Published 20 February 2011
The Urbanophile, Aaron Renn, describes himself on his website, Urbanophile: Passionate about cities, as “an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst, consultant, speaker & writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive in a 21st century that will be very different from the 20th”.
In his blog & elsewhere, Mr Renn “regularly offers innovative strategies for urban success found nowhere else. He believes that by discarding old stereotypes and adopting new strategies based in progressive planning principles across an integrated set of disciplines, America can create sustainable, everyday cities for the majority of its citizens to visit, live & work in.”
Mr Renn came from a village in Indiana, grew up fascinated by cities & what makes them tick, and now lives in Chicago. He launched one of the first blogs in the US in 1998, The Weekly Breakdown, to cover the Chicago Transit Authority and started the Urbanophile in 2006.
Getting to his website yesterday was a journey in itself: I began by reading an article on the high quality Australian website Business Spectator, which ran a story, The US housing crisis’ Democratic demolition, by the Unconventional economist, Leith van Onselen. It outlined some interesting theories on population shifts in the US, resulting in representation changes (growth in Republican states), thereby increasing likely Republican seats at the next election.
Mr van Onselen had picked up on a story in New Geography last Julywhich explained some of the drivers underpinning population shift, Civic choices: The quality versus quantity dilemma. Business Spectator also drew material from the Wall Street Journal & Forbes magazine into the mix.
Perhaps the best recommendation of Mr Renn’s writing & analysis is his observation at the start of the Civic choices article: “Advocates on opposite sides of urban debates often spend a great deal of time talking past each other.”
And a conclusion: “The high quality cities need to learn again the lessons of their youth about the importance of growth. And the high quantity cities need to create environments that will sustain them after they’ve lost greenfield advantages.”
Adapting his findings & views to Auckland is an interesting exercise, because Auckland’s civic leaders aspire to making it a quality city, while it’s also naturally a quantity city by virtue of being the first arrival point for immigrants from overseas, and by being the brightest light to which domestic migrants have flocked.
Can you be both quality & quantity? The Auckland Council is starting work on programme this year to produce a spatial plan, which will be a basis for revising all the region’s district plans and its regional plan. Without a clear planning purpose on these dynamics alone, it will be easy for direction to be lost.
New Geography, Civic choices: The quality versus quantity dilemma
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Attribution: Business Spectator, New Geography, Urbanophile, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.