If we understand how healthy cities work, the citizens of Hamilton can revitalize our wonderful city.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 16, 2005
Here's a list of the core principles that we believe govern urban life. By understanding and applying these principles, the citizens of Hamilton can revitalize our wonderful city. These principles aren't in any particular order.
Cities are not suburbs, towns, or villages. The great benefit of cities is their complexity, diversity, variety, anonymity, and privacy.
The normal comings and goings of various individuals in the city generate neighbourhoods, local nodes, and distinct characters. This complex process cannot be duplicated in the laboratory or manufactured.
When a city tries to deny its true nature as a dense, complex urban ecosystem by micromanaging, regulating, and separating its various functions, it begins to kill itself. "Rationalizing" the city is like clearcutting a rainforest to plant wheat. After a few years, everything starts blowing away.
The downtown core is the heart of the city. Without a healthy core, the city as a whole cannot function.
The public life of the city is in its streets, or it's nowhere.
Public policies (tax and regulatory) should not subsidize sprawl or car-based transportation. If people had to pay the real price of living in the suburbs, fewer people would do so.
When a city tries to let everyone drive everywhere, it begins to turn into a massive suburb, with roads and parking crowding everything else out.
The built environment should support a vibrant street life: wide sidewalks, street walls, street-level businesses, and mixed uses.
Regulations should be as simple as possible, and they should encourage open, diverse, creative development within a coherent framework that supports street life.
To encourage good streets: build to the sidewalk, make buildings compatible with their neighbours, open directly onto the street, let owners decide how to use their buildings, and never put parking between the sidewalk and the door.
Buildings should face out, not in. Plazas, parks, and atria are insincere attempts to transform city blocks into pastoral theme parks. They also display a contempt for the fabric of city life that make them immediately suspect.
Streets are for everyone, not just drivers. Two way streets, lower speed limits, and market priced curbside parking can slow the cars, make it easier for cyclists to share the road, and make sidewalks safer and more relaxing for pedestrians.
One way streets are de facto expressways right through the city. No one wants to walk, stand, or sit next to an expressway.
It looks very much like cheap energy is soon going to be a thing of the past. Our transportation infrastructure should reflect this fact, emphasizing and promoting the least energy-intensive ways of getting around.
Developments that are small-scale, localized, and idiosyncratic are better than developments that are large-scale, centralized, and dull.
Everyone deserves a decent place to live, and dreary housing projects, decaying ghettoes, and park benches do not qualify.
Mixed housing is a good way to avoid both ghettoes and quasi-gated communities.
Public mega-projects are almost always a bad idea, costing too much and delivering too little. They demolish neighbourhoods to bolster politicians' egos.