Planning Districts and Urban Design

Kevin Lynch identified districts as one key factor in the cognitive map people have of cities (Lynch, 1960). A district, well bounded or not, is a precinct that is characterized by a similar texture of buildings in terms of their massing. It is frequently an area that houses a particular set of activities. Most cities have a clear central business district; many have clear shopping and entertainment districts. Some have areas dominated by ethnic minorities. Consider all the cities around the world that have Chinatowns. On a smaller scale many have, for instance, a jeweller's row. The mix of these elements gives a particular city its peculiar identity. In many places these districts are under threat due to changing land values as the result of technological or social change. Piece-by-piece urban design addressing the particular problems of a district is one way of shaping a district's nature in a particular direction.

Piece-by-piece urban design differs from city planning in its use of zoning. Whereas zoning controls are generally used to protect citizens from the negative

effects of building, in piece-by-piece urban design it is used to encourage the construction of specific building types and/or other facilities within a particular precinct. Such areas are designated 'special planning districts'. Incentives are drawn up for the sought-after buildings or facilities to be built, not in any specific location but somewhere in the district. In this way the district either retains its existing character or attains a new one. As it does not involve the design of specific buildings on specific sites or elements of the public realm, many people would not regard such an activity as urban design but rather as some aspect of planning. Jonathan Barnett refers to it as 'building cities without building buildings' -urban design as public policy (Barnett, 1974, 2003).

Another special type of planning district is a Business Improvement District (BID). There are over 1000 in North America and hundreds more elsewhere. In Britain they are called Town Centre Management Programs. Business people create such districts to enhance the locations where they conduct business. The goal is to make being in the district for work, shopping or entertainment a pleasant experience in safe, congenial and well-maintained surroundings. Legal mechanisms have to be established at some governmental level to enable business people in a precinct to tax themselves in order to: (1) improve the ambiance of their districts, (2) run special events to attract people and (3) maintain the district after improvements have been made. Much of the design work involves landscape architecture - improved street lighting, better paving, the inclusion of trees and other planting, coordinated signage, etc. The objective is to improve the area piece-by-piece through direct action and indirectly through the catalytic effect of an improved physical environment on enhancing investment opportunities.

Three case studies of piece-by-piece urban design are presented here. They are very different in character. One has received widespread publicity - the special districts of New York City. They were first established in the 1960s when it was feared that the character of specific precincts of the city would change as the result of investment pressures. It was expected that if unchecked the result would be a significant loss of what makes New York 'New York'. The second is closer to traditional concepts of urban design and could be regarded almost as an all-of-a-piece urban renewal scheme. It deals with the central core area of Bellevue in Washington State. The public policy goal was to make it a more traditional pedestrian-friendly city centre. The third case study requires some imagination to be included as an urban design project in the terms described in this book. It is a BID dealing with central Philadelphia.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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