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Old 04-17-2015, 12:07 PM
 
61 posts, read 63,081 times
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I'm curious what others think here... Why don't North American developers and city planners every try to emulate Western European towns or cities when building new suburbs/towns/redeveloping cities centers in North America, such as with plaza, piazzas, squares, more walkable streets, etc..?

In my opinion, if I were to magically transport any half decent medium sized city from Italy, France or Spain for example into North America , it would instantly be consider one of the best cities in North America. I could choose a city most North Americans(or many W. Europeans) have never even heard of or only vaguely familiar with and it would be superior in lay out, walkability, public transportation and overall quality of life to nearly all US cities save maybe a few smaller gems and some of our major cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, New York City, Montreal, etc.. I think Western European cities are by and large better than North American cities from a quality of life standpoint. Western European cities are much better for pedestrians, bikers, and mass transportation (lots of planning, history, and money/taxes there). Only a handful of North American cities are pedestrian friendly and offer decent public transportation like Chicago, New York City, and Toronto. By the way major cities in North America could use some serious makeovers as well in public transportation, more and better public spaces, improve bike friendliness, and housing development.

I'm not saying that Western European cities don't have problems, ugly ghettos, or no sprawl, many do. I lived in Italy for several years and traveled a great deal, I saw many very ugly suburbs, industrial holes, bombed out neighborhoods etc... However, most European cities and towns overall are simply superior to cities and towns in North America from quality of living and attractiveness standpoint. Part of the problem is certainly the obsession with building everything from a car centric point of view in North America. Also, North American cities not only suffer terrible planning, but are full of big box stores on the periphery. Perhaps, this is more of a political/economic issue that could be only addressed on a national level. Perhaps the United States and Canada would be better off if they made it more difficult for big box stores to operate. In my opinion they take away more from the community than they give back in taxes, wages, and to my point above they negatively impact the walkability and attractiveness of cities, especially newer sunbelt cities and small towns. They are often awful to walk in, and offer horrible public transportation. Small towns in the US have by and large seen their downtown cores completely hollowed out. 5 miles from the old dead town center there will be an ugly concentration of parking lots, fast food, and big box stores. Not only is it ugly, but you can basically get off any highway in the US and be in the same ugly parking lot and big box setting anywhere in North America. Even the best US cities suffer from too many chains and ugly box stores in my opinion.

So again, I ask... Why don't North American developers and city planners ever try to emulate Western European towns or cities when building new suburbs/towns/redeveloping cities centers in North America with plaza, piazzas, squares, more walkable streets etc..? Perhaps this would involve changes in politics and economics as well. Some things like 2000+ years of city evolution are clearly out of a city's control, but even many bombed out(literally) European cities or newer developments are typically superior to US sprawl. Any opinions provided or perspective are appreciated whether you disagree, agree or have some ideas. Also I mean no insult to anyone, I'm just curious why North American cities/towns overall are so undesirable compared to European cities/towns overall.
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jorge Bueno View Post
So again, I ask... Why don't North American developers and city planners ever try to emulate Western European towns or cities when building new suburbs/towns/redeveloping cities centers in North America with plaza, piazzas, squares, more walkable streets etc..?
Because we live in 2015 and don't have time machines.

Places like Italy have fantastic cores because they were built hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years ago. You can't transform Dallas into Florence, Venice or Rome. Even Italians don't want to live like that anymore. The city centers are for the tourists, not for regular people living their lives.

Most Venetians live in suburban homes and shop at malls and own cars, etc. But the tourists think they are all on boats and singing "O sole mio".
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:51 PM
 
Location: East Coast of the United States
13,419 posts, read 15,910,536 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jorge Bueno View Post
I'm curious what others think here... Why don't North American developers and city planners every try to emulate Western European towns or cities when building new suburbs/towns/redeveloping cities centers in North America, such as with plaza, piazzas, squares, more walkable streets, etc..?
Well, I think the fact is North American cities and towns are emulating European cities more and more. They are doing exactly the things you describe.

For example, most of the large cities on the east coast from Boston to Washington DC are basically Americanized versions of European-type cities, in my opinion. Even in the suburbs, there are town squares and town centers going up nearly everywhere. It's just that Americans love their cars too. And some Americans don't like the high taxes and COL that come with highly developed cities and extensive public transportation.
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:56 PM
 
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Nola - I think you are missing my point. I lived in Italy for many years and I know what suburban Italy looks like generally. Also, we don't need a time machine to develop more lifestyle friendly cities in the US moving forward. Dallas will always be a sprawling city in the forseeable future, but what about the next boom town 40 years from now, small city growing, suburban communities to be built?

I am not really talking about a lack of historic building and history since it is out of our control, I am talking about building cities/towns/suburbs that are more walkable and community oriented in the future. Moving forward, why wouldn't at least some American towns, suburbs and cities be constructed that focus on pedestrians rather than cars when developing? There must be a market for it...right?

