Urban Amenities

Strategies and Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Promote amenities that make high density living more attractive.

Urban amenities, while perhaps vague, may include a variety of items. One author, Terry Nichols Clark, promotes several different amenities categories, which he defines in his article (link provided in "related information") as:

  • natural physical amenities (includes weather and natural features of a landscape)
  • constructed amenities (may include large or small institutions, such as an art museum or a cafe)
  • socio-economic composition and diversity
  • values and attitudes of residents

While the last two categories are particularly difficult to import into a community, both natural and physical amenities are something that may be provided with relative ease. According to Clark, "Amenities have gradually come into the radar scopes of public officials as a tool to attract new residents." If the appropriate amenities are provided within a high-density community, this sort of living may be more attractive, thus reducing the desire to live in such open areas as suburbs, and in turn reducing the necessity to drive to daily destinations. Urban amenities are also thought to improve the quality of life by making cities more pedestrian-friendly, providing a more beautiful environment, encouraging mixed-use and affordable development, and including access to public transit, parks, and other community facilities, as mentioned in a summary of part of a climate action plan for the city of Chula Vista, California, which is discussed below.

Cost to the City
Relatively low

Stakeholders

  • Community members
  • Park and public spaces coordinators

Barriers

  • There is a concern that in the rush to build new public and urban amenities, many existing structures will be lost, such as residents' homes.
  • Opposition from city residents or neighborhood groups

Benefits

  • The increase in walking due to close proximity of daily necessities may decrease the obesity level in the United States, an ever-increasing problem, and is thought to improve the general health of such residents.
  • Increasing urban amenities, and thus urban density, will decrease sprawl, preserving existing natural forests and habitats on the fringe of suburbia.
  • Increase the use of public spaces
  • Act as a revitalization for parts of the city that have been rundown by encouraging its clean up and use

Partners
The city will need to partner with the development community, Pierce Transit, city residents, and neighborhood associations.

Tasks

  • Decide what areas are prime targets for an "upgrade"--these can be places like abandoned lots, a run down park that needs a face lift or a museum.
  • Determine what stands in the way of making that space a more user friendly public space. Is the area unsafe, are their no public restrooms anywhere close by, is the park equipment old and rusted? What keeps people from using this space more?
  • Determine what can be done to make the space more user friendly, can the playground equipment be updated and replaced, can a bus line be put close by for people to get to and from, does the area just need some upkeep.
  • Use which places will probably be most successful to start, do the clean up, get the community involved and then have a community wide celebration to get the word out there.

Success Stories
Chula Vista, CA (Peer Cities)
This city has established a need for urban amenities such as affordable housing and shops located close to both residential and employment centers. They have also expressed a desire for more beautiful streets, or streetscapes, and have made efforts to create new development plans for future projects.

Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis has promoted increased density in the metropolis through density bonuses, which are awarded based on changes in zoning to include bicycle parking requirements, underground parking, mixed-use development, and affordable housing.

Seattle and Portland
Portland has had a program of "urban renewal" for several decades already. The city's attempts at bringing residents back into the downtown area from the surrounding metropolis included improving streets, sidewalks, street lighting, tree planting, and park building, among other features. This widespread effort included multiple neighborhoods within the city.

Seattle has increased its urban amenities as well, creating new zoning laws to increase building heigh limits, streamline regulations in its urban villages, encouraging housing close to transit centers and employement areas, and planting trees.