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TOPIC OF THE WEEK: New towns, suburbanisation

Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/7/2015 1:00:11 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
[Full topic: New towns, suburbanisation and their implications]

Welcome to Topic of the Week! This week, I'd like to discuss the topic of new towns.

Facing rising population pressure in the inner cities, many cities have, since the last century, toyed with or even implemented the idea of 'new towns'. A new town is exactly what you expect - a new settlement, a new community is built in the city. They generally have a mix of government-provided, subsidised and private housing. They are often at the urban fringe or the suburbs. Essentially, areas that were originally suburban or even rural in nature are turned into full-fledged towns. Needless to say, this type of new town construction leads to suburbanisation.

The idea of new towns is a logical response to overcrowding in the inner city. Yet problems will inevitably arise when you create a new community that is far from the centre of professional and commercial activity. Despite efforts to achieve self-sufficiency, new towns generally do not provide sufficient employment opportunities for its residents, and commuting often becomes a must. Now, new towns usually have superior urban planning compared to pre-existing neighbourhoods, so traffic congestion is less of a worry. But remember that the government is relocating people, generally the poor, from inner cities to the fringe. Many of them are unwilling to find employment downtown because of soaring commuting costs.

By extension, as many of the poor are concentrated in these towns and are often unemployed, social problems arise. I live in a new town, and it's called 'the city of sorrow' because of the number of suicides, domestic violence cases and other social problems here. Of course, media hyping played a role in infusing this sobriquet into common parlance, but it is not without justification.

As an aside, with the middle class (who can afford to commute) moving into these new towns as well, urban decay in the inner cities has only worsened.

There are also important environmental impacts that cannot be overlooked. In many cases, arable land, fish ponds and other natural landscapes have to be cleared to make way for these new towns, and municipal solid waste, sewage and other types of pollution plague these lands. I'm stating the obvious, of course, but when you look at these spacious new towns, it's easy to forget that they also pollute.

The pollution is only obvious if you happen to be an agriculturalist nearby, because pollution and urban sprawl will haunt your land. In many cases, the land is abandoned and turned into car repairing workshops, container storage areas or similar uses. Eventually, much of the land is sold to and acquired by speculators who expect higher land rent because of the increased accessibility in the area.

So, with rising population in most cities, what can we do to avoid repeating past mistakes? How can we alleviate the problems that have already been deeply rooted in existing new towns?

I'll start with what my own city has done. The government is planning to build four 'green towns', Hung Shui Kiu, North Fanling, North Kwu Tung and Ping Che. Ping Che is now in the back burner because of land requisition issues. Apart from Hung Shui Kiu, the new developments have become a huge bone of contention in Hong Kong, with many citing environmental issues and forced relocation. Many reports have been made of the injustices involved in land requisition. There is also a darker, political side to the issue, but that is not relevant to our discussion at hand.

In the government's defence, these new towns are much better planned than before. From an environmental perspective, they aim to be pretty much car-free, with bicycle tracks and pedestrian paths replacing most roads. There will be far more green areas and wind belts, and N Fanling will have a nice riverside promenade along Ng Tung River. While they are far from the city centre, the problem of unemployment will be less significant in these cities because... actually, I can't explain this point without going into the said political side of the issue, so I'll leave this at there. Bottom line, there has been both pros and cons to what my government has done, and how it will turn out remains to be seen.

From what I've read, an exemplary new town-done-right is Andromede, Toulouse, France, near where they make airbuses. Now, I'd like to be corrected by those more familiar with Andromede if I am wrong, but the ecoquartier, as it's become known as, looks quite promising. Take a look at these stats:

-4000 homes
-210 ha area, of which 70 ha is composed of nature reserves and urban parks
-11 000 sq. m. of commerce nearby
-200 000 sq. m. of offices
-15 minutes from city centre

This is what I think new towns should be aiming for. It doesn't pretend to be completely self-sufficient, but a 15-minute commuting journey is a step up from the hour-or-so it would normally take. The buildings are... well, modern architecture that Mirza would despise, and most cities would probably need taller buildings - Toulouse only had 15000 people to house when they built the district. Nonetheless, the district, which is the largest eco-district in France, seems to serve as a good model for other cities to follow.

Not all cities have the land to make Andromedes, of course. What I would personally suggest is to redevelop the inner city areas. Now, I know what you're thinking - gentrification. To an extent, that will be inevitable, but what I'm now suggesting is to replace at least some of old buildings with government-provided housing. These new buildings can be made much taller, say 25-30 storeys each, so the original residents can move in while new residents can also enter. This way, low-income people can live in these housing estates and have easy access to the city centre.

So, to conclude my OP, I'd like to ask a few questions
> What other problems has your city faced in the construction of new towns last century?
> What has your city done to alleviate the negative impacts?
> Has your city created a new town the right way? If so, can you describe how it was done?

