Urban Reimaging

The main theme underlying the urban re-imaging process is service, teaching and research in the pursuit of a critical practice of urban design. The urban re-imaging of an area seeks to serve the communities of that region by bringing faculty and urban design students together with local governments, community based organizations and citizens in general, to engage the work of making better places and stronger communities. Part of the undertakings of it is to provide challenging situations in which students can learn their craft.

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Urban design is a practice that is best learned when students are able to confront specific and concrete problems and work to create real and practical solutions. The urban re-imaging also works to enrich the body of knowledge about the practice of urban design. Research conducted through centers and universities across the country is aimed at expanding our understanding, not only of the practice of urban design in general, but also about specific places, sites, neighborhoods, and districts in our city-region.

For example, the work of the Urban Design Project, founded in 1990 by Professor Robert G. Shibley, and located in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, has encompassed faculty consultations, student studio projects, and supervised thesis investigations dealing with sites from Niagara Falls to Buffalo to Jamestown and engaging institutional partners including Buffalo Place Inc. , The City of Buffalo, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, The City of Niagara Falls, and Chautauqua County government.

One big question that arises in the minds of people when they hear about urban re-imaging is: What is the importance of promotion for the success of these cultural projects (the urban revitalization programs)? Promotion is the thing that is undertaken with clear intent to influence the behavior of target groups in a predetermined way. The aim of promotion is no more ambitious than to assert the existence of the town or country that might otherwise have remained unconsidered by an undifferentiated potential market. Although promotion is a communication activity, not all communication is necessarily promotion.

Place-image promotion should be seen as one planning instrument within the market-planning process as a whole, and used in preference to or in combination with other non-market oriented place-management techniques as appropriate. This means that there is always a need for selectivity within public planning agencies whether to apply a place-marketing concept or to refrain from it. The world becomes smaller and more the same. City marketing spreads rapidly and cities start to compete. They try to distinguish themselves from the other cities, by selling a good image.

Cities use publicity and marketing to communicate selective images of specific geographical localities. They have different ways to do this. A lot of cities start to re-image their place. Urban re-imaging strategies have come to be seen as important in the repertoire of policy responses to a range of socio-economic problems afflicting the modern city. The problems derive from a variety of sources, in particular major processes of change in societal structure, in ideological climate, and in the role of the state vis-a-vis the market.

Major cities that grew as the command centers of traditional industrialization also look to promotional activity in facing up to their post-industrial futures. As such, they often attempt to reinvest themselves. Their redundant docks, warehouses and factory districts are turned into post-modern living and working experiences, sometimes also recycling dereliction into heritage in an attempt to tap the tourist market. Looking at Canada, and especially the region around the Niagara River. Right now we consider this river as a boundary that divides two nations.

To improve the urban imagery, we start thinking of it as the center of one bi-national region and think about this bi-national region as one of the world’s most attractive places to live, as well as one of its most popular visitor destinations. These were exactly the kind of notions that more than 75 U. S. and Canadian leaders worked hard to ponder at Rethinking the Niagara Frontier: a Bi-national Forum, held in Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario, on March 30 and 31, 2000.

Overall, the event helped to create a broader awareness of the value of thinking in terms of a bi-national region, formed a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities facing the Niagara city-region, generated increased enthusiasm for working together, and provide a real impetus for further cooperative bi-national work. Seldom is a thing done for the very first time; there are always precedents for action. For example, people in other places have already worked to regenerate brownfields, to develop tourism by celebrating local heritage, and to build collaboration on a regional basis and across intervening jurisdictional boundaries.

Indeed, some of this is already happening here in the Niagara city-region. A number of obstacles are faced by this kind of thinking though. Not all of the potential players in development are equally ready to participate. There are a lack of coordination in many areas, a lack of political cooperation and consensus, and a lack of popular support, funding, local pride, and local understanding of the region. While coordination is needed, there is a need to balance that against the demand for diversity. The potential benefits to heritage and cultural tourism development, however, are clear.

Attracting more visitors, getting them to stay longer and spend more, will create more jobs and support a better quality of life for residents, while improving the self-image of the whole region. Waterfront Culture and Heritage Infrastructure Plan The plan proposes that the waterfront become the anchor for a series of cultural landmarks, learning opportunities, entertainment venues and performing spaces. The goal is to develop a high-profile cultural zone that will enrich the cultural and recreational lives of Torontonians and become a major tourism destination.

