City Revitalised, Your Neighbourhood Vibrant
A city, town or village cannot remain the same as time goes on. The nature of the beast or beauty, so to speak, is an ever evolving process towards a progressive future, or languishing in the past, or deteriorating due to socio-political forces at play. When time warps occur, the conurbation's parameters are frozen due to intended preservation of culture and lifestyle, or because of governing neglect or resource limitations or both.
The viability of a city that is embraced passionately by its residents, whether local born or emigrated from other lands, can depend on several critical influencing factors.
Lack of cool.
Where people can congregate to sit outdoors, at cafes, markets, gardens and bars, especially on weekends, this significantly adds to human participation to the economy and unique culture of a city. Are there leading edge events regularly organised to bring in tourists and yet celebrate what is important to the locals?
Are there street parties and can you sun bath beside the main river or ocean? Can you jump on to a hire bicycle on coming out from your main rail station? Is wi-fi easily accessible for free at various gathering corners of your city? Many cities now offer dedicated walking trails and maps for people to explore the food and culture upfront. Usually, buildings with retro architecture are required by law to retain their facades and workable businesses occupy the inside. George Town on Penang Island took advantage of UNESCO heritage recognition funding to transform its colonial and heritage quarter.
Not resting on its laurels. Do city Fathers or Mothers utilise potential assets to further growth? For example, lane ways and courtyards from past centuries are being revived in various places to be food centres, music gig hubs and showcases of street art, fashion and lifestyle. Covent Garden in London is more than just being revived.
Vienna completed a new campus of its University of Economics and Business, together with the DC1 Tower, a couple of years ago, even if its historic architecture and ambient feel has always served the city well.
Facilitating greater participation by and recognition of talent in a city's strategic drivers and priority programs, with adequate funding, sends the strongest signals as to determination to rise even further in achievement.
Work force participation and quality can be monitored and acted upon more to inspire and enhance higher levels of inclusion across a wider spectrum of society. This involves not just gender imbalance, but also the aged, disabled, the disenfranchised and the health impaired. Huge amounts of investment and education, especially in females, must be followed by rising capabilities in opportunity and fulfilment.
Nature and its scenic beauty is only a start.
Vancouver is earnest at work encouraging the development of IT sectors, an impressive foodie landscape, in the nurturing of its video game developers and in laying foundations for a sustainable green place in practice and policy.
Are there strong policies to encourage growing investments into your city centre? The main financial centres of the business world may have failed in future diversification and continued their over reliance on banking and all its off-shoots. Are tax incentives developed to focus on growth of aimed for sectors and industries? Singapore, both a city state and island nation with a tropical setting, is focused on what's the next big thing for its economy, besides spending much on infrastructure and bettering user friendliness for both locals and tourists.
Singapore is top ranked in ease of doing business, as opposed to cities like Honolulu
Tax incentives have become stronger magnets in attracting professionals and other wealthy people to relocate. Whether for the rich or not so wealthy, a constant underlying factor is the ability of the city to provide adequate health care and services - this has become a rather complicated matter with huge constraints on government budgets, the quality and timeliness of services, the dissatisfaction by staff of providers and hospitals and the rising costs of health insurance.
Not resolving its key problems. When a city council allows a drug scene or social crime ghetto to fester, like in Berlin, it decreases its social image. However we cannot forget that Berlin has been the party capital for the younger generations for more than a few years now.
Having a colourful and charismatic Mayor is not as important as having an effective one. Some cities are fortunate to have both in one person.
Santiago in Chile has outsourced to a high degree services which previously were expected to be provided by the Government,
Hong Kong is conscious of its over built landscape - and its efforts in developing and maintaining hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails, nature parks and beaches have not gone unnoticed.
Honolulu has to grapple with a significant matter involving the extent of homeless people and how they can be supported to change this undesired social condition.
Several major conurbations around the world face a troika of significant issues - high crime, high pollution and high corruption.
Degree of tolerance, acceptance and understanding. Where a city's residents speaks various languages, enjoy a high level of freedom of political expression, rate low on discrimination and vilification incidents and celebrate a high degree of cultural and religious diversity, they can be nurturing enough to transform the collective attitude.
