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Sunday, July 22, 2018

“The Greatest Cities Are Those With The Most Beautiful Places

Victor Vidales

I began writing this article after a four-day trip to New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. After walking for many hours in Lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn I started to focus on the ways we build cities and the way we create places in Arizona. I have always been interested in the profound effect the places we live in have on what kind of lives we live.

New York City is one of the most vibrant city centers in the world. The abundance of life, color, variety, and surprise make this city a place people seek to discover. It is a place to entertain and be entertained, to see and be seen, to meet, to eat, to learn, and to enjoy.

As a home to millions of people and an attraction for visitors from around the world, this city center facilitates a wonderful human chemistry. It has created a special setting for entertainment and tourism that has the impact to stimulate local and regional economies.

When I think of a great city, I think of New York. The image of a great city for me stems from the quality of its public spaces and New York has it all! Its streets, boulevards, parks, squares, plazas, and waterfronts are amazing. Individual architectural landmarks have become icons, but it is the quality of the overall public environment that makes this city livable and memorable.

A well-designed and well managed public realm has helped New York City create strong community pride and a positive image that carries around the world. Their environment, in conjunction with a strong and diversified economic marketplace, attracts the development investment needed to sustain and enhance the economic and social heart of their city.

So I ask myself what can we do in South Phoenix and Downtown to create a vibrant city center. Creating a vibrant city center sets forth planning and urban design principles and strategies centered on two characteristics that are key to the success of a city center.

First, we need a diverse market. A city’s unique character is defined by the diversity and concentration of complementary uses. These uses generate pedestrian activity and a lively social environment that in turn sustain the mix of uses.

Secondly, we need a high quality of place. A visually appealing, comfortable, and secure physical environment will create confidence, commitment, and investment in the community over the long term.

These two characteristics are closely linked and need to make equal contributions in order for successful city revitalization to occur. The mix uses should be analyzed carefully to identify urban functions and activities that are missing or scarce. A program to retain or attract the desired mix of uses and amenities then can be undertaken offering financial and /or other incentives in order to obtain an appropriate balance of uses and activities.

From the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, the city center was the focus of a region’s economic and social life, where people came together to produce and trade goods and services, to meet, and to exchange information and ideas.

A city center was a civic and cultural center and a symbol of community identity. Although social and economic forces have changed the city center’s physical form and function, the same qualities inherent in cities of the past are critical to their success today.

The new wave of city center revitalization as we see here in Phoenix is an attempt to re-create an environment that has long symbolized urban life. We will never be New York City but South Phoenix and Downtown can create a city unlike anywhere else in the world. We must make big plans and aim high in our hope and work harder than any other city to make our dreams a reality. I will leave you with this final quote that sums up this month’s article.

“A clear vision crafted by the decisions of a city’s citizens and government leaders can meld a multiplicity of wills into positive, unified action to substantially change the character of a city.” – Edmund Bacon



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