Four individuals, from various professional backgrounds, and from different parts of the globe, give answers to our question of the week. Can the creation of urban destinations transform or hinder a city’s development? Think about places that try to replicate the vibrant atmosphere of New York’s Times Square, such as Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square or Le Quartier des Spectacles in Montréal. Are these great attempts at city-building or do they risk becoming generic?
Brandon Donnelly is a real estate developer, internet entrepreneur and blogger based in Toronto. His passions are cities, design, real estate and technology, which he writes about daily at Architect This City:
Craig Rushton is a licensed Realtor with Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd in Calgary, Alberta. Focused and passionate about urban condominium sales, marketing and condo culture www.RushtonProperties.ca:
Awesome question and a constant debate in the Real Estate community. I have two thoughts here:
1.Developers and City planners have always been of the mindset that if you build it they will come: I am not sold on this concept. From a Real Estate perspective you are essentially telling people where to live, play and hang out which seems a bit arrogant to me. Any city in Canada where I have ever lived, worked in or visited I am drawn more to established neighbourhoods such as Old Montreal, Lower Mount Royal in Calgary or Vancouver’s West End. When the first buildings, houses and landmarks were built here there was no master plan but over decades these became areas of town where locals naturally congregate and visitors can’t miss.
2. I think the question may actually be a bit premature: evolution doesn’t happen overnight. We are building master planned communities and urban villages today that in 10, 20, 30 years could very easily be the new downtown and can’t miss destinations in any given City. Take Calgary’s East Village: Fantastic location along the Bow River, walking distance to CBD and Downtown and the best Community Plan I have ever seen. However, if you talk to born and raised Calgarians they grimace at the mention of the East Village because in their lifetime the neighborhood has been synonymous with the drop-in shelter, drugs and crime. Hopefully the East Village will attract owner-occupants, fabulous restaurants, boutique shopping and become another center of activity and excitement in Calgary but it is up to current and future Calgary residents and business owners to decide this, not City planners.
A blogger since 2007, Cindi, a published writer, author and journalist, writes about her life in words and photos at My Life In Focus:
Times Square in New York City was never a neighbourhood. During the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and into the early 90’s Times Square had become a den of thieves. Walking along it’s blocks, you literally took your life into your own hands. The area was infested with prostitutes, sex trafficing, porn shops, robbers, rapists, burglars, thieves and whatever other human trash could slither in.
For years, Disney wanted to reclaim Times Square and bring it back to its Vaudeville glory years. Disney had to bide their time, however, until a progressive Mayoral candidate was elected. In 1994, that person was Mayor Rudy Giuliani who’s vision for Times Square matched that of Disney. Slowly, Disney bought the Amsterdam Theater, renovated it and brought the first live performance of ‘The Lion King’ that an entire family could attend without fear of being killed or robbed. In the interim, Giuliani worked tirelessly to rid Times Square of its decadence. He reclaimed the streets, put in security and transformed Times Square into a mecca anyone in the world could safely enjoy.
Many more theatrical companies followed Disney’s lead. They bought and renovated the remaining forgotten theaters. Today Times Square hosts a never ending supply of fine musicals, dramas, comedies and entertainment choices, as well as restaurants, shops and museums to every age group. Times Square has brought jobs, prosperity, music, laughter and a place for children and adults to enjoy artistic performances together and in peace. This never would have been possible if it weren’t for the patient and timeless vision of both Walt Disney Enterprises and the world’s favorite Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
Disney and Mayor Giuliani were instrumental in making Times Square the new entertainment capital of the world.
So what do you think?
Can the creation of urban destinations transform or hinder a city’s development?