Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Fall of a Pioneer is Nearly Complete

From an article in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, the bankruptcy of pioneer new urbanist Orrin Thiessen is nearing conclusion.

For those not in the North Bay, Thiessen was the developer for much of the Town Green in Windsor, an early and extensive effort in new urbanist development.  From my experience, town centers have a better long-term durability and function when they develop organically over decades.  But Windsor didn’t have the skeleton of a good town center to which other developers could add pieces.  Thiessen jumped in and filled the void.

Even when the Town Green had early financial success, Thiessen’s passion continued to be for the new urbanist concept, not his personal bottom line.  The concluding line in the Press-Democrat article exemplifies that passion.  In discussing the future of the Town Green as it passes from his ownership, Thiessen said, “It's already successful.  Who owns the property really doesn't matter.”  Any community should be happy to have a developer with that selflessness.

It’s important to note that Thiessen’s bankruptcy doesn’t disprove the new urbanist concept.  In the current economic times, many developers have struggled financially.  Thiessen made the same mistakes that other developers did, becoming overextended while failing to note the dark clouds growing on the horizon.   New urbanism isn’t immune from market cycles, nor is it more subject to them than other development concepts.

It’s great that Thiessen can continue to sustain his family with his construction business.  I wish him well.  However, his passionate commitment and personal dedication to new urbanism will be missed.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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