What makes a city great? I guess it’s all about surprise and fun. It requires multi-sensory experiences, inspiring art and unifying design. Big cities go beyond iconic architecture and industrial hubs. I can tell you that zoning code alone will not promote greatness, nor will purely market-based factors.
The question of what makes a city great becomes more difficult when you realize that what has worked in the past for legacy cities may not be the solution for the future. Cities have changed not only in how people access work, due to the pandemic, but also in how consumers shop. Retail is changing. Forbes reported that “Millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences, not stuff.” Cities of the past relied heavily on the physical market and trade in goods to attract people to central locations. The current dispersion of goods, services and employment areas makes it difficult to guarantee a critical mass of people in a given area.
How can cities reinvent commercial hubs and neighborhood neighborhoods to foster the experiences people seek?
The interface between public space and private space is the simple definition of urban design. Urban design considers how buildings and public space are organized to create an environment that makes people want to linger instead of just move around. While we know the city of the future will rely heavily on experiences rather than traditional business transactions, it will be important to focus on how we leverage our creative industries and deliver deeper, more meaningful places that strengthen our sense of belonging. . After all, without a sense of belonging, we lack community, and if we lack community, we lack resilience.
I lived and worked in Christchurch, New Zealand when the 2011 earthquake destroyed 70% of downtown buildings. It was important for the community to realize that the soul of the city was not in the built form, nor in the shared assets that framed the city – the river, the streets, the squares – but it was in the community spirit who have come together to shape a new Christchurch.
The new Christchurch embraced a layered but readable city that did not lose its past but celebrated it. Art and creativity sustained life in vacant spaces as the city rebuilt, and this cultural calculus became the foundation of the new central core.
A great example of how this creativity was realized early was the project called ReStart, which was a temporary mall built from shipping containers a few months after the earthquakes to support downtown businesses. Would this have been possible within the framework of pre-earthquake planning? How can we enable this level of creative thinking and enable adaptive cultural expression in our urban and neighborhood neighborhoods?
The Town of Edmonds adopted a community cultural plan in 2014 which includes the following vision statement:
“Arts and cultural experiences are integrated into daily life, work and visits to Edmonds.”
In view of the trends, this vision remains very relevant. Spreading cultural arts and urban design efforts throughout the city will be critically important over the next 20 years to support the daily lives of our city’s residents, workers and visitors.
What do you think of art, culture and urban design as we plan the future of Edmonds?
Over the next two weeks, we will focus on key topics that touch on various aspects of the Plan. Here is the composition:
- Culture: September 5 to 11
- Habitability and Land Use: September 12-18
Next week we begin community conversation with an accent on Edmonds‘ Culture.
Please complete our mini-survey on Edmonds culture (available at https://bit.ly/culture2024or by scanning the QR code below) and visit us next week at the following events to share your views:
Friends & Fries with Susan, Director of Developmental Services | 5-6 p.m. Wednesday, September 7 | Dick’s Drive-in at 21910 Highway 99 | Join us for a burger and a casual conversation about what Edmonds means to you. Free burgers for the first 50 people present.
Edmonds Summer Market | Saturday September 10 | 5e North Avenue and Main Street | Stop by our table at the market to discuss your thoughts on the future of Edmonds.
Round table: Arts Culture in Edmonds | 10.30am-noon on Saturday September 10 | Hall of the Edmonds Center for the Arts | 410 4th Ave N. | The event will feature members of the community for a discussion on Edmonds’ arts and culture scene. Space is limited. Please RSVP by email to Everyonesedmonds@edmondswa.gov to secure your spot. The event is available live on https://bit.ly/CulturePanel and will be posted on the project webpage for future reference.
Keep an eye out for more event announcements later next week as we move into the themed community conversation on habitability and land use the week of September 12.
As a reminder, the survey on this week’s theme, the Environment, is still open and available until Saturday, September 3 on https://bit.ly/environment2024 or by scanning this QR code:
— By Susan McLaughlin, Director of Development Services at Edmonds