Radburn, New Jersey

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A diagram showing the street network structure of Radburn and its nested hierarchy. Separate pedestrian paths run through the green spaces between the culs-de-sac and through the central green spine (Note: the shaded area was not built)
A Radburn cul-de-sac
Location Fair Lawn, New Jersey
Built 1928
Architect Clarence Stein, Henry Wright
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 75001118[1]
NJRHP # 482
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 16, 1975
Designated NHLD April 5, 2005[2]
Designated NJRHP October 15, 1974

Radburn is an unincorporated planned community located within Fair Lawn, in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States.

Radburn was founded in 1929 as "a town for the motor age".[3] Its planners, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, and its landscape architect Marjorie Sewell Cautley[4] aimed to incorporate modern planning principles, which were then being introduced into England's Garden Cities, following ideas advocated by urban planners Ebenezer Howard, Sir Patrick Geddes[5] and Clarence Perry. Perry’s Neighbourhood unit concept was well-formulated by the time Radburn was planned, being informed by Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, New York (1909-1914), a garden-city development of the Russell Sage Foundation.

Radburn was explicitly designed to separate traffic by mode,[5] with a pedestrian path system that does not cross any major roads at grade. Radburn introduced the largely residential "superblock" and is credited with incorporating some of the earliest culs-de-sac in the United States.[6]


There are approximately 3,100 people in 670 families residing in Radburn.[5] They live in 469 single-family homes, 48 townhouses, 30 two-family houses and a 93-unit apartment complex.[5]

Radburn's 149 acres (0.60 km2) include 23 acres (93,000 m2) of interior parks, four tennis courts, three hardball fields, two softball fields, two swimming pools and an archery plaza. Young children and their parents can make use of two toddler playgroup areas, two playgrounds and a toddler bathing pool.[5]

There is also a community center which houses administrative offices, library, gymnasium, clubroom, pre-school and maintenance shops.

For census purposes, Radburn is mostly a subset of Census Tract 171 in Bergen County, New Jersey.[7]

A community within a community[edit]

The Radburn Community enjoys much autonomy within the Borough of Fair Lawn. Pursuant to enabling laws passed in the 1920s and covenants included in the original deeds for the development, the Radburn Association is a private association which is empowered to administer Radburn's common properties and to collect from the owners of properties quarterly association fees to cover the Association's maintenance and operation of communal facilities. The Association is also empowered to restrict development and decoration of Radburn properties in order to maintain a consistent "look" to the community. Use of Radburn Association facilities is limited to residents (though the parks themselves are ungated and the walkways are public property of the Borough.) Radburn's border with the rest of Fair Lawn is the Bergen County Line to the West; Southeast of Fernwood Dr., Fulton Pl., and Franciscan Way but Northwest of Owen Avenue to the Northwest; Radburn Rd. to the Northeast; one block of Howard Avenue to the Southeast; Alden Terrace to the Northeast and East; one block of High St. to the South; Craig Rd. and its extension through Scribner Rd. to the East; and Berdan Avenue to the South. Radburn's other full-length East-West cross street is Fair Lawn Avenue, and its sole North-South cross street is Plaza Rd.


Radburn residents vote for a board of trustees to govern the Association. Nominees to six of the nine board seats are chosen by the sitting trustees. Two other seats are appointed by former trustees and not subject to the residents' vote. The ninth seat is filled by the President of the Radburn Citizens' Association ex-officio.

In November, 2006 a group of Radburn residents opposed to the current system of governance filed a lawsuit against the Radburn Association. The plaintiffs claim that Radburn's governance violates New Jersey state law and the New Jersey State Constitution. The residents are represented by two public interest legal organizations: the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center and The Community Law Clinic of The Rutgers School of Law–Newark.

On April 1, 2008, the New Jersey Superior Court awarded summary judgements for both sides in the democracy lawsuit. Judge Contillo found that Radburn's governance was legal as well as its membership. The Court ordered the Association to comply with the law by providing full financial disclosure to residents and amending its bylaws to support open trustee meetings four times each year.

Respected New Jersey Constitutional expert Frank Askin of the Rutgers University School of Law at Newark, and his Clinic on Constitutional Law, have now joined the plaintiffs' pro bono legal team for the appeals process, intending to affirm through the courts that the PREDFDA statute guarantees free elections in planned community government

On June 17, 2010, the Moore V Radburn litigation was finally put to rest by the NJ Supreme Court. The petition for certification filed by the 16 litigants was denied.


The Radburn Plaza Building.

The Radburn School, an elementary school located on the edge of the "B" park, is operated by the Fair Lawn Public Schools. While many of its students are Radburn residents, it serves a larger district. The school, built in 1929, was designed by the architecture firm of Guilbert & Betelle. The building was expanded in 1955 and again in 2005.

Several prominent Fair Lawn businesses exist in Radburn's business district, which is at the intersection of Fair Lawn Avenue and Plaza Road, two important arteries in Fair Lawn. Many of these businesses are within the Radburn Plaza (clock tower) building, a signature landmark of Radburn and Fair Lawn itself. (The building suffered a severe fire several years ago and was recently restored in its prior image.) Nearby stands the Old Dutch House, a tavern built during the time of Dutch colonization of the Americas.

