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ReThink: Special Livability Issue

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In this Issue: Livability Rankings in the U.S. and WorldwideWhy Downtowns MatterA Chicago Park Learns from New York's High LineThe world's best cities for quality of lifeMore Reading on Livability in America: Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize

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Livability Rankings

Photo by Flickr user James

Livability has become a proxy for the sum of a wide variety of  factors that result in a high quality of life that cities must offer to be competitive in the 21st century. As one of many rankings notes, livability means  a great city in which to live, work, play, visit, and explore. Another ranking notes that if a city is livable for its children and its elders, it is livable for all. While livability  means different things to different people, most rankings and indicators focus on a mix of some or all  of the following elements:  the built and natural environments, arts and culture, health, equitable and affordable housing, connectivity including infrastructure, diverse transportation choices and walkability, economic opportunity and competitiveness, social equity, and core public services such as safe and clean streets, good schools, and fast commutes.  Concepts such as happiness, vibrancy, resilience, and sustainability are often considered essential elements of livability. Our 2010 Livability Challenge in Indianapolis focused on making beauty, in the form of art, good design, and nature available to all of a city’s citizens.

Our most recent blog post highlights some of the rankings and lists that have been created for examining the livability of these cities. Read to find out more!


Why Downtowns Matter

Photo by Steven Depolo

Our President and CEO, Lee Fisher, recently spoke at the launch of Indianapolis Downtown’s Velocity Plan. He offered his thoughts to the Indianapolis Star on the city’s yearlong strategic planning process intended to creative a new vision for Downtown Indianapolis—and the direction the city is headed. Click to read why Lee thinks Indianapolis is not only on the right track, but can serve as a model for a vibrant, livable city.


A Chicago Park Learns from New York's High Line 

Photo via Next City

This Next City Article discusses New York's popular elevated linear park, and how many cities are now taking their lead and transforming rusty train track corridors into something a bit more valuable. The train tracks offer the additional bonus of providing a continuous, typically flat, greenspace that can be seen from taller buildings alongside it. City leaders are preparing themselves for this highly encouraged space to take new forms.


The world's best cities for quality of life

Mercer Consulting published the 2012 survey results of their Quality of Living Survey, which ranks cities from around the world on the "Quality of Living." Six European countries typically fight for the top nominations annually-- this time Vienna coming in first. There are 39 categories in the Quality of Living standard that range from mail services to traffic congestion. The United States' highest ranked cities are Honolulu at 28th, San Francisco at 29th, and Boston at 35th.


More Reading on Livability in America: 

  • The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012: Smart Growth America seeks to highlight the success stories of American cities pertaining to the improvement of road safety-- discussing unique approaches to planning, such as comprehensive language for street laws.

  • A Missionary’s Quest to Remake Motor City: The New Yok Times writes about the ambitious plan of Dan Gilbert, Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans-- who seeks to reinvent two blocks of central downtown Detroit. Complete with mixed-use residential development and light rail, the recently purchased 1 million square-foot site hopes to realize an amazing vision for downtown Detroit. 

  • The Problem With Calling Cities 'Post-Industrial' The Atlantic Cities writes on the topic of the term "post-industrial," and its incongruity in describing cities specifically. Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist reverberates the message that industry is alive and well in America, and offers up a potential new term for post-industrial cities that would be more accurate for everyone.


Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize

The Lee Kuan New World City Prize encourages good leadership throughout the world-- highlighting master-plan strategies, successful program implementation, and overall urban transformation. The contest and prize is accessible for all countries, and last year's honorable mentions include the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Ahmedabad and a safety strategy for South Africa called Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU). The application process asks for two recommendations, a short essay, and a report with multi-platformed options. The 2012 award went to New York City for their hard work over the last ten years sustaining a sense of community after 9-11, with the strategy PlaNYC.

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