Next Urbanism Lab: Dare to Live Outdoors

Next Urbanism Lab: Dare to Live Outdoors
As we re-populate our downtowns, and watch the crime statistics drop, people are seeing safety in numbers. Jane Jacobs was right about eyes on the street reducing crime. With the sense that it’s indeed safe to be in cities again, it appears that citizens are re-learning how to be connected in an urban context. Downtown’s street cafes, shops and plazas, filled with activity, are proof that we’re succeeding in bringing people back downtown. Safely.

This wasn’t always so.

For many, perhaps the majority, of us, our suburban lives were spent sealed in air-conditioning, interspersed with moments of purported discomfort as we transitioned between the homes, cars, McMansions, big boxes, gyms, schools, Olive Gardens, and Arby’s drive-thrus that characterized our daily lives. Suburban yards became meaningless, as were the landscape berms surrounding our banal office parks and multi-family apartments.

But rest assured: they were all very safe.

During the depths of our great suburbanization in the US West, probably around 1971, our downtowns were thoroughly de-populated. Since then, we’ve rebuilt our urban cores with a suburban sense of security being paramount. Today, at the confluence of the Great Recession, Peak Energy and the Religion of Sustainability, I recommend that we again ‘Dare to Live Outside.’

In our age of dangling austerity, our downtown buildings have shrunk from tall, secure, Glam-couver model towers to more modest 5 over 1 mid-rise buildings. These buildings can be assembled in a variety of ways on the block and are more…
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