This Plan aims to put culture and creativity at the centre of Toronto’s waterfront revitalization The Waterfront Culture and Heritage Plan was prepared by the City of Toronto’s Culture Division. It is one of several studies on Toronto’s Waterfront commissioned by the Waterfront Revitalization Intergovernmental Steering Committee, comprised of the governments of Toronto, Ontario and Canada. This Plan focuses on Toronto’s central waterfront, and is envisioned as the first of a series of studies that will be a resource for Toronto’s entire waterfront, from Etobicoke to Scarborough.

The Plan is consistent with directions outlined in the City’s Central Waterfront Part Two Plan. (Website) The goal is to develop a high-profile cultural zone that will enrich the cultural and recreational lives of Torontonians and become a major tourism destination. The Plan proposes the development of a Culture and Heritage Grid, and twelve cultural opportunities. The Plan is built around a grid of seven corridors, each with a distinctive history and character, that link cultural, natural and heritage resources in the core of the city with those at the water’s dge. (Website) 1. Garrison Creek/Garrison Common This corridor runs from Ontario Place and the foot of Bathurst Street to Fort York and north through Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Here is an opportunity for public art and a series of fountains to mark the hidden waterway. (Website) 2. John Street From Queen’s Quay Terminal to the Art Gallery of Ontario, this corridor contains an impressive range of important cultural assets, including theatres and broadcast centres. It has the potential to become Canada’s premier street of leading-edge arts, entertainment and new media. Website) 3. Yonge Street Canada’s Main Street. The rehabilitation of the Yonge-Dundas intersection will enhance Yonge Street’s role as the cultural, commercial and civic core of the city. The foot of Yonge is a premier location for a major cultural facility, and a major destination for public celebrations. (Website) 4. Jarvis Street This is one of Toronto’s most historic streets, containing 19th century mansions, St. Lawrence Market, Allan Gardens and St. James Cathedral.

Connecting it with the waterfront and improving the streetscape can help turn Toronto’s Old Town into a major attraction. (Website) 5. Waterfront Trail From the Exhibition to the Hearn Generating Station, this route presents opportunities to expand downtown waterfront trails, and develop a cultural centre and festival site. (Website) 6. Don River Valley Bringing back the Don will enhance and strengthen the value of one of Toronto’s most important natural and cultural landscapes, the Don River ravine.

Here is an opportunity to use sites such as Todmorden Mills and the Brickworks to highlight Toronto’s history, and to use the naturalized mouth of the Don as a place of public art and heritage interpretation. (Website) 7. Front Street From Fort York in the west to the Gooderham & Worts distillery in the east, this route has potential to commemorate and celebrate Toronto’s relationship with the waterfront, using walking tours, interpretive kiosks and public art. (Website) Also, another current project that is being worked upon for the cultural and artsy image of Toronto is the Creative City Workprint project (Website).

The Creative City Workprint lays out the facts about the current state of the arts, culture, and heritage in Toronto, and looks toward opening a public discussion on the development of Toronto as the Creative City of the future, one of a select group of leading international cultural centres. The City of Toronto owns 78 cultural facilities. When combined with those owned by the non-profit and private sectors, they provide the venues that have allowed the performing arts to grow and flourish. Many of these venues, however, are in a poor state of repair and neither the City nor the non-profit theatre companies have the funds to fix them.

When the resources cannot be found to fix the facilities that already exist, how can the City find the resources that are needed for future growth and change? Public art, or art that is the public realm, is a crucial aspect of The Creative City – through the compelling redesign of public squares, fountains, amenities, landmark structures, we can revitalize the way we interact and change the way the world sees us. The streets of Toronto contain an important collection of public art. Great art in public places is a strong statement from the City to its citizens and the world that it values and celebrates creativity.

The private sector and the community are willing to join the City in a public art partnership, but the City has to make its commitment clear. How can the City use its capital initiatives to provide leadership for this public art partnership? (Ashworth) The more we intelligently preserve what we came from, the greater the sense of our local identity and particularity. Creative use of the structures of the past will set the framework for the whole Creative City. The Creative City finds inspiration by preserving and understanding its past and by nurturing those things that make it truly unique.

But the City does not have the power to stop the destruction of heritage properties that it does not own. How does the City find the right mix of incentives so that heritage preservation makes economic sense? Toronto needs to tell its diverse and complex story in a compelling way. Toronto’s museums tell the story of the city in the nineteenth century, but the twentieth century represents Toronto’s true coming of age. As Toronto prepares to redefine its waterfront, can it find a way to make the telling of the Toronto story our invitation to the world?

