World War 2 growth. Today, the movie theater is closed, the mall is only partially occupied and much of the commercial activity has shifted to other locations. The master plan and subsequent form based code represent efforts to reverse these downward trends and usher in a new era economic development and city building.
The Wyoming FBC is innovative because of it is a highly-visual, graphics-based, and user-friendly zoning document that supports the outcomes of the master plan by providing regulations for the physical design of the public spaces of the corridor. This deviates from conventional codes, which convey use based regulations in a text heavy format.
THE FORM BASED CODE AND URBAN DESIGN
These regulations include building types, frontages, and thoroughfare standards that are calibrated to the master plan vision through context areas. The context areas are administratively similar to the zoning districts of a conventional code and are used as organizing elements for the FBC. These context areas create a spectrum of urban intensity which aids in defining the pattern and hierarchy of the anticipated built form.
KEY ELEMENTS OF URBAN REGULATION
Building Types and Frontages: The code includes building types and compatible building frontages that regulate the “walls of the outdoor rooms” of the public realm. These standards purposefully regulate only the essential composition and placement so that the architecture can be flexible as it responds to long range redevelopment. Building types also regulate site placement, so that setbacks and build-to-lines are building specific. This promotes, in some cases, a
streetscape that has slightly variable setbacks – a condition that is typical of Midwestern urban context.
Thoroughfare Types: The thoroughfare types include both the street and the sidewalk and calibrate them to each of the context areas. This creates a hierarchy of street and streetscapes that range from more urban to less urban and includes standards and dimensional requirements for bike lanes, on-street parking, idewalks, and street trees.