At Spur the New West, we believe that the following list of values are key to a strong and vibrant city. These values form the basis upon which we can discuss how Calgary can be improved and revitalized. This list is not in any particular order.
- Cities are unique and complex places. A city thrives on diversity, anonymity, privacy, and small, casual interactions between its residents.
- The downtown of a city is its heart. A healthy city requires a healthy core.
- Good and unique neighbourhoods are developed organically by the everyday travels of residents. Good neighbourhoods cannot be fabricated, but they can be encouraged.
- Streets are for everyone. We should judge streets on their ability to allow individuals to interact in a safe and pleasant matter, and on the diversity of people they attract, not on their ability to move or store cars.
- All modes of transportation should be treated with equal consideration when efficiency, access, and safety are accounted for. There is no de-facto answer for how someone should get around the city.
- Good urban form is vital to creating vibrant cities. This includes wide sidewalks, street-level businesses, outward facing buildings, and mixed uses.
- Everyone deserves a decent place to live – decaying ghettoes and park benches do not qualify.
- Urban sprawl should not be subsidized by public policies.
- City regulations should be as complex as necessary, but no more.
- Cheap energy may soon be a thing of the past. Our cities developments should reflect that understanding, and promote low energy-intensive ways of living, working, and moving.
These principles are not new; many of them are based on ideas outlined in Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities which is widely regarded as one of the most important works on urban form and cities in general. In this book, she describes four “generators of diversity” which are essential to creating a successful city. They are quoted verbatim here:
- The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.
- Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.
- The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.
- There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purposes they may be there. This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.