A 3-D City

Here's a great blurb from a recent publication of Neighborhoods Now
(formerly known as the Philadelphia Neighborhood Development

"While the character of many Philadelphia neighborhoods has been
defined by their human scale, historic architecture, and unique
neighborhood identity - former in an age when residents lived, worked,
learned, and played within community borders - these same qualities
have been most vulnerable to the changing circumstances of the region
and the lifestyles of its residents."

Put another way, are cities obsolete? Are they a 20th century
construct, when blue collar workers walked to factory jobs along urban
corridors and shoppers flocked to retail clustered around transit
stops; but hopelessly useless now that we use cars and highways to
office parks and power centers?

Fear not, city lovers; the urban space still can have three draws for
residents, workers, and shoppers:

1) Density - close clustering enables the talent density required for
universities, hospitals, and cultural venues, as well as the transit
infrastructure needed to move people to and from such places.

2) Design - reclaiming that historic architecture can lend a place the
authenticity and uniqueness that simply cannot be recreated in a newly
developed suburb, and "place-making" is a draw that is hard-wired into
us as humans.

3) Depth - there is a richness to urban life that comes from human
interaction at the street level, whether casually at a sidewalk cafe
or professionally in any number of planned and unplanned meet-ups with
other like-minded citizens.

So there you have it: a 3-D approach to making cities relevant. At
least here in the US, with our frontier mentality embedded into our
national psyche, it's not likely we'll retrench from our far-flung
suburbs and all move back to cities. But neither is it necessary for
cities to completely hollow out, for, when they offer the 3 D's, they
become a powerful draw for people to live, work, and play.

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