Urban planning as “Light, Quick And Cheap”? Not in New Albany.


Kindly note the source of the rampant subversion to follow: Neither The Nation nor Mother Jones, but Forbes.

For those of a New Albanian bent — or if like me, you’ve been bent by New Albany — take special interest in the novel concept of making more on less. We’ve all been here before, as when municipal government concluded, seemingly overnight, that $9 million for an aquatics center must be prioritized.

Aquatics: More on less.

We’ve argued (in vain) that rather than concentrating money and resources on parks in the traditional sense, perhaps scattering spigots and green spaces throughout the neighborhoods would make more sense. As it stands, with no plan or infrastructure in place to support enhanced walkability and ease of bicycling, and without useful public transit, we’re demanding that people drive their cars to recreate.

Lighter, quicker and cheaper. Need it apply only to low-calorie beer?

Light, Quick And Cheap: The Big Shift In Urban Planning, by Micheline Maynard (Forbes)

Now, as cities across the United States try to rejuvenate themselves, there is a new mantra: lighter, quicker, cheaper.

It’s at the heart of an overlooked kind of urban development called place making, focused not so much on architecture or public works, as making sure spaces actually work for city residents. (Grammar note: practitioners call it “placemaking” without a space) …

 … The idea of less money to make big changes is actually providing a variety of new opportunities, built on making smaller changes, and involving residents and community groups, and to creativity …  “you move away from design to what you can do in it … you try to build a whole destination” …

Here’s where the “getting folks to it” thinking comes into play (my italics).

(Project for Public Spaces founder Fred) Kent says that as a city assembles its network of public places, there’s less emphasis on using cars to reach them. “If there’s one thing, you’re going to drive to it,” he says. “If there are 10 of them, all of a sudden, you’re connecting them, and it’s a whole point of not needing your car.”

But of course, there’s always a catch: Government interacting differently. Two ways, not one. Plans that aren’t top secret. Sunshine and transparency and not fearing the outside world.

But for place making to flourish, Silberberg says municipal governments have to interact differently with developers and people in the community. In the white paper, the researchers discuss the new circle of interaction between city agencies and those creating projects, which is necessarily chaotic … many urban renewal efforts in the late 20th century were about making cities look more orderly. Now, in the 21st century, “Those are the cities we don’t want to live in,” (Susan Silberberg) says.

Hence the perennial New Albanian dilemma: Thinking disorderly by design, not from unreconstructed habit and tribal politics.

I reckon that we’ll keep pushing. Perhaps some day, they’ll cease pushing back and begin listening.