Is Your City a Great City?

The following is a checklist compiled by the Project for Public Spaces that outlines some characteristics that are common in “great cities.”

Community goals are a top priority in city planning

  • Citizens regularly participate in making their public spaces better and local leaders and planning professionals routinely seek the wisdom and practical experience of community residents.
  • Residents feel they have responsibility and a sense of ownership for their public spaces.
  • Neighborhoods are respected, fostered and have unique identities. There is a sense of “pride of place.”
  • Public spaces are planned and managed in a way that highlights and strengthens the culture of a particular community.
  • The emphasis is on pedestrians, not cars

  • Pedestrians and bicyclists are more numerous than vehicles (on at least some streets).
  • Streets function as “places” and have numerous attractive destinations along them.
  • Transit options are available to get to places where people want to go and are used by all kinds of people.
  • Parking does not occupy most of the public space; free parking is difficult to find.
  • There is a walkable commercial center convenient to every neighborhood that provides everyday needs and services (grocery store, pharmacy, library, medical services, coffee shop etc.)
  • New development projects enhance existing communities

  • New developments, both public and private, are designed to include mixed uses and to be easily reached without using a private vehicle.
  • Developments are human scale and connect with places to cut through rather than mega scale, internalized and islands unto themselves.
  • There is a mix of new housing types and layouts that allows and encourages people to grow old there.
  • Public spaces are accessible and well-used

  • There are public places within both neighborhoods and downtowns where people can gather informally and regularly.
  • Parks feature attractions for people of different ages and are used at different times of day; they are more than simply recreation facilities.
  • The waterfront allows people to actually reach the ocean, lake or river.
  • Amenities (benches, transit waiting areas, etc) are comfortable, conveniently located and designed to support the intended use.
  • Negative uses or users do not dominate the public spaces.
  • Both children and seniors can easily and safely walk to where they want to go (e.g. children can walk to school, seniors can walk to movies, grocery stores).
  • Civic institutions are catalysts for public life.

  • Schools are centrally located to support other neighborhood activity.
  • The library is a multi-purpose and popular place where people go for many different types of activities.
  • Civic institutions (museums, community centers, hospitals, government buildings, etc.) have resources and activities that appeal to people of all ages and all cultures in the community.
  • Local economic development is encouraged

  • There are many locally owned businesses-markets, mom-and-pop stores, street vendors, and larger independent stores; these local businesses are encouraged by the city; people know their retailers by name.
  • The mix of locally owned businesses is such that at least some of them are “third places” -places where people can just spend time.
  • Local businesses work with schools to provide internships or part time jobs.
  • Public spaces are managed, programmed and continually improved.

  • The public realm is managed to maximize community interaction and to facilitate public outcomes.
  • Spaces are managed to provide opportunities for generations to mix.
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    1. Anonymous

      Is your city a great city?

      Does it have limited parking to force people into mass transit?

      Are the streets designed for pedestrians not cars thus increasing gridlock?

      Does your city prioritize tax dollars to support the arts rather than fix the roads or educate the children?

      Does your city tax you too much?

      Does your city chase away national chain stores? Does this impact consumer choice? price?

      Is there accountability in your government beyond the feel good of a “world Class” city as defined by a website?

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