Category Archives: urban planning

Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

Notes by Jerry Zelin

Approx. 75 people attended, and there was a moderated discussion after a showing of the movie ‘The Human Scale’ at the Portsmouth Public Library.

Tom Morgan (PS21): What lessons from movie are applicable to Portsmouth?

Steve McHenry and Margaret Robidoux of McHenry Architecture make a brief presentation and lead the discussion.

Steve McHenry: The movie focused planning for big cities. In China, the pace of growth is so quick that creates sense of urgency regarding need to plan. Ditto in Portsmouth. Portsmouth has been growing over the past 20 years, but growth has exploded recently.

Not all the development has been top down. Early on, it was lots of people investing in their own homes, historic preservation. Some elements require critical mass to be successful, e.g., Portland’s Public Market project lacked critical mass of housing in city to succeed.

Portsmouth’s growth of as a center for dining and restaurants arose from individuals willing to invest and the city then reaching a critical mass as a destination.

Margaret Robidoux:  We need to consider buildings, but must also consider the streetscape and what moves through it — cars, walkers, bikes, buses. Example, recent changes in New York City, such as in Times Square and on Broadway, involved in consideration of pedestrians as well as cars.

Portsmouth’s fixation on “where will I park” should change to “how and where will I walk?” Ditto re: bikes.

Audience member: But must park car before walking. Why not establish a rent-a-bike program? Drive car to satellite parking, then rent a bike to ride to downtown.   It’s an alternative to carrying bike on the car.

Continue reading Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

What great cities need

“Good cities need infrastructure, efficiency, and economic activity, and smart cities give equally strong attention to arts and culture, social compassion, and sustainability. But great cities need more than that. They need beauty.

“They need to inspire creativity, energy and affection for the place we live in, through that beauty. They need buildings, streets and places that move us, that inspire us to be more creative and civil. They need beauty that makes us fall in love with where we live. As is true with anything we love, we’ll be unable to watch our city being treated badly.

“Does beauty mean things have to be more expensive? Not necessarily, if we’re clever (besides, it’s amazing how expensive ugly can be). Does beauty pay dividends for a smart city? Of course. The economic spinoffs in private sector re-investment and the resulting municipal tax generation are proven, and in fact beauty has a better track-record of return on investment than ugly does.

“It’s good for business, for quality of life, and for attraction of creative industries and people. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Absolutely, but so what? Even the discussion of what is beautiful … is worthwhile. People may not agree, and that’s the beauty of it. But we’ll be having a great conversation.”

— Brent Toderian, Toderian UrbanWORKS