Dwelling on Place

As more and more Americans turn away from the suburban ideal and
look to re-engage with their surroundings, urban renewal advocates
are looking to Europe and the developing world for ways to upgrade
mass transit systems, improve public spaces, and re-invigorate
city-dwellers’ sense of place.

Jay Walljasper
writes in E Magazine
that Europeans have long been
committed to maintaining a high quality of life for urban
residents, whether it is through the promotion of public and
alternative transportation, anti-sprawl initiatives, or renewal
projects in working-class neighborhoods. Since 1962, for instance,
Copenhagen’s municipal leaders have been increasing the
city-center’s car-free zone and routinely investing in urban
neighborhoods without driving out low-income residents. The city of
Heidelberg, Germany, intent on promoting the use of bicycles for
transportation, recently appointed bicycle activist Bert-Olaf Rieck
to the new position of bicycle commissioner.

Rich and poor alike thrive in healthy communities, but only the
affluent can create private havens to escape urban ills. So, when
citizens and public servants commit to improving public life,
everyone reaps the benefits. Enrique Pe?alosa, the former mayor of
Bogot?, Colombia, understood this and worked to construct 186 miles
of new bike trails and 13 new libraries, and improved and created
countless public parks. Americans are just now realizing, as
Pe?alosa
tells Walljasper in Ode magazine
, that there ‘are
problems with building cities for cars and not for people.’

An increasing number of Americans are following in the footsteps
of the residents of Copenhagen and Bogot?, revitalizing their own
communities and making their cities more livable. The
Project for Public Spaces, a New
York-based organization where Walljasper is director of strategic
communications, works to create squares, parks, gardens, and other
commons that foster strong, democratic communities. To encourage
more Americans along that path,
Kathy
Madden, writing for Yes! Magazine
, identifies the five
characteristics of a ‘great place’: They’re full of activity,
visible and accessible, comfortable and safe, they invite
affection, and are places you can count on.

Go there >>
New Lessons from the
Old World

Go there too >>
The Power
of Place Goes Global

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