10 Things Every City Needs

What makes an urban centre truly great? Check out my list of 10 things every city needs below to find out!

10. Pedestrian Friendly Public Spaces

Sidewalk patios and pedestrian only streets and shopping centres are great additions to any urban locale.  They allow us to enjoy the outdoors, visit local businesses with ease, and gather with our friends.

9. Arts & Culture

At the heart of every urban centre is a vibrant arts and culture scene.  This can take many forms, both in stable cultural hubs such as public libraries, museums, and galleries, but also in the various events that the city puts on, or that members of the community create.  These events provide a forum to express creativity and unique ideas, they allow people to meet and mingle, and they also celebrate all the different cultural groups within the community, making the city lively and inviting!

8. Community Gardens & Local Agriculture

Community gardens benefit us in a variety of ways.  They provide local, convenient and low-cost food for the neighbourhood, strengthens bonds between community members, and provides a healthy distraction from bustling city life.  It’s also an opportunity for different generations to get together and share their stories and knowledge with one another.  Moreover, local agriculture brings external food systems back into the heart of the city, and offers alternative land uses, further improving the cityscape.

7. Bike & Pedestrian Infrastructure

Increased bike and pedestrian infrastructure are an integral part of any good urban community.  First, they provide necessary transportation options, especially for short distanced commutes, that can relieve the already overladen road and subway systems that we have today.  Biking or walking is also good for our health, and not being locked in a vehicle increases our likelihood of interacting with our neighbours and visiting local businesses, creating a sense of community and bolstering local economy.  And most importantly, we need pedestrian and bike infrastructure for our own safety, as the 21 pedestrian deaths and 3 cyclist deaths on Toronto streets in this summer alone have proved.

6. Community Centres/Meeting Places

Often overlooked, community centres provide outreach for low-income and newcomer groups while establishing strong community ties.  They also provide unique programming for sports, arts, culture and more.  Community centres also represent a socializing experience for the elderly and other demographics that might not otherwise exist.  They are hubs for civic engagement and community engagement, and a great place to discover local news and groups.

5. Green Space

In addition to community gardens, cities need parks and dedicated green spaces for recreation and relaxation.  Urbanites suffer from a lack of exposure to nature, which damages not only our physical health but our mental well being as well.  Of course, green spaces come in all shapes and sizes: conservation areas, parks and parkettes, courtyards, green roofs and more.  The versatility of greenery makes green space a highly underrated aspect of urban life, one which could easily be improved.

4. Reliable Transit System

Transit is literally what keeps a city moving.  Whether commuting to school or work, or doing daily errands, the price, convenience and efficiency of public transportation effects us all.  When a city’s transit systems stops, the city cannot function.

3. Well Balanced Neighbourhood Development

Mixed-use urban development slows expansion and creates more liveable neighbourhoods.  These small microcosms provide space for living, working, and shopping all in one.  This creates more walkable communities (like discussed above!).  A well balanced neighbourhood also needs to cater to local demographics of age and culture, to support residents in all stages of her life.

2. Devoted Community Leaders

Community leaders that interact with their constituents are more likely to be aware of specific local issues and needs.  Without devoted leaders to represent each neighbourhood’s individual needs in city council and other forums misaligned urban planning will result.  A grass-roots approach to developing neighbourhoods around their population, retaining local heritage while planning for the future will provide much better results than merely catering to the buzzwords of the time.

1. Engaged Citizens

Why are engaged citizens #1 on this list? Because without them, everything else is meaningless.  You can have great infrastructure, public spaces, and all the amenities you want, but it doesn’t mean much if nobody’s using it.  For every city to function and cater to the needs of its people, those people need to be engaged and involved.  They need to understand what’s going on in their city, know what resources are available to them, and be a part of the decision making process! And what happens when they do is something great.

Did I cover everything on your list?  If you have any other ideas, let me know in the comments!

Feature image courtesy of Peter Morgan.

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