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The most important basic unit of a city is the street: the public space for social interactions. World over people flock to cities which create abundant opportunities to connect with other people. These connections are essential for social, economic, and cultural opportunities.
To promote the unmediated encounters between people on the street, and increase the chances for random encounters and new opportunities, the street must be inviting, convenient, safe and interesting.
A contiguous and dense grid of streets, with an average distance of 60-150 meters between intersections, allows for multiple different routes through the city and a greater exposure to opportunities for residents and visitors. Besides creating economic opportunities, the grid encourages walking and cycling, reduces traffic congestion and contributes to healthier lifestyles, road safety and reduced CO2 emissions.
Accessibility to services and employment is an essential component of the individual’s well-being and the ability to earn a living. The city must enable a variety of transportation options that are reliable, convenient and inexpensive.
Urban centers need to be accessible by public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, and special attention needs to be given to ensure handicapped accessibility.
Reducing the use of private motorized vehicles inside the city is essential to reduce congestion, noise and air pollution. One way to reduce the use of private vehicles is with “smart parking”: setting the price of parking in the city by demand and not by location. The rule of thumb is that as parking becomes more expensive, public transportation becomes more viable – and the use of a private vehicle inside the city decreases.
Mixed uses zoning facilitates a variety of businesses and residential communities which use the public space . The presence of many diverse people throughout the day enhances personal security and promotes a variety of facilities. The proximity of different facilities (housing, commerce, services) reduces the dependence on private vehicles and encourages walking, cycling and the use of public transport. To achieve this the city must not be divided into zones of uniform land use for industrial, educational or residential development.
Urban density is a necessary component of good urbanism, that enables vibrant urban streets and creates economic, social and cultural opportunities. Density enables accessibility and opportunity, efficient public transportation, commercial opportunities and cultural variety.
A city requires a minimal density and it is important therefore to avoid expanding the geographic footprint of the city and to exploit the use of all the land available inside the city.
Public places are the central and most important facilities in every city and therefore warrant investment in planning and design. Parks, gardens, boulevards sidewalks and central squares should be designed with sensitivity to color, vegetation, and textures nurturing the beauty, simplicity and enjoyment of the city. An abundance of public spaces located far from residential areas are a waste of public resources in construction and maintenance.
Each city has a city center. Usually, the city center is the oldest area from which the entire settlement developed and spread. The city center is of crucial importance to develop and enliven the city. Strengthening the center contributes to the lives of all the city’s residents and its surroundings, and is a fundamental principal of urban planning. It is the first and most important phase for successful urban revitalization.
The inclusion of the community residing in the center of the city in the planning, restoration, and development process, will strengthen its sense of local pride in the city as a whole.
The strength of a city lies in the diversity of its residents and visitors. Neighborhoods with homogeneous populations may seem safer but are less sustainable and do not stimulate adequate opportunities. Homogeneous neighborhoods are not dynamic and adaptable: communities tend to age together and neighborhoods degenerate rapidly.
To creates a diverse social fabric, diverse housing should be encouraged. This will be reflected in construction methods, architecture, size of apartments, and consequently price range. Affordable housing must be created integrally in every neighborhood of the city.
All cities have a heritage and identity developed over years, which define its character and uniqueness. The natural and built heritage is an exclusive resource and a valuable asset. Those open spaces, built textures, old neighborhoods and special buildings that constitute part of the city’s story should be defined, preserved, and nurtured.
Involving residents and stakeholders in the processes of planning and developing the city is essential for an optimal and sustainable outcome as well as a sense of belonging and identity. Community involvement, transparency, professional guidance in decision making should be carefully managed and encouraged.