Urban Planning Gone RIGHT

Urban Planning Gone RIGHT

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Starting a conversation about urban planning in America is akin to asking whether we overreacted to 9/11; it’s a conversation that is unwelcome at all times.  Urban planning has become synonymous with communism, socialism and other ‘isms that Americans hate.  It is seen as “big government” telling people what they can and cannot do.  Australia demonstrates that urban planning done right can make better cities to live in.

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Downtown Brisbane follows Sydney’s lead with large, well landscaped, spaces near where people work and live.

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Australian cities have done a phenomenal job of building vibrant areas with thriving small businesses.  Instead of duplicated strips of McDonald’s, Gap, Starbucks, North Face, Patagonia, and Apple stores, Australian commercial districts have a rich diversity of unique stores.  This gives people a reason to visit, as it’s not the same stores found in their suburban malls.  Almost any downtown you visit, from Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane, there is a variety of busy ground-level stores with distinct offerings from it’s neighbors.  (See Australia’s best markets by clicking here.)

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World-class, free, parks within walking distance from Sydney’s downtown allows people to be active while relaxing.

Pubic and private partnership is essential to attracting and retaining people’s interest in neighborhoods.

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Having retail offerings aren’t enough.  Supporting these businesses are publicly funded attractions nearby: well-kept parks, affordable/free museums, gardens and entertainment facilities.  These public spaces attract the people while the retail offerings keep them there.  It creates a virtuous cycle of tax-paying businesses contributing to maintain and improve the public facilities nearby. While Americans may cringe at spending to build well-designed spaces; which ends up costing us more?  Paying for inactive Medicare recipients or spaces that support walking and job-creating private businesses?

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This public pool near downtown Brisbane provides active, free-of-cost, recreation for residents.

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When researching the world’s longest-lived, healthiest and happiest people, Dan Buettner discovered that the places people live was a large contributor in their health.  Australia understands this, confronting their own obesity epidemic by providing places that get people to be unconsciously active.  The ground level stores, parks and pools pull people out of their cars and walking.  Government isn’t forcing such activity, rather the esthetics, entertainment and community attracts them.  Investing in public spaces generate long-term health benefits that directly saves money.

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Investments in signage and infrastructure help Brisbane fight obesity.  Inducements to be active such as the sign above along with making bicycles available downtown provides more value than it costs.

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The bottom-line is that these investments not only make people healthier, but actually generate money for the city.  By offering a variety of recreational activities within a city keeps people spending their money at home instead of on vacations “getaways”.  Urban planning done right actively brings people together, making healthier and happier citizens which builds a stronger economy.  While the world is talking austerity America should take advantage of cheap labor and underutilized factories to build vibrant areas that will fuel our growth in the future.

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Of course it helps to have stunning natural scenery, but without the investment in facilities at beaches in Sydney (above), or sportig venues in Melbourne (below), people would be taking their money elsewhere.  These things drive the local economy to be self-sustaining.

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YOUR TURN: How is your city working to promote health and happiness?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Comments

» Bka :
Jul 15, 2012

The transformation of an economist to a landscape architect/park planner is a beautiful thing to behold….peace….from your fellow tree hugger…..bka

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, we’ve converted him- hooray! I have to admit it’s easy to sell the benefits of parks and trails when you are enjoying them first-hand like we did in Australia.

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thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

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