Creating A Sense Of Place With Modern Day Main Streets

In Missouri, towns are embracing New Urbanism and reviving main street districts or even creating new downtowns where they didn't exist.

"Jeff Bedard was cleaning out his swimming pool one day when it hit him: The only time he ever got in the pool was when he cleaned it.

And the yard at his Oakville home? The only time he was out there was to cut the grass.

"I can't think of an existence any more futile than fertilizing my lawn to get it grow beautiful and green only to cut it when it did," he said.

So a few years ago, Bedard and his wife, Loraine, began searching for a place that offered more than just a home - something different from a bedroom community. They wanted to live where they didn't have to rely on their cars and where they felt safe."

"They found it in downtown Belleville, where the couple operates a martial arts studio in the first floor of a building on Main Street. They live on the second floor with their two young children."

"From Belleville to Dardenne Prairie, cities across the region are reinvesting in their downtowns or creating new ones out of empty fields - all in the hopes of luring or keeping folks just like the Bedards. And they're spending millions of public and private dollars to do it."

" "The only drawback I can see to something like that is that everybody knows your business," said Dardenne Prairie Mayor Pam Fogarty.

Last month, Dardenne Prairie's Board of Aldermen voted to rezone about 285 acres of property to build a new downtown. It would include shops and restaurants.

Fogarty says her city has "zero identity," and building a downtown from scratch will give the residents a greater sense of place."

Full Story: New downtowns cultivate old ambience



Zero Identity!!!

I would disagree that any place in the world would ever have a "zero identity". When people are too exciting into the idea of remaking a place, they easily have a tendency to abandon completely its history.

It would take a deep understanding of a place to cherish the meanings and values of that place in the mind of people, whether it looks “good” or “bad”.

People who are in charge of the development / redevelopment of a place should not overlook those meanings and values before they decide to eradicate the place’s history and to replace it by a new identity. Soon or later, they would feel sorry for losing what they had just erased.

The roots of any real value of a place are its history in progress and what people (including local inhabitants and visitors) feel about that place!

Dr. Nam-Son Ngo-Viet is a planner / architect and researcher. His research focuses are physical form and human perception of urban centers in Pacific Rim countries.

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