City of the Future: From Freeway to Urban Green Space

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Freeways that connect suburbs to and through cities are the focus of a new urban planning trend. Many city planners talk of removing them to create surface roads combined with green spaces. Part of the goal is to make walkable areas so residents are less car-dependent and to bring people back to the city from the burbs.

Aging freeways need repair and maintenance. If a city is going to spend money to rebuild, why not spend it on building an area geared towards people – residents, not commuters? Green spaces can consist of recreation areas, urban farms and community gardens, natural systems to filter water and fight off extreme weather, and wildlife habitat.

Rethinking city planning in Detroit

Detroit is studying their options if they remove a section of a freeway that goes right through the city. Communities that were destroyed with the construction of I-375 could be revitalized. It’s like going full circle. America wanted to spread to the suburbs and conveniently get to the city to work. Urban neighborhoods were ruined in that process. Now planners want their cities to be vibrant and people-centric, so they are going back in time to what they destroyed decades ago.

City populations have dwindled in this economy. Planners now have the chance to rebuild and redefine their communities it would be wise to create green spaces, food production, education, and ecological balance in areas that once moved cars.

Urban parks in the 21st Century

In this piece about the future of city parks, the idea of using sound ecological practices dominates. Native plantings mean less maintenance, which equals less cost overall. Roads need constant attention, native plantings to do not. The more plants there are, the more wildlife there is. Native vegetation also recycles nutrients and removes pollutants from the air while converting CO2 to oxygen. We don’t need fancy, high-tech systems for this – we just need plants!

Parks in 40 or 50 years will not only be planned for the locale. They will also be specific to the people of the community. Culture, food needs and history will play a part in urban park planning. The focus of a park will be based on people and the environment

Infrastructure and nature – integration

The built world will not disappear, but existing infrastructure will integrate green space with green roofs, vertical plantings, and planting in abandoned lots. New construction will be designed based on the ecology of the area – climate, water, vegetation, light and topography. That means each city park will be unique!

My favorite part of this idea is that food production will be directly linked to the people of the city. Numbers and cultures will be taken into consideration, and the right amount and type of food will be grown. Food waste will be reduced, and residents can get what they need.

If cities are ready to create more green space and make their communities more people friendly, why not look at the ideas presented here? It seems like a natural progression to dismantle freeways and build with an eye towards ecology and people.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.