Our very strong mid-century past is something most towns don't have, and yet the city doesn't even recognize that it exists. If we don't quit this urban renewal shell game, we will have lost our history and will find ourselves with one of those plastic, unauthentic, Disneyland towns where everything is new and not so appealing after all - just creepy. It's not just new buildings that attract people, it's the right kind of shops and the jumble of old and new and types of shopping that makes a lively atmosphere. So keep our history "vibrant" in order to keep our town alive. (Is it time to put the urban renewal debt-machine to bed?)
Elm wood Village in Buffalo, NY
In Building Size and Age, Variety Yields Vibrancy
Why is it that neighborhoods with older, smaller buildings often seem more vibrant than those with larger, newer ones? Historic preservationists have long argued that older structures play a crucial role in contributing to the livability of cities and the health of local economies. Most preservationists are familiar with Jane Jacobs’s book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which she argues that large-scale demolition and replacement of older, smaller buildings with large new structures drains the life and vitality from urban neighborhoods.
Successful urban revitalization is seldom about the one big project. More likely, it is about a lot of little projects that work together synergistically to create a place where people want to be.
But the world has changed a lot since Jacobs penned her thesis. What role do older neighborhoods and smaller buildings play in 21st-century cities? According to a study recently released by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab, “older buildings draw more shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, [and] small businesses owned by women and minorities and jobs” than newer neighborhoods. The study, Older, Smaller, Better: Measuring How the Character of Buildings and Blocks Influences Urban Vitality, found that “on a per-square-foot basis, small-building corridors have a larger concentration of jobs, businesses, and creative-sector employment than downtown skyscrapers.”
The report also suggests that the “one-big-thing model of economic development” is often not as cost-effective as supporting the bottom-up revitalization of existing historic neighborhoods like Elmwood Village in Buffalo. Successful urban revitalization is seldom about the one big project. More likely, it is about a lot of little projects that work together synergistically to create a place where people want to be.