Good for People and the Planet by John D. Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist

operated—into greenspace, bike lanes and other enticing and productive public areas. “Biking and our food scene have exploded,” says Chris Sandvig, director of policy with the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, which advocates for equitable urban revitalization through their Vacant Property Working Group, helping communities access blighted areas for pennies on the dollar. “We’re now one of the top 10 bicycling com- muter cities in the country. People also come here as food tourists due to vibrant local agricultural activity.” “A related ideal is to create compact,

human-scale, mixed-use urban centers in the suburbs that are less expensive to construct— and thus remain more affordable—while placing shops, schools, parks, services, workplaces and public transit within walking and biking distance,” Lennard notes. “Tis ensures a healthy, affordable and high quality of life for all; suburban, as well as urban.” Fast-growing Carmel, Indiana, just north


any people define a livable city as one that is easy to get around in by foot, bike or public

transportation. Many also prioritize ready access to fresh, local, organic food via farmers’ markets and community gardens. Others champion affordable housing and cost of living factors, safe neighborhoods with a diversity of people, careful steward- ship of clean air and water, and plentiful amenities, including considerable open space and natural settings. Many work to preserve and enhance a sense of place suited to the locale. Partners for Livable Communities, a na-

tional nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that renews and restores communities, main- tains, “Livability is the sum of the factors that add up to a community’s quality of life, including the built and natural environ- ments, economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity and cultural, entertainment and recreation pos- sibilities.” Te American Association of Re- tired Persons considers livable communities as age-friendly for young and old alike.

28 NA Triangle Along with economic opportunities, a

leading stimulus in moving to urban centers is, “More people are looking for a sociable environment where they can walk out of their door to the shops or transit and be among others they recognize who also recognize them,” observes Suzanne Lennard, director of the International Making Cities Livable Conferences, LLC, in Portland, Oregon. “People who have trav- eled abroad, especially to Europe, and tasted the quality of life possible in a truly livable, walkable, beautiful and sociable city, oſten want to find such a place to live themselves.” Following are a few examples of America’s

many livable cities. More are transitioning and evolving as city planners, government officials, businesses and nonprofit commu- nity organizations strive to make their home- towns both people- and planet-friendly, oſten through public and private partnerships.

Street-Scene Renaissance In Pittsburgh, revitalization is transform- ing 10,000 parcels of vacant or abandoned land—some where steel mills formerly

of Indianapolis, is following suit. “Aſter years of watching the suburbs sprawl into subdi- visions with large lawns, privacy fences and cul-de-sacs, we created a vibrant central core with apartments, townhomes, condos and new options for smaller homes—all within walking distance or a short bike ride to new places to work, shop and dine,” explains May- or James Brainard. Te design efforts serve people instead of cars. “Carmel has spent the last 20-plus years

building more than 900 miles of trails and multi-use pathways, enabling residents to commute by bicycle to work and enjoy easy access to a growing number of parks and recreational areas,” says Brainard. To facilitate traffic flow, some 100 roundabouts replaced stoplights and four-way stops. “Reducing traffic congestion has improved our air quality, and saved gasoline and lives.” A new, mixed-use downtown Arts and Design District includes a Center for the Performing Arts with a Center Green that hosts a farmers’ market in summer and an outdoor Christkindlmarkt and outdoor skating rink in winter. “Te old way of doing things in which

cities and towns sat back and let the market dictate how a community should be grown must come to an end,” remarks Brainard, advocating the benefits of local governance.


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