We have to make great things happen first, and that means our creative community needs more and better resources. As the New York Times said, “People expect to be wowed. ” No amount of marketing can attract audiences to productions or venues that are not worth visiting. T¬wo strategies for pursuing the opportunity can be discussed here; first, a creation of a bi-national organization to provide leadership, coordination, and information toward bi-national planning and development. Such an organization should include representatives of government, culture, tourism, marketing, education, corporate, environment and other private sector groups.

Second, a procedure of an inventory of assets should be the first step toward a master plan. There is a need to identify and evaluate sites and possible thematic groupings of attractions, as well as to assess current cross-border marketing efforts, leadership, and information, and to strategize pursuit of funding from public, private, and philanthropic sources. Other provocative ideas of strategies included formation of a bi-national youth leadership group, creation of a regional historical organization, and work on establishing standards of quality in heritage and cultural destinations. Bi-National forum) Although this is not quoted to be the best example, but one way of getting the people together and having them look towards a similar and common goal and vision are events that would tend to bring similar people together. One example mentioned in the notes and the same one that I am quoting now is the Gay Games. The gay Games is an event that is held every leap year since 1982. It was first started in San Francisco and it combines athletics with cultural events. This event celebrated the gay culture and it basically appeals to the upper middle class of gays in an area.

In 1994 in New York, this event attracted some million visitors and it accounted for more earning than the soccer World cup that was being held in the same metropolitan area. In 1998, the same event held in Amsterdam cumulated some thirteen thousand participants from over twenty-five different countries, twice more than the Atlanta Olympics. This event is getting big and holding one in Toronto will be a step ahead for the re-imaging and the globalization of Toronto. (Ashworth) Other specific proposals of mine are to build a people mover that should span the Niagara River.

This will serve to connect visitor attractions with visitor accommodations and travel hubs like the Niagara Falls International Airport, Greater Buffalo International Airport or downtown Buffalo. Similar strategies for non-auto, non-truck transportation should be implemented. Also, the promotion of “green alternatives” is advocated. An idea is for reusing old bridges (“Ponte Vecchio” on the old Peace Bridge; pedestrians on the CP Rail bridge); new bridges (pedestrian or bike crossings from Grand Island to Ontario); and reconfiguring existing connections (such as the Robert Moses Parkway) for environmentally friendlier uses. Kotler) Creating a lake port in Niagara County, NY to receive ferry traffic carrying trucks to and from the Greater Toronto Area is also a good idea. It is suggested that this as a way to make the trip faster, and to take the load off existing corridors. The business values of this idea remain to be shown, and U. S. highway links to the port would need to be upgraded. (Bi-national Forum) More specifically, it is recommended that everyone in the Toronto area should work to improve tools for transformation regionally.

A plan that integrates economic development, ecological improvement, and community objectives should be made at the centers. This would result in means of providing financial incentives such as tax credits, job re-training, and ED Zone designations, while making the decision-making process “transparent” and geared to build consensus. (Kotler) Pursuing such strategies would mean working to link universities, corporations, govern-ment, and communities in this process. It would also mean making quality of life a key issue, as a way of drawing and keeping brain-workers, and as something these new industries would help produce.

Participants in one discussion saw a great opportunity to consider the natural and built environments as related to economic development; to link the environment with cultural heritage and history; to capitalize on tremendous resources; and to “re-imag¬ine” the region. (Gold et al) Also there are many opportunities that are more in terms of the great assets of the region, including the river, the region’s geology and climate, as well as a host of human-made assets – grain elevators, hydroelectric plants, canals, historic architecture, transportation links, “real cities” and “quaint hamlets. Regional planning is a key strategy for improving the natural and built environment. Emphasis should also be on the need to develop clear principles for a regional plan in order to emphasize diversity, ecosystem thinking, sustainability, and appropriate development. The plan should work to make the region a world-class destination; build on existing assets of river, parks, and green infrastructure; and link people, parks and attractions to each other in “one region”

The main goal of all this research and ideas is to make the Toronto city and the region around it a more comprehensible and a more understandable place for its people. Many people tend to make the city look better by hiding it bad parts by ‘fancy decorations’ like colorful buildings and by obscuring the flaws. The best policy for market imagery can only be sough out by successfully magnetizing and pulling in investors, employees, residents and visitors to the country by really working to make the place a better place; not merely by making it look like one.

Work Cited: 1. A Summary of the March 2000 Bi-national Forum, Two nations, one region http://urbandesignproject. org . 2. The use of publicity and marketing to sell towns and regions, edited by John R. Gold and Stephen V. Ward 3. Ashworth, Marketing approaches in the public sector urban planning 4. Kotler, Attracting investment, industry and tourism to cities 5. http://www. city. toronto. on. ca/culture/index. htm

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