The Doable City
For three days in June it was a privilege to represent MidTown, Inc. as part of the Columbus delegation to the 8-80 Cities Forum: The Doable City, in Chicago. The Knight Foundation sponsored the conference, and the Knight Fund at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley sponsored grants for Mayor Tomlinson, Betsy Covington (our intrepid leader and coordinator from the CFCV), Uptown and MidTown to attend. We were joined by Ken Henson, Trip Tomlinson, Dorris Bishop, Becky and Bill Rumer, Marquette and Rick McKnight, and Neil and Debbie Clark. It was an enlivening trip with a dynamic group, all of whom care about growing a vibrant, connected community.
Some tidbits gleaned:
What is an 8-80 doable city? Build a city that works for an 8-year-old, or an 80-year-old (we are not all athletic 30-somethings), and you create a happier, healthier city for ALL. What is doable? Choosing the right things to do, then doing them right. Set incremental, achievable, attainable goals. Define our cities and streets around people. Recognize that walking and bicycling and buses ARE forms of transportation; they are not merely ALTERNATIVE transportation. Dignify them. A healthy, walkable, bikeable community shows respect for all of its citizens.
“A developed city is not one where the poor have cars, but where the rich use public transportation.”
Walkability has green dividends: it stimulates the local economy; walkable housing rebounded faster post-recession; walkability statistically increases residential property value.
What makes a happy place? It is a social place that encourages connection with family, friends and community. Neighborhoods decline when people lose connection.
Roadway design is a public health issue.
Are parks important? They increase property value, promote tourism, reduce crime and improve safety. When they are well used, they need less policing. Parks promote happiness; they are great social and economic equalizers. How can you tell a great park: there are good places to sit; it is sociable, diverse, and a high percentage of women are present (who knew?). Public spaces are our symbols of democracy. Public parks, cycling and walking are means to bridging socio-economic boundaries.
Where flowers bloom, so does hope. Beauty can help build community and raise the expectations of citizens. Plant trees and flowers!
Websites of interest to peruse as you have time:
Walk Your City, ideas to get people walking to nearby places.
Neighborspace, neighborhood-maintained gardens.
Open Streets, initiatives that temporarily close streets to traffic and open them to people.
Better Blocks, transforming underutilized properties and streets, one block at a time.
Tactical Urbanism, a handbook of incremental steps that make a difference.
How to Build a Better Neighborhood, it’s in the title.
Most happily, as we were absorbing great ideas in Chicago, MidTown, Inc.’s Special Events Committee, led by board member Marsha Mason, was working here—generating great, doable ideas to enliven our own community and bring neighborhoods and people together. And the MidTown Projects Committee, led by Will Barnes, had recently established a series of doable projects that lead us toward the lively 8-80 community that we all envision. The conference inspired, and affirmed that MidTown, Inc. is traveling on the right track…working to Make MidTown–and Columbus–EVEN Better.