Jeff Blackard is fed up with the way neighborhoods are being built. Zoning, the developer says, has become a legal form of segregation. Rather than create enclaves that keep people of different strata apart, we should work to bring back the spirit of a village that you’d find in Europe or in pre-1900 America.
“We are doing development wrong in this country, but there is a way to do it right,” Blackard says. “This needs to be known by every city planner and every mayor in the United States. Somebody just needs to show them.”
The developer is aiming to do just that with Entrada, a $500 million project along State Highway 114 in Westlake. Along with more than 300 townhomes and villas, the 85-acre development will include three hotels and more than 1 million square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space.
Entrada, Blackard says, gives him a chance to fully implement “neoretroism,” a development philosophy he came up with after spending two years studying villages across Europe. He took 250,000 photos and filmed thousands of hours of video.
“I watched people and their movements, studying what they did every day,” he says. “Why do they go to the farmers market at a certain time? Where was it, and how was it set up? Why was a doorknob at a certain height? I put the question of ‘why’ on everything.”
Blackard introduced neoretroism in the mid-2000s with Adriatica in McKinney, modeled after a fishing village off the coast of Croatia. The philosophy blends different uses and allows space to evolve over time. For example, a retail store might become an office or a residence when a shopkeeper retires. When you don’t segregate people and uses, Blackard says, a deeper sense of community results, and the project becomes more sustainable. He points to empty shopping malls across America as an example of what can happen when space is designed for just one use.
“Zoning has killed our communities, and I’m the worst, because I used to develop like this,” Blackard says. “People talk about all of these different things that are wrong with our society. This is it. It’s destroying our country.”