April 17, 2005

Providence Brings In New Urbanist Heavy Hitter

Providence tapped New Urbanist icon Andres Duany, author of one of my all-time favorite books on planning (Suburban Nation), to lead an eight-day planning workshop to look at its Downcity neighborhood.

The result: "Workshop participants recommended that the city and state drastically remake LaSalle and Emmett squares as true formal squares that would help to fulfill Providence's promise as a pedestrian-friendly city," according to the Providence Journal. "Downcity is beginning to blossom as an entertainment district where people also live, work and shop."

Planners are looking to create two squares with more of a European feel, that would entice pedestrians into the area from nearby attractions like the Providence Place mall.

An increasing number of communities understand that that a sense of place, pedestrian-attractive streetscape and well designed square/intersections/crossings are critical to economic well-being in the 21st century. Suburban planning officials who think that the car-centric, ambiance-killing formulas of the 1950s will still work half a century later are going to be in for some unpleasant surprises.

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