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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ReThink London: See what others have done

On Saturday, June 23, 2012, ReThink London is holding its next event. Those attending are being asked to craft a vision for London. Participants will discuss community goals and city priorities in five different areas and then they will discuss the policies and strategies necessary for success.

I love cities. All my life I've had strong feeling about cities. But being opinionated doesn't make me an urban planner. The Saturday meeting will not be all that long: Three hours. Being prepared will be very important if anything of substance is to be accomplished.

I wondered what the twenty-year plans of other cities were like and I recalled I had noticed Birmingham, Michigan, had posted their plan from 2006. Birmingham is a cool city. In fact, the idea for London's downtown pocket patios was inspired by the platform patios in Birmingham.

Click the link and check out the proposals. The famous new urbanist firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk is behind the work. It shows.

Check out the two pictures from the Birmingham Report on the right. The top one shows how the location looked in the recent past; The second image shows the new building that has been erected.

Now, think of the boring brick residential apartment complex recently built where the former Hudson's department store was in East London. It would be a dull building anywhere but being just down from the heritage Lilley's Corners means it is a clear blight on the streetscape.

Let's be clear, Birmingham isn't the only city putting up new buildings that enhance their city. Markham, Ontario, has plans to achieve something very similar on their main drag. In fact, our very London has pulled this off: Think Capitol Theatre and the Bowles Building beside it.

In the London core, the Bowles Building on the right is new.
The Bowles lunch building is a completely new facade made to look  like the original facade that unfortunately had deteriorated over time. The facade could not be saved and so was replaced. Some fancy, curved stuff disappeared but few notice the missing details.

There's a lesson here. If you can demolish a heritage building and then rebuild it with almost no one the wiser --- as was done with the Bowles Building --- you can erect new buildings with a heritage feel anywhere such a structure is needed. Done right, the result looks good without being too costly. Achieve the look with design and not expensive materials.

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