You can hardly enter a cafe in Madison without overhearing some city planning wonks discuss the latest variation of new urbanism. Yuri Artibise gives a discussion on one of the sub-categories, "walkable urbanism":
Walkable urbanism focuses on creating and enhancing pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use and mixed-income places.
While many observers connect walkable urbanism with large, high density places like Manhattan or downtown Chicago, walkable urban places have great variability. They are found in lower-density small downtowns like Lawrence, Kansas; suburban town centers such as Dublin, Ohio, and higher-density neighborhoods in larger cities like LODO in Denver. Such places are often characterized by efficient mass transit systems and higher density, mixed use developments.
The headaches with my landlord I described in an earlier post are one of the negative symptoms of neighborhoods that are segregated by income, age and profession. Areas that are dominated by short-term tenants get less care from the residents themselves, as well as the property owners. Neighbors are less neighborly, residents are less engaged in the civic process (neighborhood groups etc); development and investment stays away.
It was just a short time ago that I learned that many city planners see my living situation (a small apartment in a large house) as evidence of the city's failure to foster mixed-income residential areas. When Judy Karofsky told me my apartment should be turned into a single-family residence, I found the suggestion almost as outrageous as the Boston accent she used to make it.
But alas, after coming home from Thanksgiving with half of my bathroom strewn on my bed and my oven on the verge of explosion, I pondered the wisdom of a system in which entire neighborhoods guarantee landlords profits simply by the virtue of their proximity to campus. There should be an incentive for landlords and other property owners to invest in these neighborhoods. Unfortunately, advocates for my neighborhood -- Mansion Hill -- were given the stiff arm in the TIF deliberations.
More importantly for Madison, students who live here for four years should not be able to leave so easily at the end of college. Far too many students here never come to think of Madison as their home because they never venture out of the sphere that is specifically tailored to undergrads -- the campus, the house parties and college bars. If they got a glimpse of what Madison offers people beyond the age of 22, they'd be more likely to seek and create jobs right here.
Luckily, Madison is the host of next year's Congress on New Urbanism.