inspiring the walkable waterside: who gets, who pays?

In the ideal urban setting, waterside venues are optimal places of human interaction, and are often destinations on longer treks across neighborhoods which Alex Steffen terms “deep walkability”.

Such venues are also symbolic of the politics of placemaking: who gets and who pays amid the unfolding challenge of how to fund and maintain?

The renderings of France and the United States below suggest five elements of the “walkable waterside” within the context of sustainable urban experiences–as presumed characteristics of smart growth and consistent with the touted norms of today’s walkable urbanism.

These modified photos add to prior myurbanist renderings here and here, which visualize the contemporary dialogue about multimodal urban experience, and aim to enhance our sense of the possible.

The displayed examples share at least the following elements:

1. Walking places.
2. Biking places, with enabled separation from other transportation modes.
2. Places of congregation, recreation and observation.
3. Intermingling of water-dependent trades.
4; Food along the way.
5. Natural settings blended with the urban fabric.

Even with the prospect of stimulus-era federal assistance, cash-strapped cities in challenging economic times often lack necessary resources to implement, maintain and sustain these elements of successful places. The legitimate budgetary needs of other, complementary urban needs, such as human service, public safety and infrastructure maintenance and improvements compete for the public dollars which result from taxes, bond issues and the traditional suite of urban revenue generation.

As a result, without more, the places we want may lose a competition for scarce resources in the world of local public finance.

Accordingly, what is the supplementary private role in public placemaking? Can we further innovate legally permissible public-private partnerships to assure the bright colors of rendered community?

In this case, perhaps compelling imagery of human interaction can beget further innovation.

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