Planning‎ > ‎

Density

When trying to envision what Ann Arbor will become, there are conflicting goals. Some would have us encourage massive new structures while others believe that what makes our town special is the character and quality of its existing buildings and homes. Those who seek new and massive buildings believe that concentrating our population will prevent urban sprawl. This view, of course, overlooks the obvious distinction between the demographic group who seeks out suburban life and the group for whom high-rise residence is appealing.

While we continue to discuss planning our community, it is important to keep in mind our recent experiences and the assumptions that lie beneath our City government's actions. In 2005, local free lance writer Vivienne Armentrout wrote an article for the Ann Arbor Observer called "Our Town vs. Big City". We have attached a pdf file containing that article, below. A later article from the Observer written by former Ann Arbor News reporter Judy McGovern, called "Other People's Money" touches on the dangers of providing incentives to speculative development in the name of achieving density.


The Density Myth
Our City leaders often assert that we need to encourage urban density to prevent urban sprawl. Having strong proponents for urban density is common. A recent article explores the friction between those who advocate density and those who live in cities: City Leaders Are in Love With Density but Most City Dwellers Disagree. The article has so many quotable statements, here are just three of many:

There’s just one problem with this brave new condensed world: most urban residents aren’t crazy about it. In the United States and elsewhere, people, when asked, generally say they prefer less dense, less congested places to live. The grandiose vision of high-rise, high-density cities manifestly does not respond to the actual needs and desires of most people, who continue to migrate to the usually less congested, and often less expensive, periphery. And as the people’s desires continue to run counter to what those in power dictate, the urban future is likely to become increasingly contentious.

 * * *

In Europe, immigration has slightly boosted populations in urban cores, but the flow of domestic migration still heads towards the periphery. The evidence is even more telling in the U.S. In the last decade, nearly 90 percent of all metropolitan growth in this country took place in suburban locations, up from the previous decade. At the same time, a net 3.5 million people left our largest metropolitan areas—those over 10 million—while the majority of growth took place in cities under 2.5 million. Between 2000 and 2010, a net 1.9 million left New York, 1.3 million left Los Angeles, 340,000 left San Francisco, and 230,000 left both San Jose and Boston.

 * * *

The primary goal of a city should not be to make wealthy landlords and construction companies ever richer, or politicians more powerful. Instead, we should look for alternatives that conform to human needs and desires, particularly those of families. Urbanism should not be defined by the egos of planners, architects, politicians, or the über-rich, who can cherry-pick the best locales in gigantic cities. Urbanism should be driven above all by what works best for the most people.

Ċ
Ann Arbor Neighborhoods,
Oct 20, 2011, 12:16 PM
Ċ
Ann Arbor Neighborhoods,
Oct 20, 2011, 12:14 PM
Comments