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August 05, 2005

More Urban Development Lessons from the North

As Parke's post mentioned, the Seattle P-I had another interesting article on the lessons Vancouver has to offer on urban development--making the city both an exciting and a family-friendly place to live. Tips include requiring developers to:

  • create multi-bedroom apartments designed for families
  • provide community centers, playgrounds, neighborhood schools, landscaping, and other public amenities
  • design buildings that create a pedestrian-friendly and visually appealing streetscape--not just a barren street canyon. (Buildings on some streets are kept short to make them feel more homey.)

Seattle's mayor is in the midst of unveiling plans to create vibrant, dense urban centers by raising building heights, charging developers one fee of $1-2 per square foot to pay for parks and open space and another fee of $10 primarily to build low-income housing.

Because of differences in the nature of public planning and the current landscape of the two cities, Seattle probably won't ever become Vancouver, nor should it attempt to. But it has plenty to learn from its neighbor to the north.

Here are several other posts on the same topic.

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» Where Do the Children Play? from Seattlest
Seattle planners have a crush on Vancouver. So tall, so slender, so mixed-use. That's why the Councilman Peter Steinbrueck talked the Seattle City Council into hiring two of Vancouver's lead planners to look over Mayor Greg Nickels' "Center City Strate... [Read More]

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» Where Do the Children Play? from Seattlest
Seattle planners have a crush on Vancouver. So tall, so slender, so mixed-use. That's why Councilman Peter Steinbrueck talked the Seattle City Council into hiring two of Vancouver's lead planners to look over Mayor Greg Nickels' "Center City Strategy" ... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 9, 2005 1:35:41 PM

Comments

Quick question.

If people really want multi-bedroom apartments designed for families, community centers, playgrounds, etc., why weren't developers building them for their customers?

Maybe it should be worded another way...

If people are really willing to pay for such amenities, how come developers weren't building them before?

I suspect it was either the governement that was restricting the building in the first place, or that people aren't willing to make the trade-offs associated with these sorts of projects.

Either way "requiring" them doesn't look like a brilliant move. It simply allows them (then simply do that), or forces people into something they wouldn't otherwise choose.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown | Aug 5, 2005 3:17:59 PM

Vancouver's also on the forefront of the idea that urban design can promote health (or do the opposite). Read this recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/dynamic/story.php?template=print_a&story=5533882), which points out that Vancouver planners have tried to design physical activity into the daily routine, "to build a city so compelling that people will leave their cars at home, strap on a backpack and take up walking as their primary mode of travel." Gordon Price featured the article in Price Tags this week: http://www.northwestwatch.org/publications/pricetags.asp/

Posted by: Elisa Murray | Aug 8, 2005 11:40:33 AM

Answering Jeremy's question: the government was restricting the building types and heights in the first place.

Another thing that I don't see discussed here is the tradeoff with increased air pollution in cities. Urban canyons concentrate internal combustion emissions and reaction products, and for longer periods of time (e.g. low-level O3 often persists longer in urban canyons than in low-rise suburbs. Low-level O3 exacerbates asthma.).

Any urban redevelopment schemes need to take air pollution in mind when attempting to create policies for increasing population.

Posted by: Dan Staley | Aug 8, 2005 1:52:49 PM

another thought to Jeremy:

people are often used to where they've grown up. So, for many of us born to the baby boomers, all we know are the suburbs. Thus, unless truly compelling options are provided, we'll continue to live in the suburbs, thus facilitating sprawl, and designers and developers will build for this because that's what people think they want.

however, if people can be presented with a compelling city that is amenable to their needs, they might just go for that.

also, are we really sure that developers don't build those because their customers don't want them . . . or because they don't know their customers want them? If I could afford it, I'd be living in downtown Seattle and taking mass transit to work every day. Instead, I'm stuck living with my parents in the suburbs because there isn't a lot of affordable housing downtown. I applaud Seattle's efforts to create more dense urban-core housing to provide places for the next generation to affordably live.

Posted by: Leah | Aug 8, 2005 7:07:28 PM