When you think of putting a lot of people in a small amount of space, how do you feel? Does it sound like a good idea or a bad one?
Density, or the number of people in a given amount of space, is certainly a divisive (and emotional) issue. Most experts recognize that grouping more people into smaller areas is beneficial. However, many people I know — friends and neighbors who don’t spend excessive amounts of time reading and thinking about cities — hate it.
Though it’s a laborious task to pinpoint all the reasons density gets a bad rap, The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy provides a useful guide explaining what density is and why it matters. Like this PlaceMakers post — which refers to density as “dreaded” and acknowledges that it’s a challenging issue — the guide confronts the challenges of the issue head on. It includes instructions on how to measure density, information on design and context, and many other useful tools.
If you’re reading this and aren’t quite sure what density is — or aren’t convinced that it can be great — this guide is for you.
Even more importantly, this guide offers experts and citizen advocates a model for explaining density and its benefits. In Provo especially, my sense is that no one has compellingly explained to many people why the city needs to grow upward and become more dense. Most neighborhood and community meetings that I’ve attended, in fact, have included comments about the perceived negative effects of density.
In other words, in Provo and elsewhere people who understand density are utterly failing to make a case for it. That means leaders of all kinds need to step it up and do a better job at making this issue understandable. That’s not easy, but it’s one of the more important things Provo lacks right now. Hopefully this guide will make that task just a little bit easier.