In many of the world’s most populated cities, the collapse of industrial and manufacturing industries has left areas riddled with inadequate housing, unemployment, and few prospects for prosperity. Urban regeneration is the campaign to reverse that decline by improving both the physical landscape of an area and its economy.
Redeveloping an area that is suffering is no small task. Urban regeneration programs require careful planning and investment. In the U.S., many cities have been targeting these areas for mixed-use neighborhoods, economic investment, and new transit projects. Here are just five components of the most successful urban regeneration projects.
Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney NSW (Credit: MD111 / Flickr)
One component of urban regeneration the conversion of former industrial sites into projects that serve the public good. This can be a factory that has been transformed into housing, a school, a shopping center, or even a site for a park.
Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia is a perfect example of this type of industrial transformation. For more than 100 years, this site on banks of Sydney Harbor was an industrial site that was off limits to the public. Now, the six-hectare piece of land has been transformed into a shorefront park near the inner-city suburb of Millers Point.
Storm Water Management
Inner cities are densely populated, and efficient utility management is a continuing struggle for many of these areas. When an urban regeneration project takes hold in a city, this is the perfect opportunity to address some of these capacity issues.
For example, Southern California is known for its ongoing drought issues. The city of Los Angeles is now addressing water shortages with plans to capture rainwater throughout the L.A. basin. Through this new plan, the city will collect as much as 8 billion gallons of stormwater each year.
In most inner cities, an alley is a dirty and dangerous place to be avoided. Urban regenerators are finding better uses for this so-called “dead space” so that it can bring function and even character to neighborhoods. Alleys are being repurposed in cities around the world into such things as business areas, parks, bike paths, and even urban agricultural spaces.
Take Seattle, for example. Urban designer and architect Daniel Toole has lived in the city since 2008 and became obsessed with the city’s alleyways. He wanted to add function to these spaces with artwork and businesses. Toole is currently working on an alleyway project in the Miami Design District.
Walkability & Mass Transit
To revitalize any area, access to amenities and services is a must. Walkability refers to neighborhoods that promote mixed-use, such as living quarters next to restaurants, grocery stores, entertainment centers, and other businesses that support economic development. Mass transit is also a key component, as residents may need to commute to work or for other key services such as healthcare.
One city that has invested a generous amount of resources into its walkability and mass transit is Atlanta. Atlanta’s BeltLine is an economic development and comprehensive sustainable transportation project which is considered one of the largest efforts of its kind in the U.S.
Atlanta’s BeltLine project will be a 22-mile loop of modern streetcars, trails, and parks that will connect 45 in-town neighborhoods. The project also supports other urban regeneration projects in the city such as public art, historic preservation, economic development, and affordable housing.
Green High-Rise Development
More and more people today want to both live in our world’s cities and live in sustainable housing. In 2010, 82% of Americans were living in cities, and that number could increase to 90% by 2050. The challenge that urban planners and city managers face is accommodating these new residents and doing so in a way that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Believe it or not, some of the top advances to date in green high-rise development can be found in New York City (NYC). NYC is the most densely-populated city in the United States, and its GHG emissions are already below the national average.
One of NYC’s most sustainable high-rises is the new Bank of America Tower, which is also the city’s second tallest building. The new tower uses a gray water system for rainwater capture, is constructed with insulating glass, and uses other energy-efficient power generation systems. The city’s greenest residential high-rise is The Visionaire, a 35-story building in Manhattan, has various systems in place to save as much as 42% on energy costs.
Reestablishing economic prosperity in our inner cities is the primary goal of the most successful urban regeneration projects. Careful planning and execution of these components can create viable neighborhoods and centers of business that can transform a once blighted area and enhance the quality of life for both residents and business owners.