I definitely disagree with you that most Italians want to live a US car lifestyle, a few might, but that is not what I heard, quite the opposite for the most part. I lived in Italy for several years, I have no illusions of Venice. Venice is an extreme example of tourism taking over, most venetians aren't even venetians, they live on the mainland and come in for work on a daily basis, their mainland suburbs are often denser and more walkable than large portions of Dallas or Atlanta. Forget about Florence, or even regular towns off the tourist map for the most part like a Padua, Lecce, Parma, Orvieto, Modena, Ferrara, etc.. Think about new construction in Italy cities on the periphery in you want. Even new developments in Italy are typically more dense, walkable and have better public spaces/piazzas and shopping. Look at the newer suburbs or Rome, Bologna, Milan, etc.. even these metros develop suburbs that are typically much more pedestrian friendly. Also, again I don't think that most Italians want sprawl or the American lifestyle at all, most Italians I know look down on a car dominated lifestyle and are critical of North American living, while still liking cars and motorcycles. I know Italians that do live in remote areas far outside city centers too, in what you certainly would call rural areas. But most Italians live closer to the cities, 99% in non tourist areas, but still their unhistoric surrounding are typically superior in my opinion. You can typically still walk to eat and shop even if only a few places at limited hours or at least hop on the bus/tram/train etc..
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:09 PM
 
Location: So Paulo, Brazil
1,387 posts, read 1,376,418 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NOLA101 View Post
Because we live in 2015 and don't have time machines.

Places like Italy have fantastic cores because they were built hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years ago. You can't transform Dallas into Florence, Venice or Rome. Even Italians don't want to live like that anymore. The city centers are for the tourists, not for regular people living their lives.

Most Venetians live in suburban homes and shop at malls and own cars, etc. But the tourists think they are all on boats and singing "O sole mio".
I visited Venice twice.
Before visiting there, I really thought that venetian people needed a boat for everything in the life: going to work, shopping, taking children to school, and so on. I took a trip by a gondola and I asked the 'gondoliere' if it really happens. What he told me is that in the touristic part of Venice itself live only the rich and traditional families. The average venetians live in the nearby district of Mestre, although a lot of them go to the old city for working, since tourism is the most outstanding activity there.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:10 PM
 
Location: Vancouver
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When cities have historically grown quite differently it's a bit of a battle. The buzzwords in urban planning these days are walkability, bike friendly, transit, density and liveability,
All those things mean a less car centric environment. This is happening a lot in Vancouver.

Most of the suburbs around Vancouver do have a centre, with shops etc, such as Maple Ridge. However there still is sprawl and car dependent areas. These exist because people want the option of a single family home with a front lawn and backyard near the city.
Those who don't care for that type of lifestyle have the choice, at least around here, of living in the city, or suburbs, but with the added benefit of choice in the suburb of living in an apartment or condo near the suburbs centre, or a bit further out and having a house.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:18 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Qubec
18,013 posts, read 22,342,309 times
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I think part of the answer to the OP is that in North America people tend to value personal space more than public space. And they also have the luxury (affordability) to be able to do that.

As one poster said, many NA cities are moving towards a greater valorization of public spaces (often along pseudo-uropean models) but sometimes the personal space thing is at odds with the public space thing.

Historically, in North America when that conflict happens, personal space wins out. This is what is increasingly happening in Europe as well. Although not on as massive a scale due to reasons of history, land availability, geography, etc.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:23 PM
 
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Because West Europe cities are more close and more pedestrian friendly. You will not look stupid for traveling by foot throughout much of Western Europe like you will in much of America.

American cities are more spaced out and more dependent on transportation to get places.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:39 PM
 
61 posts, read 63,081 times
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Acajack,

I believe you are correct that N. Americans definitely seems to value private space over public space. I think this may extend to taxes/public works projects as well, like mass transportation. It is odd that we had better passenger trains running 100 years ago in the US and better trolley systems in the cities, the car and airplane alone do not entirely explain the demise of passenger rail as these developments didn't kill of rail in other parts of the world. Portions of Quebec, Ontario, the Great Lakes region of the US and the Northeast all have the density and connectivity to support high speed rail, yet it will take generations to happen if ever most likely. Of course this may have more to do with government policy, none the less many people in the US are vehemently against high speed rail. What comes first government policy, economic interest or the voter's interests.... In my opinion, it is probably a mix, but perhaps generally it is economic interests that influence government policy and the people follow along for the most part.

It is also true that many Western Europeans lack the access to huge sprawling suburbs like you see in Atlanta. So that certainly must play a role, where we have so many open spaces in N. America.

I think you are right that some places are moving towards more walkable neighborhoods, yet it seems like ever more land is developed far from even the most dense major urban cores in North Ameria for large sprawling homes.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:46 PM
 
61 posts, read 63,081 times
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Europeanflava,

"Because West Europe cities are more close and more pedestrian friendly. You will not look stupid for traveling by foot throughout much of Western Europe like you will in much of America.

American cities are more spaced out and more dependent on transportation to get places."

This is true, in your opinion is the pedestrian friendly nature of European cities superior, inferior, incomparable etc.. to North American cities?

I am of the opinion that more pedestrian friendly cities are far superior to car dependent cities. I don't think I am alone in thinking this at all, but yet the vast majority of housing in the US is built along the car/sprawl model, this include many of the largest metros in North America. Do people really prefer this way of living? Or is just that the market offer few alternatives and the walkable alternatives on offer are typically expensive places to live and relatively rare in North America.
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