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The Value of Well-Designed Cities

When it comes to the debate about housing and development, there’s been plenty of discussion about the physical impacts of decisions we make, for example the height and bulk of buildings. There’s even been to a lesser extent a discussion on the capital costs of development, the costs of building or upgrading roads, pipes and other infrastructure. Some of this is quite evident now with the Transport for Future Growth consultations currently underway.

One area that hasn’t really been discussed at any level – other than probably some obscure high level planning papers – is the impact our development choices have on rates and operational costs. In many ways this is odd given how loudly many sections of our society protest every time rates are increased. But there is a clear link between rates and the types of development we allow.

A few weeks ago there was another fantastic Auckland Conversations talk, this time by Joe Minicozzi.

Joe Minicozzi, Principal of Urban3, pioneers in geo-spatial representation of economic productivity. This helps communities make better decisions through the understanding of data and design. Joe’s work has prompted a paradigm shift in understanding the economic potency of well designed cities.

Joe’s multidisciplinary expertise with city planning in the public and private sectors, as well as his ingenuity with real estate finance, prompted the development of his award-winning analytical tools that have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Planetizen, Planning, and New Urban News.

Urban3’s research illustrates the benefits of urban density, heritage conservation and mixed-use developments. These have an economic impact that lead to creating sustainable and vibrant cities.

And here’s a short summary video of the key points of the discussion

If you follow many of the discussions the council has on planning and rates issues in Auckland you’ll notice is there’s a huge contradiction between the rhetoric of some groups and councillors towards rates and debt, and the land use/urban polices they also promote.

Some parts of the presentation reference work Kent has produced and written about on the blog before. Joe has picked up on some of that for use in the image below showing the value of property per hectare in the centre of Auckland.

Urban 3 - Value per Hectare

Improving how we use our land has multiple benefits to the bottom line of the council. It can allow for us to use our infrastructure more efficiently while at the same time reducing the amount of expensive new infrastructure needed while also increasing the number of people contributing towards the upkeep of that infrastructure. In short if you want lower rates, cut back on the sprawl.

9 comments to The Value of Well-Designed Cities

  • Going to leave this here: SPRAWL IS NOT THE PROBLEM – http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/4/17/sprawl-is-not-the-problem

    It (and two other posts it links to) looks at two different types of sprawl of one which is not entirely bad (think Drury South industrial estate) and the other is (think most of the USA).

    • Ben, Christensen is running a very specific essentially linguistic argument about the word sprawl. He is arguing he doesn’t find the word helpful in his battles, he is also clear that he is strongly opposed to almost all the things that are generally considered to be meant by the word sprawl, certainly in the pergoritive sense. Except one, the physical expansion of urban areas. Meh. That’s his prerogative.

      But clearly the word is still a useful shorthand for the negative aspects of this expansion. We could say we’re in favour of ‘good sprawl’ but that doesn’t really work does it? I often talk about ‘undifferentiated sprawl’ which is more precise but a mouthful. So it remains a useful term, a bit like NIMBY, everyone knows what it means, but it is not subtle. Personally I don’t like ‘smart growth’ or New Urbanism either, as they are both captured by a certain very specific American aesthetic. And anyway good design is neither exclusively new or smart; but timeless and normal. Autodependent patterns are the aberration.

    • Gabe

      How’s that relevant to this post? I don’t think he used the word ‘sprawl’ once, just gave a lot of instances where the $/m^2 of suburban strip malls was hundreds of times lower than tiny buildings in dense areas.

  • Harriet

    I think sprawl is ok like when in Drury’s case the rail is already there you just need a quick upgrade electfication 100 mil, third/some fourth main 600 mil

    However like in the case of cough Warkworth cough where potentially up to 3 billion with 1.2 on that one rons on its own is being thrown at state highways to help facilitate it, it’s as they say in the south makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.

  • Angus Robertson

    How is it everything up to the last sentence makes sense? And then you spoil it all by writing the exactly wrong conclusion?

    Urban centres are great, efficient, highly effective environments that benefit the city. We should make it as easy as possible to create urban growth. By allowing it to happen urban growth has flourished much faster than ever before in all of our contemporary cities.

    Restricting sprawl increases costs, it is exactly the wrong thing to do.

    If you want lower rates, let growth happen.

    BTW – you’ll notice is there’s a huge contradiction between the rhetoric of some groups and councillors towards rates and debt, and the land use/urban polices they also promote. Yes, yes there is.

    • Angus Robertson

      To list the virtues of an urban environment, comment on these virtues in a possible manner and then conclude: that we need to increase land costs and make our urban centre as expensive as possible to build.

      Is to provide succinct evidence “there’s a huge contradiction between the rhetoric of some groups and councillors towards rates and debt, and the land use/urban polices they also promote”.

  • Ted F

    At what point do you say that a city is beg enough and start a new centre of population and industry so you have a new area of agglomeration?
    Is that how new cities are born?

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