By Emma Sturgis
While urban planning has made some great improvements in functional design over the last few years, both planners and city dwellers acknowledge that city life could benefit from a little more creativity from the get-go. While practicality is great and—well—practical, nobody wants to gaze out the window of some boring, bland apartment and see only brick walls.
Half of the downtown experience is in the view itself and several cities have worked hard to start improving that view for their citizens. By blending classical elegance with new architectural elements, introducing green spaces, and building to match local trends, these cities have created vibrant downtown spaces in even the most crowded urban centers.
The charming city of Savannah, Georgia is one of the best examples of historical style and modern functionality being blended to create a unique local feel. As the oldest city in the state, Savannah has a rich history as a center of Southern culture.
As the city has grown, Savannah city planners have acknowledged the need for attractive urban housing without destroying the Southern pedigree this city enjoys. Through their efforts, Savannah has grown with such grace that the city appears far smaller and sparser than it actually is, evoking an era of stately downtown estates and sprawling parks.
By turning the Southern Charm up to eleven and introducing a few modern civil engineering techniques, Savannah’s downtown has retained a romantic, Old South feel despite being home to over a hundred thousand residents.
To accomplish this, private builders acquired several blighted areas in Savannah that once were prized estate homes. The result was a massive restoration project that turned estate homes into functional, beautifully designed apartments and townhomes.
This revitalization of Savannah’s downtown has been extremely successful, drawing 12 million annual tourists to its historic districts.
New York City
Creative city planners sometimes view desolate areas as spaces with great potential. New York City, for example, has several areas in desperate need of a visionary planner willing to give them a hand.
A large property near the Hudson River was one such area, once home to several industries and businesses. When the property remained vacant for more than a decade, some creative city planners and land developers saw an opportunity to create high-quality residential space in this densely populated area.
This resulted in what are now several large apartment buildings overlooking the river, designed with today’s contemporary tastes in mind. Each housing unit in these apartments is ultra-modern in design, with all the bells and whistles demanded by the new generation of New Yorkers.
Closet and storage space is plentiful in each unit, (which anyone who has ever lived in the city may find hard to believe) and is designed to blend in with the design of the apartment.
Maria Ortiz, a specialist with Frontpoint Security in California, says city dwellers are becoming more and more concerned with the security of their residences, especially in densely populated urban areas. To accommodate this increased interest, these units in New York are generally built with home security systems that blend into the overall design and offer greater security and protection.
These apartments were designed to make a statement about quality and status, solidifying their place as a favorite among New Yorkers. With such close proximity to Manhattan’s glitzy restaurants and theaters, these urban spaces fill the desperate need for more housing, along with quality urban spaces.
All these factors together help these new riverside apartments appeal to the young, wealthy urbanites of New York City.
In Miami, where the naturally abundant plant life has long been pushed out to make way for the fast-growing urban jungle, urban planners are currently working to bring a bit of green back to the city.
The Miami River Greenway, an ongoing project, plans to extend the existing Miami Riverwalk from the river in downtown Miami to the city’s civic center. Eventually, they hope to extend the Greenway all the way out to the Miami International Airport.
This plan combines the modern Miamian’s desire for a central gathering place with plenty of entertainment offerings, with a mood-boosting streak of green. Developers and residents alike hope the Riverwalk will become a cultural center as well as a beautiful, eco-friendly addition to beach city life.
When housing and land developers design and plan for urban spaces, they consider the needs of the area and the inhabitants thereof. These cities are excellent examples of the potential of original, functional urban planning. Residents benefit from spaces catered to both their wants and needs, and the city as a whole benefits from the environmental and cultural qualities these spaces provide.
Emma Sturgis is a freelance writer currently living in Boston, MA. When not writing, she enjoys reading, baking and indoor rock climbing.