Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quit sprawling. Build a better city.

It's like this all over Paris.

Suburban sprawl doesn't scale very well. It's time we replace it with something that does.

Build urban villages with mixed use buildings four to six stories tall in your existing communities. Plan for something more like what you'd see in Europe.

Retail stores, shops and restaurants would be on the ground floor to liven up the street life. Offices on the second floor let people work near where they live. Put residential apartments over the offices.

These neighbourhoods should be between 80 and 200 acres large, with at least 12 dwelling units per acre. That's a reasonable walking distance. These communities will be walkable and provide accommodations, employment, entertainment, and a vibrant social scene.

These dense urban villages would provide a real alternative to the 'biggest is best' philosophy we have been taught. Being able to walk five minutes home to your apartment is an attractive trade off to the hour long daily commute some suburban dwellers put up with. People wouldn't have to feel inferior for not buying the biggest house they could.

Being in the middle of a dense, vibrant community would profit the businesses too. In dense cities where they have closed some roads to cars, business has increased on those streets. You can't shop from a moving car, but it's easy for pedestrians to walk by and wander into the store.

These urban villages would help protect the agricultural land from development and because they are so efficient in their use of the land, they would reduce the infrastructure costs to the city. Public transit would become viable again.

When combined with the vibrant street life that emerges with dense population and you've got a compelling vision for how we should remake the city.

The frayed social fabric would be repaired by the many small connections that people would develop with their neighbours.

We're going to keep building in our cities. We would do well to build someplace we're going to want to live for the long term.

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