Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

Researchers Discover New Level of Vibrant: Hella Vibrant

There's more to vibrant than access to fresh-made baguettes and signage with tastefully chosen typefaces.
April 1, 2017, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
A tanning salon located in Berkeley, California.
Bastian Kienitz

Your vibrant urban neighborhood is now passé. 

Researchers at the University of California released a groundbreaking study titled, "On New Thresholds of Significance for the Vibrant State of Neighborhoods in Urban Environments." The big discovery buried in the jargon: the existence of neighborhoods that can be described as a step above vibrant, or "hella vibrant." 

The study's breakthrough came after researchers identified a previously overlooked signifier of vibrancy. "Previous attempts at measuring vibrancy identified factors like access to transit, walkability, mixed-use buildings, proximity to vegan restaurants, a live music scene, and a sprinkling of diversity," explains the study's lead author, Nedry Newman. "We realized that just measuring the corporate music scene wasn't enough; you also have to measure the Indie music scene."

In hindsight it seems silly that researchers hadn't thought to measure the contribution of Indie music venues in previous studies. "Probably too much time pouring over datasets in front of my computer rather than actually experiencing the city," admits Newman.

Critics of the study questioned whether the study was designed as a response to a growing backlash against the use of the term vibrant as a catchall phrase devoid of all meaning. "Vibrancy is a marketing term for greedy developers who think you can just press a button and revitalize a neighborhood," said Longfellow Merriweather, director of communications for the Center for Neighborhood Integrity. "When will academics study how to protect all these neighborhoods with hella character?"

Newman, however, rejects the idea that vibrant only has public relations value: "You know vibrant when you see it. But you have to see hella vibrant to believe it."

Adding to the evidence in support of the existence of hella vibrant neighborhoods were additional findings from widespread academic inquiry into new levels of vibrant. Researchers at MIT released a study the next day identifying several "wicked vibrant" urban areas in and around Boston, and University of Toronto researchers released a study titled "Vibrant, Eh?".

[A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the study's lead author as Nerdry Newman. We apologize for the error.]

Full Story:
Published on Saturday, April 1, 2017 in Planetizen April 1st Edition
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email