An important issue for many cities dealing with circumstances initiated by others in the past, like a blighted looking city filled with parking lot scars, etc. From my experience I’ve witnessed many cities do the wrong thing in order to encourage development. The point of this post is, if you do something, it could have a negative impact on your city, so make sure you do the right thing.
1) Keep existing building, do not tear them down unless totally necessary, that is, they are about to collapse. Do not assume that just because a Structural Engineer says it is about to collapse that, given corrective measures that the structure could be saved. Tearing down a building will leave a scar, which is ugly plain and simple. The good majority of engineers are not aesthetically in tune and quite frankly just don’t get it.
2) Encourage ‘city living’ by bringing young professionals into the city. Many apartment complexes offer features like swimming pools, gyms, etc…. these amenities are there to entice young adults, who are now living on their own, to live in these developed communities where they can meet other ‘cool’ people. This is a life thing, to meet one’s future wife/husband, to have friends, etc. The city core can do the same thing. In fact, loft living is considered very cool and an easy way to entice young adults which will infuse the streets with activity attracting more commercial components. City incentives are the key here.
3) Hide parking lots with berms, shrubbery, trees. They are a blight to a healthy looking city and impact ones perception.
4) Clean, level and plant grass in empty lots. This, in my experience, has always attracted Developers to purchase lots for new construction. Also, plant trees, especially along sidewalks. Given the time a lot can sit empty a tree can be a welcome feature… just don’t plant so many that it blocks so much sun that the lot becomes a mud pit.
5) Keep curbs and sidewalks repaired and clean of gravel, trash, etc…. especially the entrances into the city which can be a persons first impression. I see that your streets do look very nice, just check the perimeter of the city too… ask yourself, what do you see when driving into the city?
6) If a building is totally abandoned, and is significant in it’s presence, go ahead an clean the windows (makes a huge difference to see the sparkle of the sky in the reflection and cost next to nothing), repair the cornice, make the storefront look respectable… it’s like planting grass on an empty lot, it will entice a developer to want to make something of it.
7) Waterfront and other open areas are always an asset in cities, it’s too bad that infrastructure sometimes claims these areas (rail roads, highways, etc.). Always ‘plan’ to recover these areas whenever it is feasible. Begin to collect lots that can be used for future locations of infrastructure that do not impede on the quality of city life. Bring the river back into the community and neighborhood, it is a natural feature and always an asset to quality living.
Despite all these suggestions, I know that with a decreasing tax base it can be a struggle implementing anything of significance. There are ways to overcome this and initiate a positive change. For instance, looking at South Bend, Indiana their Art Museum has taken a very positive role in cleaning up their city with new art, murals, etc. that reflect a positive spirit.
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