An urban planner from Ulteig asserted on Tuesday that building cities people want to live in requires a major shift from the current design standards.
Mike Zimney told a crowd of approximately 120 people at Eggs & Issues that engineers and planners began laying out urban areas by emulating how interstates are designed – with wide lanes and minimal roadside hazards.
That design aesthetic has resulted in places that do not encourage walking and socializing, Zimney explained.
“A place is walkable when people want to walk because they feel like they are missing out if they don’t,” he said.
Modern street design also encourages faster driving and less caution, leading to increased traffic fatalities and less safe neighborhoods. Before the design shift occurred, the United States ranked behind only the United Kingdom in safest streets. Today, the United Kingdom still tops the list, but the United States has dropped off the list.
Creating great places comes down to two concepts:
1. Providing a sense of place where people can see without being seen, a natural instinct that has transferred from our time as hunters.
“The built environment should mimic the natural environment,” Zimney explained. “It’s about symbolic refuge.” That refuge comes from a spatial enclosure people feel safe in and enjoy spending time in because it is inviting.
2. Designing streets for people, not for cars. On-street parking, narrow lanes, frequent intersections, tight curb radius, the presence of trees and pedestrians automatically result in slower traffic.
If you see fences along streets, chances are traffic is moving too fast because homeowners and business owners are blocking out road noise, Zimney said.
“Mike Zimney’s presentation was a very eye-opening presentation in seeing the different studies of what people want versus what people actually buy,” said ROERS Marketing Director Brianne Hoffman. “Because many of our developments are from the ground up, we found this information very useful both for commercial development as well as residential.”
City of Fargo Commission Mike Williams also provided an update on issues affecting the downtown area such as the need for in-fill to increase property values, additional parking, the new City Hall as well as a bike share program.
Developers Steve Iverson and Steve Stoner described challenges they face balancing the desire for neighborhoods with a sense of place while keeping costs at a reasonable level.
The next Eggs & Issues forum will be held Tuesday, April 7.