View Full Version : What New Jersey Cities Need

08-22-2006, 03:48 PM
I saw this on BBC.com and it got me thinking. Maybe what New Jersey cities need to stand out is a little European flair. While the UK may be developing more of their cities to model US cities, maybe we should model our cities after Europe. My vision for New Jersey is to become a tourism meca. Think about it - what is the attraction of Monacco? It's the smallest country in Europe, but yet has the respect. You hear Monacco and you think romance, glamour, wealth. What they are s a tourist destination, namely through their casinos. They are a playground for the rich and famous. New Jersey once was a play ground for the rich and famous and I feel it can be again, but our cities need serious work. We need to redevelop our cities into pedestrian friendly, tree lined boulevards, plazas, outside dining and cafes. Wehave rivers that go through many of our cities, from Camden to Trenton to Newark to Jersey City, yet with many of these cities, the river front is underutlized. What are other people's thoughts?

US v European cities (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5271276.stm)

UK cities are enjoying a renaissance, but which branch of the urban evolutionary tree to follow? Continental cities are much beloved, but policy-makers look to the States for inspiration, say Adam Marshall and Max Nathan of the Centre for Cities.

We Brits just can't get enough of European cities. We spend holidays in romantic Rome or alternative Amsterdam, and rave about the cafes, shiny new tram systems and striking public spaces on our return.

A lucky few are even living the Continental dream, with the strong pound bringing a flat in Prague or Paris within reach.

But instead of going abroad, why can't we bring a little more Continental flair to places like Manchester, Leeds and Bristol? With urban regeneration a top government priority, what kind of cities do we want - and how do we get them?

Our attitudes toward European cities, like so much else European, are conflicted. We hanker after European standards of city living, but these are expensive - and few are willing to pay Continental levels of tax for the privilege.

What's more, most of the big regeneration ideas being implemented in our cities don't come from Europe. Instead, they're imported principally from the United States.

How best to characterise European and US cities? As it is impossible to generalise, it is perhaps easier to look at two very different places on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both in their ways quintessential.


* Integrated urban transport (rail, metro, trams, buses)
* Investment in creativity and culture
* Dense new development
* Strong city leadership
* New squares and parks


* Strong economy... but
* Growing pains from population growth
* Poor public transport
* Sprawl, unplanned development
* "Edge cities" compete with old downtown

When seeking fixes to the UK's urban problems, both Labour and Conservative governments have tended to look to places like Chicago and Boston, and policy-makers in Washington DC.

Them and us
The Anglo-American "special relationship" isn't just limited to foreign policy. Ministers like John Prescott and David Miliband have made study tours of US cities a high priority.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is also a well-known admirer of the US - and a lot of the Government's cities' agenda falls within his Whitehall domain. Over the past decade, city mayors from across the US have become informal Whitehall advisors on everything from neighbourhood regeneration to transport infrastructure.

So what have we got from this special policy relationship? A number of US policies have helped the UK's urban areas.

Business improvement districts, where city-centre businesses pay extra taxes to fund street-cleaning and safety patrols, are one recent import. There are now about 25 of these dotted about the UK. Birmingham Broad Street's BID, for example, has funded streetscape improvements and extra public safety officers.

Government efforts to promote "clusters" - concentrations of businesses in industries like biotechnology or fashion - are another. Manchester has adopted a "knowledge capital" strategy in the hopes of transforming the city's economy into one with more knowledge-intensive jobs, and Sheffield plans to develop a creative industries cluster.

And a huge range of US experts have been drafted in to draw up and roll out versions of their ideas for the UK market, with Bob Kiley at Transport for London among the most high-profile.

Street life
But have US policies and policy-makers made our cities into better places, like the Continental cities Britons really love?

The stark facts suggest that the answer is no. While US cities score high on productivity, and have large numbers of jobs, they often do much worse on social cohesion, transport and environmental measures. European cities - though diverse - tend to have a better quality of life and sense of place.

Many have interesting and varied street scenes, strong cultural programmes, pedestrianised areas, good transport access, high-quality parks and well-designed public areas. European cities spend much more time and money on such features than comparable UK and US cities - and the resulting streetscapes are what Britons most admire, and most hanker after.

The UK's policy-makers are starting to wake up to this fact. Recently, there's been a lot more interest in what's going on across the Channel, instead of across the pond. Rather than just admiring the paintwork of the best European cities, ministers are now starting to look under the bonnet.

So how can we get more of the European city feel here in the UK? What are Munich's lessons for Manchester, and Bilbao's inspirations for Birmingham?

We need to do a better job of understanding European cities.

We can't bring Barcelona to Britain, but there are a number of transferable ideas that politicians, officials and the public can bring home from their mini-breaks. More investment in local transport, parks and public spaces would be a start, as would more mixed-use development, with homes, shops, and cultural amenities clustered together.

Translating ideas from the Continent requires a lot more profound thinking and investment. It's not just about lofts and latte.

One thing New Jersey would have to do here, is restrict development in the suburbs and rural areas and encourage downtown development. Stop building endless malls, and invest in downtown. Downtown is the heart of a city and if that does not have stores and attractions to get people to the downtown, the city can not survive. One of the big problems with New Jersey and one of the big thngs that New Jersey has to contend with is the "edge cities" Look at Trenton and you see Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Ewing, etc taking people away from Trenton's downtown. Yet using Philadelphia as a model - you can see that this trend can be reversed. 10 - 15 years ago - Philadelphia was a nothing city, it was in such a bad shape that the only thing going for it was the historic section. Today Center City has a thriving downtown and Philadelphia is no longer soley the "Historic Mile" that surrounds Independence Hall.