Facing the Plaza Building is the Radburn railroad station, built by the Radburn developers along the Erie Railroad line (later Conrail) and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Passenger service operates there today on the New Jersey Transit Bergen County Line.

Radburn as a model[edit]

The same design choices seen as impediments to a lifestyle centered around the automobile led to perceptions that Radburn can serve as precedent both for New Pedestrianism and for the car-free movement.

The impact of Radburn's urban form on energy consumption for short local trips was considered in a 1970 study by John Lansing of the University of Michigan.[8] The study found Radburn's design to have important implications for energy conservation, recording that 47% of its residents shopped for groceries on foot, while comparable figures were 23% for Reston, Virginia (another Radburn-type development, but more car oriented) and only 8% for a nearby unplanned community. Other findings, such as low figures for weekend trips and low average numbers of miles traveled by car per resident, bore out this claim. (See reference, below.)

Walt Disney was influenced by Radburn and the works of Ebenezer Howard in his planning for Disneyland, Walt Disney World and more specifically his original vision of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (concept) (EPCOT). Disney incorporated the pedestrian pathway concept into his own future city planning: "Children going to and from schools and playgrounds will use these paths, always completely safe and separated from the automobile." Other Radburn innovations Disney would look to incorporate into his plans for EPCOT were cul-de-sacs, collector streets and common open spaces within superblocks.[9]

In Canada, the Radburn concept was used in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the late 1940s and early 1950s in three communities: Wildwood Park in Fort Garry, consisting of ten bays (loop streets), Norwood Flats in St. Boniface, consisting of four bays, and Gaboury Place, a single bay in St. Boniface – totalling several hundred single-family houses, all facing sidewalks and green spaces and backing onto short bays. Today, they are considered to be desirable middle to upper-middle class Winnipeg neighbourhoods to reside in. Clarence Stein incorporated Radburn design principles into the plan of Alcan company town Kitimat, British Columbia in the 1950s. The developers of Varsity Village and Braeside, subdivisions in Calgary, Alberta used the Radburn model in the late 1960s.

In Australia, the Radburn model was used in the planning of some Canberra, Australia suburbs developed in the 1960s, in particular Charnwood, Curtin and Garran. It was also used in the Melbourne suburb of Doncaster East in an area known as the Milgate Park Estate.In New South Wales the then Housing Commission used the Radburn concept in numerous new estates built in the mid to late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of the medium density dwellings are being 'turned around' by lowering the road side 'rear' fence and fencing off the 'front yards that share a communal space. The lane ways have long been a problem giving local youth a place to hide and evade motorized police patrols while launching raids into homes virtually unobserved.[dubious ][citation needed] One benefit of this plan not often mentioned is that it allows for narrower streets in the cul-de-sacs that serve the backs of the houses. This means lower costs as less bitumen, piping and cabling is needed to service the homes. In major Radburn areas such as Mt Druitt in Sydney the current Housing NSW are selling off many of their properties as they pass their economical maintenance life and begin to cost more than they are worth. Other properties, particularly the blocks of flats often housing the less affluent and educated are being demolished and new medium density developments built in their place. These are being given to the aged and (specifically migrant) families rather than the former residents, many of whom were on parole or being reintroduced to the general community after treatment for various psychiatric disorders.[citation needed][dubious ]

In the United Kingdom, Grove Hill, one of the seven planned neighbourhoods in the Hertfordshire new town of Hemel Hempstead, was also partially designed using the Radburn model. A part of Yate in South Gloucestershire in England was developed using the Radburn model. Elsewhere in England the model was employed in an extension to Letchworth Garden City. In The Meadows, Nottingham the model has been less successful: Nottingham City Council has stated that "the problems associated with the layout of the New Meadows Radburn style layout... contribute to the anti-social behaviour and crime in the area."[1]

Many other towns in the UK contain areas or estates of Radburn-style housing; often on council estates and seen as a less-than-desirable place to live.

The Radburn model also inspired the American Radburn design for public housing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ "Radburn". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2008-06-23. 
  3. ^ History from the Radburn Association website
  4. ^ Marjorie L. Sewell Cautley, Landscape Architect to the Garden City Movement By: Thaisa Way, accessed June 7, 2006
  5. ^ a b c d e Introduction from the Radburn Association website
  6. ^ Cul-de-Sacs: Suburban Dream or Dead End?, a June 2006 National Public Radio story
  7. ^ Census 2000 Profile for Census Tract 171 in Bergen County, New Jersey
  8. ^ John B. Lansing, Robert W. Marans and Robert B. Zehner, Planned Residential Environments (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1970), p. 213
  9. ^ Sam Gennawey, Walt and the Promise of Progress City (Ayefour Publishing, 2011), pp. 230-231

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°56′52.6″N 74°7′8.1″W / 40.947944°N 74.118917°W / 40.947944; -74.118917