March 18, 2011 Different Vision for Cities Promotes the Common Good

By Prof. Carroll William Westfall, The Francesco Montana Chair in Architecture

For more than 50 years government policies, architects, and developers have been building and rebuilding cities that serve the private interests of individuals at the expense of the common good sought by many others living in communities. Sprawl, highways, the segregation of uses and of economic classes, and the use of vast tracks of land for single uses wastes resources and isolates individuals from one another and from an active communal life.

A different vision based on insights derived from cities we love is now taking hold. It promotes the construction of neighborhoods and districts that make schools, libraries, parks, churches, and most of the things a person needs from shops accessible on foot for all age groups from residences that are affordable for a wide range of economic groups. It restores civility and beauty to cities and promotes the common good.

That vision is being implemented through the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) headquartered in Chicago with John Norquist as its president. In 1988 Norquist became mayor of Milwaukee where he demonstrated how broad knowledge, strong leadership, and a bold and humane vision and commitment can restore social and economic justice to cities. He made Milwaukee’s river front into an amenity. He replaced an elevated downtown freeway with infill development, and he made downtown habitable. He obtained a revised zoning code. And he reduced poverty, increased employment, and transformed education and welfare.

As President and CEO of the CNU since 2004 he has extended its reach into the home building industry, the public and private legal and financial apparatus, the professions of architecture and planning, and in architectural education, notably at the University of Notre Dame. Through his leadership the common good, not the individual’s private gain, is being restored to its formerly prominent, traditional, honored place in the American city.

Author: Prof. C. W. Westfall

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