Vibrant cities attract people to live, work or invest in them. So what should you be focusing on if you're a city planner? How can you help your city function smartly and create sustainable growth for all?
Thought leaders at the recent Chicago Forum on Global Cities agreed that good infrastructure is the number one critical ingredient for cities looking to grow and develop. Get your transport, housing provision, utilities and digital connectivity right and you will soon start to see the benefits.
But infrastructure is not the only factor to consider in creating a more vibrant city. City planners also need to be mindful of who they are involving in discussions about their city's future and also who is providing leadership.
Effective collaboration between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors can bring a variety of ideas and perspectives to the table. And strong leaders such as Mayors can play a powerful role in driving forward change and creating a shared vision.
Identifying your city's competitive advantage is also important. You may feel your city has nothing special to offer but dig a little deeper and you will almost certainly find something on which to build your city's brand. London, for example, is renowned for its diversity. What story can you tell about your city that will help it stand out?
Stepping back from day-to-day budgetary pressures and making time to think about a long-term strategy for growth can also yield unexpected benefits. Do you have a good understanding of your existing assets? And are you gaining enough value from them? Think creatively about how you could partner with the private sector to improve the value of your assets.
And do consider how you will ensure that your economic growth as a city is inclusive – benefiting all areas of the city as well as neighbouring towns and rural areas. Otherwise you will be creating a whole new set of issues to address in the future.
“Creating a vibrant city is a challenge for all the people involved in the development of our cities. But what does this actually mean?” Stefano Salvadeo, Co-Managing Partner and partner in charge of the Energy sector tries to analyse the issue from an Italian perspective. “Which characteristics should our cities have to be considered attractive?
According to the Economist liveability index, an annual survey of the cities with the best quality of life, the factors to consider are safety, education and healthcare, besides political and social stability. The best performing Italian city is Milan, although it ranks only 46th (Vienna is the world’s most liveable city, followed by Melbourne and Osaka).
The situation of Italian cities could be improved by focussing on the valorisation and promotion of our huge historical and artistic heritage and by investing in environmental sustainability and in the reduction of the digital divide (thus investing also in technological infrastructure). Environmental sustainability (reduction of pollution sources, including the requalification of existing buildings and introduction of soft mobility) would play a crucial role, specifically for the cities of Northern Italy, which every year in winter face the issue of particulate pollution.
Our cities would also need to have a ‘mission’, for example they could stand as attractive international centres for specific industries. Italy is renowned worldwide for various sectors, so it would only be a matter of identifying the industry and implement a strategy. Creating a vibrant city also means being visionary and making a choice today to build a city for the decades to come.
Vibrant cities are modular cities which can adapt to future challenges while maintaining sound foundations and which can indicate a clear direction to their inhabitants and the world. To do this a strong collaboration between the public and private sectors is needed, each for their specific roles, to find the best ideas and shared strategies".