When Greatness is Outlawed

Yesterday, I wrote that we could have better places in our cities — ones more like the best neighborhood in Provo — if we just overcame our modern excuses and built them. But unfortunately, one of the biggest excuses for not building this type of development is that it’s actually illegal.

That fact was recently tackled in a post about Ottawa on PlaceShakers and NewsMakers. The post basically details all of the wonderful things about the center of that city, but also mentions that many of those things would now be illegal to build.

Among other things, the post goes over the importance of cycling, public art, “cottage living” or smaller more dense housing, and urban fabric:

We talk a lot on PlaceShakers about extracting the DNA of place and allowing it by right because much of what makes up the urban fabric of great places isn’t legal anymore. Here in Ottawa, much of that is the vertical mixed use, build-to-lines instead of suburban setbacks, streets that have gone on diets to make room for on-street parking and cyclists, and careful thought to how the buildings meet the street. Civic spaces take up centre stage with gracious architecture and ample urbanism.

One of the additional challenges facing western cities like Provo is that the old parts of town are small and often suffering from neglect, while population growth is considerable. That means new spaces influenced by decades of bad policy far outnumber the kinds of charming, human scale, and livable places that we see in pictures and think “I wish I lived there.”

What I like about the post on PlaceShakers and NewsMakers, however, is that it’s all about lessons. It doesn’t simply look nostalgically at old development, but instead suggests that we should be applying the principles of old development to our new spaces. That’s a lesson that couldn’t be more appropriate for Provo.

Like many European cities, Toledo, Spain, is an old place filled with twisting alleys, old mansions, and hidden terraces. In a place like Provo of the 21st Century, this sort of development would also almost certainly be illegal. That should change.

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2 Comments

Filed under building, construction, Development

2 responses to “When Greatness is Outlawed

  1. Maria

    However, as I look at the photo of Toledo Spain I see no visible green space, trees, etc., nothing but cement. That is one of the things I most love about Provo…the plethera of trees & grass.

    • That is an excellent point. There is some green space in Toledo that is just not very visible in that picture, but you’re right that Provo has a lot more of it. Toledo’s green space tends to be smaller pockets

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