I am a big fan of urban planning and how the design and use of spaces either contributes to or hinders a healthy lifestyle including the development of real community. One of the leading authorities in urban planning is the world-renowned architecture and design firm, Gensler. They offer a periodic newsletter where they share insights into their latest research and design trends. And one of the recent articles was on the idea of an Urban Block Club Model.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming clear that downtowns and central business districts will need repurposing. Office occupancy does not look like it is returning. People who don't have to will no longer do a long commute Monday-Friday to work 9-5 and then commute home. But that's not to say downtown is dead. It just needs to be reimagined into dynamic, multi-use areas where there is attraction into the evenings and weekends. Gensler feels that stakeholders should think about different uses for working, living, playing, shopping, eating, and learning and how they can be mixed into a city block or series of blocks. And to plan for shared uses and spaces like having a state-of-the-art large scale gym serve a hotel, residences, and office workers instead of each building having its own lackluster fitness center.
I also like the series of questions the article poses to stakeholders and the reader personally. "Look at the neighborhood where you live. Do you know your neighbors, community organizers, or block club president? Do you invest not only in your home but your neighborhood? Do you support shops and know the owners? Is your community experiential — with cafes, parks, schools, entertainment, and healthy dining? Does your neighborhood offer character? Have you visited communities that you’ve envied and taken an idea or two home with you? Have any of these ideas also made you yearn for more?"
These questions really showcase how one's choices and actions result in either a strong or weak community. It is about getting to know your neighbors and supporting local businesses. Standing up for good design and a mix of uses that add vitality to the neighborhood. So as you look around your own areas of the city or town you live, start thinking along these lines and what ideas you have and actions you can take to institute the Urban Block Club.