Nov 10, 2008

Newfound Website.

I have found a new web site. My grades have suffered because of this because I CANNOT STOP READING IT.

Essentially it is an urban design website that links to articles about the plight or success of cities and what is being done about them. Every article I've read contains gems of knowledge. Like these...

"What Makes The Perfect City?":

"It's not difficult to pick out the features of a city in trouble. Multiple deprivation for its poor, high rates of infant mortality, rampant knife crime, multinational companies shedding jobs as they head for the exit, broken-down public transport.

Defining strategies that failing cities can adopt is harder. Not least because most of us have a stubborn preference for messy vitality over organised uniformity. Tokyo is huge, overcrowded and overwhelmingly ugly. But it is also exhilaratingly full of life. Brasilia is safer, healthier and less run-down than Rio. But, given the choice between them, nobody would seriously opt for Brasilia. The perfect city simply doesn't exist: it would have an underground railway as organised as Tokyo's, with a bus service as inspiring as the vaporetti of Venice. It would have a setting as beautiful as Stockholm's. It would have New York's museums and its 24-hour culture, with Berlin's cheap, high-ceilinged apartments, and Hong Kong's energy. It would have London's tolerance of utterly different ways of life, coexisting side by side. It would have the street life of Naples, and the street cleaning of Zurich.

Yet the search for a local-government version of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People has defined urban politics for the past two decades."

Or this one, "Crisis Won't Bring About Urban Renaissance":

"Yet in one of those ironies that markets play on hypesters, the mortgage crisis is now puncturing the urbanists' bubble...In reality, what we have is a market that is stuck in almost all geographies. Rather than shift people into the urban cores, or vice-versa, the mortgage crisis is simply stopping everyone in their tracks. Even if people wanted to move into the core cities, they could not sell their suburban houses to make the down payments.

For a decade or more, city leaders have kept thinking that something from outside – demographic changes, high fuel prices or changing consumer tastes – would create a revival for them. This allowed them to avoid doing hard, nasty things like cutting often-outrageous public employee pensions, streamlining regulations, cutting taxes levied on businesses or improving often-dismal schools and basic infrastructure.

Cities should start realizing that their biggest problem is not a shortage of cultural venues and performance artists but a chronic lack of decent, middle class jobs."

Like I said, I CANNOT STOP READING IT. Oh man, I have so many other things I need to read, oh man, oh, just one more article, just one more, just one more...


Anonymous said...

Wow. It's as if some of those passages were written for Allentown. I realize, we're not alone in our urban problems, but the mention of employee pensions, the need to repair infrastructure and schools, plus the lack of middle class work is a dead-on description of our city. I think you may have sucked me in to reading those full articles as well. I want to know what they say for getting out from under these problems....

Katie Bee said...

Disappointingly, they do not say much. I think that's half of the addiction to the site - scouring for answers. Maybe our combined efforts will produce one?

And how 'bout that "perfect city"? The one described is a place where I'd TOTALLY want to live.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, even in the heavy-hitting cities of the world you can't be totally happy. I like the mention of the "street life of Naples" but the "street cleaning of Zurich."

I guess there's always a trade-off for something.

I do agree with that one article that cities (like A-town) absolutely need middle class jobs. No amount of night life is going to lure middle class, white collar workers into living here, especially in Center City.

Jake Barnes said...

A question for the health of any city might be as easy as "Is it a good place to BE?"

To be living? To be raising children? To be prosperous? To be inviting others to visit; Or to live?

A real estate professional will tell you that property values depend on three things: location, location, location.

If you live in the City of Allentown; if you work in the City of Allentown, look around. Would you chose to live there if you had that choice to make again? Would you chose to make one of the most significant financial investments of your life, in the city?

If you don't live in the City of Allentown, what would make you chose to live there now?

Katie Bee said...

@jake barnes: that is a good way to ask those questions!

however, i do not at all agree with the 'location,location,location' school of thought. after all, what makes it a good location? the properties around it? the view? the access to urban amenities? the access to the countryside? perhaps it can be said that location is in the eyes of the beholder.

Tim Halbur said...


Hi, I'm the managing editor of Planetizen. Thanks for the props! We're glad you're finding our articles so interesting.

I found the "perfect city" article intriguing as well. Our website is about land use and development, and all the choices that go into making a city work, from energy to transportation to architecture.

If you haven't watched the television series The Wire yet, you really should. That series is like a primer on the balancing act of having a city.

Thanks again for your support.

best, Tim Halbur, Managing Editor