Sydney's Mardi Gras carries out activities over a month, and not just on the first Saturday of March Parade, to acknowledge and respect differences in gender preferences and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender lifestyles.
Communities that make effort to engage with people and cultures outside the so called mainstream can go through challenging but rewarding paths. The political powers that be have to realise that money factions alone cannot lead a city to the optimal policy path. City governments have to think beyond the short term and identify actions and policies that will shape the kind of city and environment that makes their home influential, innovative and inspiring.
Infrastructural, logistical and process bottlenecks. Berlin has historical landmarks that require renovation, in contrast to Dusseldorf, which is a centre for elegant architecture and excellent infrastructure.
Sydney has a transport and communications network that may have served it well in the past, but growing increasingly inadequate for its burgeoning population, business prospects and educational hubs. In contrast, Copenhagen, Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai improve on their already well established suburban metro systems. The highways and rail lines that bring people to a city centre can be the coal face in resolving a city's problems.
The high cost of renting or buying apartments in San Francisco is a consequence of the IT boom, whilst the lack of supply of new construction and supply of houses in Auckland has driven property prices very high in the past three years.
A working partnership between the private and public sectors is transforming an area from Shimbashim to Toranomon in greater Tokyo. Stockholm has invested in the Citybanan, a rail tunnel that runs for six kilometres running underneath the city area and accelerates access for commuters to the city centre.
Hours of sunshine, number of international flights and reported crime occurrence.
Any city with more than 2000 hours of sunshine per year is escalated in the attractive options. This has not deterred Helsinki to liberate restricted shopping hours and build on old harbour precincts in its relentless efforts to improve and over come shortcomings like weather. Despite a variety of issues, including high crime rates, Rio de Janerio is once again hosting a world event, the Olympics, this year.
How many international flights does your main airport handle per day - are there continuing improvements to improve passenger comfort, border control interfaces and in attracting more airline participation?
Cities that develop more viable green spaces and so-called urban lung hubs are seen to be more engaged with their residents. The number of break-ins and murders committed, whether in total or in certain precincts, can fluctuate from year to year but do provide trends in forming impressions to both city residents and outsiders on their level of personal and commercial safety.
Number of bookshops, museums, concert halls, sporting venues, galleries and cinema screens.
I am told that Melbourne hosts around 70 percent of all the bookshops open in continental Australia.
Are artists and artistes supported in more practical ways, instead of just depending on market driven forces in setting up displays, to allow more accessibility by the public to appreciate all forms of such expression?
The number of university students, including international ones, are also a good indicator of how vibrant a city can be. They provide both the labour and custom for many cafes and food establishments in various corners of a city area. With a proportion of the younger generation contributing to your city, it is imperative to have an-going sports program, facility improvement and an international flair to activities.
Street life. If a visitor or resident can find it hard to get a dining table or find food or wine outlets mostly closed on a Sunday evening, this can mean a constraint on the buzz for gatherings and a perception on a lack of social fun.
Streets that are occasionally closed to traffic and open only to pedestrians are an indicator of how welcoming a city centre can be. Have enough people come back to live in the city, and are there regular events on weekends to ensure that the city is as vibrant on a Saturday as on a Thursday? Can a child feel safe in walking with parents to soak in the vibes of his or her city? Is living in a city centre affordable?
Vienna remains a city where you cannot buy groceries and wine on a Sunday. Outdoor dining is a challenge in the rather uncomfortable Japanese summer in Tokyo.
Gastronomical delights and exciting street food. One can reflect on Barcelona, Melbourne, Hong Kong, various cities in Italy, Copenhagen, Paris, Istanbul, Kyoto, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Penang, Sydney and more - and realise that food, cooking styles, friendly atmospheres and clever use of ingredients, all add positively to a city's living experience. And do not forget the coffee or tea too.
Where do you find your city or town, in all this? To be successful, the key words for city planners and government seem to be being more cosmopolitan, provide more public space, practice more business savvy and work further on acknowledged short comings of a significant nature. Some may have to rise above the political, cultural thinking and legislative constraints they have placed on themselves.