Comment 30228

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 17, 2009 at 14:57:26

Mr Meister wrote:

I just picked Boston because I like it. They have done a terrific job on their downtown. They got people to live there.

How do you think Boston did such a good job on their downtown? How do you think they got people to live there?

Boston, like every mid-sized North American city, was in serious danger during the postwar period of undergoing an urban exodus that depleted the downtown core of people and investment and left a run-down ghetto in its wake.

Unlike most North American cities, Boston did a few things differently:

  • Community groups organized to block the construction of new urban expressways that were proposed in the 1950s and '60s.

  • Instead of demolishing its 19th century building stock and replacing it with postwar projects, Boston preserved its original architecture.

As a result, most of the city consists of two- and three-storey brownstones, with slightly higher densities in the Back Bay (four-storey mixed use buildings in the Second Empire style of Hausmann's Paris) and the downtown financial district.

  • The city maintained, consolidated and expanded its transit network, a kind of hybrid LRT/subway system that is primarily used by people already inside the city (though some lines also serve to bring people in from the suburbs).

In fact, every city that followed this model - e.g. Boston, New York, San Francisco - preserved its urban integrity and grew in density and vitality while other cities disintegrated.

Since the 1970s, every city that has adopted this model - e.g. Portland, Seattle - has undergone a transformation from the standard doughnut model of sprawling suburbs and a disintegrating core to a denser, more vibrant urban revitalization.

When you write that this model won't work in Hamilton because Hamilton is not like these cities, what you can't seem to see is that Hamilton is not like these cities precisely because they follow an urban development model - the model RTH is promoting - and Hamilton does not.

To the extent that we adopt a similar model of urban revitalization - establishing a firm urban boundary, preserving traditional neighbourhood land use and architecture, improving transit with higher-order light rail, and de-investing in lane capacity and automotive throughput - we will also develop in a manner similar to these cities you claim to like.

Why on earth don't you want your own city to enjoy more of the success of a place like Boston?

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