Designing Walkable Downtowns Help Cities Reap Real Benefits

Published: October 26, 2012
Initiative for a Competitive Inner City

Jeff Speck, author of The Walkable City, spoke to the CEOs for Cities conference today about designing walkable downtowns. He outlined not just why they are important, but how cities can take action to encourage more walkable environments.

There are three primary benefits to being walkable: economic, health and environment.

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Communities Aren’t Just Places, They’re Social Networks

By Richard Florida
October 25, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

Cities are obviously more than just the sum of their physical assets — roads and bridges, offices, factories, shopping centers, and homes — working more like living organisms than jumbles of concrete. Their inner workings even transcend their ability to cluster and concentrate people and economic activity. As sociologist Zachary Neal of Michigan State University argues in his new book, The Connected City, cities are made up of human social networks. Neal took time to discuss his book and research with Atlantic Cities, explaining how cities work as living organisms and why what happens in Las Vegas cannot stay in Las Vegas.

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What Are the 7 Keys to a Strong Community?

By Kain Benfield
Published: October 22, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

I am fortunate to have befriended, one way or another, some people who are very good at the business of thinking about, designing, and building good communities. While many of them are architects and planners, primarily concerned with physical space, community-building is an art with elusive goals, as Eric Jacobsen’s book (reviewed here last week) argues:  even if you get the physical elements right, there’s no guarantee that a place will function as a true community, as more than just a place.

That said, it really helps to have a good place in which to anchor true community. One of my community-building friends is Scott Doyon, a partner in a planning firm that signals its interest in place loud and clear: it’s called PlaceMakers. They do fantastic work, and every one of the firm’s principals that I have met is thoughtful about it. (That’s not to say that I am thrilled with everything their clients do, of course.) I’m impressed with much of their work, such as their planning assistance to Ranson, West Virginia that I profiled here last year.

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Should technology improve cities, or should cities improve technology?

By Rick Robinson
Published: October 14, 2012
Sustainable Cities Collective

I was honoured this week to be invited to join the Academy of Urbanism, a society of professionals, academics and policy makers from a variety of backgrounds whose work is concerned in some way with cities. As a technology professional who has increasingly worked in an urban context over the past few years, I try to be as conscious of what I don’t know about cities as what I do; and I’m hoping that the Academy will offer me the opportunity to learn from its many expert members.

In fact, in a discussion today with an expert from the property development sector, I found myself reversing my usual direction of thinking concerning the relationship between technology and cities: when asked “how can technology contribute to improving property development” I replied that I was more interested in the question “how can property development improve technology?”.

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What Draws Creative People? Quality of Place

By Richard Florida
Published: October 11, 2012
Urban Land Institute

Why do people—especially talented Creative Class people, who have lots of choices—opt to locate in certain places? What draws them to some places and not to others? Economists and social scientists have paid a great deal of attention to the location decisions of companies, but they have virtually ignored how people, especially creative people, make the same choices.

This question first began to vex me more than a decade ago. In search of answers, I began by simply asking people how they made their decisions about where to live and work. I started with my students and colleagues and then turned to friends and associates in other cities. Eventually, I began to ask virtually everyone I met. Ultimately, in the mid-2000s, I put the question at the heart of a major survey I conducted along with the Gallup Organization. The same answers came back time and again.

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