The Congress for New Urbanism's 19th annual meeting was held in Madison earlier this month. Almost 1,200 of the world's leading architects, landscape architects, planners and others came to Madison for five days of presentations, tours and informal discussion.
Probably two-thirds of those in attendance had never been to Madison before; they left with an incredibly positive view of our city. In fact, the post-conference evaluation forms are rating this the best conference the organization has ever had. The visitors also probably dropped about a million dollars while they were here. (My hat's off to Deb Archer and the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau and the folks at Monona Terrace for working hard to make this a success.)
Who knows where this will lead? Participants went away jazzed about our bike trails and our new B-cycle system, by our farmers' market and robust local foods movement, by the cleanliness and friendliness of our city and by the beauty of our lakes and our Monona Terrace Convention Center.
This will almost surely mean more tourism and convention business, but more importantly it means that a positive buzz about Madison will be echoed literally all over the world. And I bet you'll see renewed interest in investing here.
The conference closed with a debate between "new" urbanism and "landscape" urbanism. Fundamentally it comes down to how urban you really want to be and what trade-offs you're willing to make on some green goals.
For example, if you really wanted to have the best rain water runoff system possible, you wouldn't have cities at all. By definition, cities are filled with impervious surfaces. There are plenty of things you can do to ameliorate that, but the truth is that cities themselves provide a lot more environmental benefits (less land used per person, less driving, less pollution per person, etc.) then environmental problems.
Anyway, that's at the center of an interesting discussion. If you have two hours you don't know what to do with, you can watch the leaders of the urbanism movements debate the issues.