I love cities
I do. I love living in the city. Not only because it fits my lifestyle, but because I love the promise of it.
Urban areas are traditionally the cradles of great ideas. Think of Socrates, Cyrus, Solomon, Alexander, Magellan, Edison; democracy, art, opera, literature; all ideas born in cities, because cities allow us to know our fellow man in ways that yards & freeways & Cost Co’s don’t.
This got me thinking if there was an easier way to express my love of city life.
I hear people use the word “Urbanist” more and more lately, (or perhaps I’m just tuned into those types of channels more and more…) and I wondered if it’s a term that would apply to me.
So I Googled it. But I had difficulty finding a clear definition. I also learned that apparently there is some disagreement between “urbanism” and “new urbanism”. Hmmm, well here’s the most well-written thing I could find. Wikipedia (pfft, great source, right?) defines New Urbanism as;
“an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types.”
Well that seems easy enough. I love walkable neighborhoods, though my idea of walkable is probably a little more aggressive than most peoples. Walkable for me just means “has flat-ish areas” and “hopefully few hobos and/or feral animals”.
Then I read a quote from the Congress for the New Urbanism:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.
So what do we have here?
- Neighorhoods? Great
- Accessibility? Indeed!
- Diversity? Always good.
- Public Policy? Can always use help.
- Pedestrian and Transit? I’ve BEEN on-board with that for decades.
Alright, so this sounds like an agenda to get with.
As you know from my previous post about freeways, urban sprawl is something I definitely cannot get with. In truth, even when I lived miles away from my job and school, I still took public transit, and as opportunity presented itself, I moved closer and closer to the core. Now I live 1.5 miles from my office, right next to a light rail stop, and withing walking distance of parks, museums, great restaurants, pubs, a farmer’s market, the full gamut of culture in Phoenix, AND my favorite coffee shop. I don’t see how a car would improve my life.
We really COULD improve my life, and the lives of thousands of people around me, is a good healthy dose of Urban ReUse.
I don’t say Urban Renewal, because Roosevelt Row and many parts of Downtown Phoenix are already vibrant and thriving in their own way, so I don’t want to solicit the type of “renewal” typically thought of.
No, what I would like to see is more redesign and reuse of existing structures, filling in the empty store fronts and repopulating the vacant lots that leave gaps in our neighborhood picture. Just like an MRI, you can have 90% healthy areas, but if you have 10% missing, then you’ve got a problem.
(Ironically, for 5-years I used to live next-door to the first place he mentioned, and didn’t know that it had since turned into a vacant shell.)
So, in closing, give cities a boost, for all they’ve done for you.
…and be kind to the planet while you do it….
(This is Day 5 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge)