Boston Globe: “The growth of a thoughtful city”

The results of breakneck growth in China lead Carlo Rotella to appreciate how Boston values continuity:

The growth of a thoughtful city

…When I get back from China I no longer take it for granted that I can walk with my kids down our street past trees, yards, and lawns to a park with a playground in it…

Michael Rawson, a historian at Brooklyn College and author of the new book “Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston,’’ put it this way: “It’s always hard to say that there’s a particular culture in one city that’s had continuity over centuries, but it’s more possible to say it of Boston. It’s a place where the search for environmental permanence was born, at least for America, versus just tearing things down. Boston led the charge in developing an appreciation of historical land and historical buildings.’’

… If Boston sometimes feels pokey when compared to [Chinese cities], it also feels more humane. That’s not just because American society in general is more affluent. Boston’s quality of comparatively slow, thoughtful continuity with its own past also has roots in a distinctive civic culture. That culture can be contentious and frustrating, and it doesn’t always produce the right result (the example of Government Center leaps to mind), but we should appreciate it as a crucial element of a livable city.

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See also:

September 14: Public Information Session on Update to Open Space Plan  
You are encouraged to attend to participate in discussions regarding the Plan update, and its analysis of needs, goals, and action plan identification.

Bay State Village Visioning Project: Survey Results  

Today’s Urban Planning Debates Echoed in Northampton’s Near Past (9/2/08)
Debates about infill and urban land use have lately become hot topics, spurred by the Sustainable Northampton Plan and the prospective Hilton Garden Inn. Some of the underlying issues have been in play for many years. On the eve of Design Northampton Week, let’s revisit some of the voices from Northampton: Reflections on Paradise (1988), a book of photos and interviews by Lionel Delevingne and Faye S. Frail.

John Szawlowski, with son, John, Jr. farmers (p.19)
“People are fortunate in this area, that’s some of the best land, we grow some of the best vegetables in the area. It’s too bad when you see people selling all this land for buildings… You look around now, you drive through the Industrial Park, when we were kids, we had cows and vegetables–it’s gone, and nobody even knows it was there.”

Brinkley Thorne (speaking below) and Maisie Cox, architects and co-owners of Thornes Market, with their children (p.20)
“A town like Northampton should be careful. Now for the first time in a long time, people want to build new buildings downtown. It could be done badly. What really intrigues me is that the most sophisticated thing is informality. That quality is so easily lost as things get more prosperous.”

Ricardo Barrientos, bilingual teacher and bilingual coordinator, Northampton Public Schools, and Teresa Barrientos, Hispanic parent resource person, Holyoke Public Schools, with their children (p.22)
“Northampton is a very healthy environment to raise kids in. The kids love it–they’re Northampton natives. Comparing it to New York City, where I [Teresa] grew up, this is Paradise–trees and green…”

Randall Diehl, painter (p.59)
“Northampton used to be small-town America, now it seems to be trying to imitate New York, which it can never be, and I don’t know why it would want to be… I think it’s important to preserve the old buildings that give the town dignity…”

Herbert and Robert Ross, owners of Ross Bros. (p.87)
“Holyoke’s sad because they’re renovating it and it’s too homogenized. In Northampton, it’s been individualized–people grab a building, put their own selves into it. In Holyoke, it’s people buying whole blocks and fixing them up without having any tenants in mind for them. I worry about that happening in Northampton now, I think that growth should be looked at carefully. It looks like such a sparkling little jewel to these outside investors, they just want to jump on it without any real perception of what is going on…”

James Brooks, City Councilor, Ward Six (p.105)
“What does the city need? First of all, we should have our ordinances so that they can be enforced. Second, because I have seen so many new people, I say that we should stick to our present zoning requirements for building lots and houses on those building lots. You can’t stop people from moving in…the best way to control it, as well as we can control it, is to make sure we abide by our zoning ordinances, without variances and without special permits… I disagree with the Mayor completely and absolutely when he says that we should fill the open spaces with houses…”

Northampton Redoubt: Urban Ecology, Planting Trees, and the Long-Term View
If we remove all of our in-town forested areas and wetlands they will likely be gone forever or at least a very long time. We would do well for posterity to err on the side of caution.

UMass Press: “Natural Land: Preserving and Funding Open Space”
Protecting open space is often about protecting what makes a community special and unique… At the small-town or village scale, a forested hillside or surrounding farmland helps create a unique sense of place. Furthermore, preserving open space helps to create distinct edges that stop the blurring of community boundaries that is characteristic of urban sprawl. Defining what is unique about one’s community and identifying places that are special to local residents is an important part of the overall planning process (Hester 1990)…

Boston Globe: “How the city hurts your brain” (1/14/09)
One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil…

Greening Smart Growth: The Sustainable Sites Initiative

The Ecological Cities Project: Greenspace in “The Humane Metropolis”

Topographical Map Shows How Kohl Condo Proposal Will Eat Into a Rare Stand of Mature Trees in Downtown

State Offers Funds to Help Conserve North Street Woods 

MA Secy of Energy and Environmental Affairs: Urban Parks Deserve Protection as do Habitat Reserves and Working Landscapes
[Ian Bowles:] We need smart land conservation along with smart growth. That’s why, going forward, the commonwealth is going to concentrate its land protection efforts on three priorities, which complement the administration’s smart-growth goals:

  • Urban Parks: For smart growth to succeed, urban life needs to be attractive. From a land perspective, the best thing we can do to improve urban living is to make sure there are beautiful parks within walking distance of every urban dweller. So we plan to create visionary urban parks in 10 to 15 cities in neighborhoods that don’t have them, and to significantly [improve] parks in all 51 Massachusetts cities over the next four years…