When we come across something that falls into the “government is cool” category, you can bet we will share it! In this article in Grist magazine, author Ben Adler discusses “How to give a community a soul.” He contrasts the soulless suburbs of Washington, DC to other, cooler neighborhoods such as Mount Pleasant, also in the DC area. What distinguishes the two is urban planning. Or you can think of it as public mindfulness.
As my piece in the Post explains, a community’s “soul” is not just some ineffable or magical quality. Urban planning and local laws actually affect it.
Neighborhoods that are widely considered charming or full of character are typically designed to make pedestrians feel cozy by having buildings that are attractive, human-scaled, and engaging to the street, and streets that are narrow and lined with appealing sidewalks. Indeed, traditional row-house neighborhoods all over the country are envied for their architectural and cultural character.
That’s right—governments can help communities become soulful by planning for the kind of livability they want.
Another example of making the case for a public role in making communities more livable is the US Green Building Council. You can see from their Facebook page that they get and are promoting the connection between government and community well-being. The Building Council opts for the term “personality” rather “soul,” but the idea is the same. Here’s a snapshot from their page.
Public structures really help define the personality of a town, and they’re where the actions that define history take place. When governments decide to commit iconic public spaces to #LEED, they send a powerful signal that the town’s identity values #sustainability, resilience, health, innovation, and responsibility.