Links
Andromede (in French):
http://www.oppidea.fr...
http://www.toulouse-metropole.fr...
Fanling North and Kwu Tung North NDAs:
http://ktnfln-ndas.gov.hk...
Hung Shui Kiu NDA:
http://www.hsknda.gov.hk...
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Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/10/2015 7:40:14 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I probably shouldn't be bumping a stickied post, but it's sort of embarrassing nobody's reading the TOTW... anyone interested?
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

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kasmic
Posts: 1,302
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6/10/2015 12:36:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/10/2015 7:40:14 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
I probably shouldn't be bumping a stickied post, but it's sort of embarrassing nobody's reading the TOTW... anyone interested?

I read it. I thought it was well written, Just don't have anything to add, and don't really know what is going on in my city concerning this.
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Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/10/2015 9:07:06 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/10/2015 12:36:44 PM, kasmic wrote:
At 6/10/2015 7:40:14 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
I probably shouldn't be bumping a stickied post, but it's sort of embarrassing nobody's reading the TOTW... anyone interested?

I read it. I thought it was well written, Just don't have anything to add, and don't really know what is going on in my city concerning this.

I see, thanks for reading!
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
DollarStoreSushi
Posts: 24
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6/11/2015 7:31:09 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I also read this and found it interesting. And even though I find the urbanization of China right now to be important and fascinating to see how the needs of people will be met, in terms of sanitation and infrastructure and and all that, I was happy just to read and learn what you wrote out. I don't have a lot of prior knowledge on the idea and troubles of New Towns, but you've got me wanting to learn.

Reading it though does make me think a bit about Robert Moses and his influence over NYC for the first half of the 20th century or so.

To contribute something though, I read this article earlier today and I think its pretty intriguing and relates to the issues you're describing. Its a long read but interesting:
http://www.bbc.co.uk...

Let me know what you think if you check it out.
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/12/2015 9:05:48 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/11/2015 7:31:09 PM, DollarStoreSushi wrote:
I also read this and found it interesting. And even though I find the urbanization of China right now to be important and fascinating to see how the needs of people will be met, in terms of sanitation and infrastructure and and all that, I was happy just to read and learn what you wrote out. I don't have a lot of prior knowledge on the idea and troubles of New Towns, but you've got me wanting to learn.

Reading it though does make me think a bit about Robert Moses and his influence over NYC for the first half of the 20th century or so.

To contribute something though, I read this article earlier today and I think its pretty intriguing and relates to the issues you're describing. Its a long read but interesting:
http://www.bbc.co.uk...

Let me know what you think if you check it out.

Hmmm... I've read the article in its entirety, and it's indeed exciting! The idea of the sky city sounds great in theory, and I love the fact that he takes the environment into account when he builds his towers. I am a big fan of the compact urban form. I live on the 31st floor of a residential block and currently work on the 29th of a commercial block, so I'm not afraid of heights, haha. (Generally, though, I'm against building overly dense skyscrapers or very tall buildings that break the ridgeline or cause what we call in my city the 'wall effect' - worsened ventillation and UHI effect caused by dense arrays of towers.)

With that said, I have reservations about the quality of a building built in such short time, which should be an important concern after the fire at the Torch.

More relevant to urban planning, the guy basically hopes to integrate everything you can imagine in the tower - basically, he want to build a new town in tower. How will that work economically? Is it possible to have a self-sufficient, economically vibrant town in a single tower?

One problem I can picture is traffic congestion. With the huge number of residences and offices in the tower, there will probably be a lot of cars: People visiting their friends and relatives, meeting business partners and so on. How can the area cope with this huge traffic demand?
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

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Mirza
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6/12/2015 6:21:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Interesting. I cannot add much; very little of that kind happens where I am. And, you are correct indeed, the architecture you linked is horrible.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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6/12/2015 11:34:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Columbia, Maryland, is probably the prime example of the "new town" implementation in the US. https://en.wikipedia.org... It's in the second wealthiest county in the US, which comes from the enormous wealth generated by the attraction of the Federal government in nearby Washington, D.C. Different types of new towns are modifications of the subdivision model that include stores and recreation facilities, but not jobs. For example, the Del Webb "Sun City" retirement developments. These are quite successful given the aging population.
FaustianJustice
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6/17/2015 10:38:07 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
A lot of the land in my area is being repurposed, and due to the nature of the economy here, prices out many of the locals on the fringe of the newly repurposed land.

One such instance comes from a smaller well-to-do suburb that was up against a pre-existing collection of planned sprawl that was similarly mentioned in the OP. I am not gonna sugar coat it, some of those residences and centers of commerce were a blight, however a few people did take pride in the neighborhood, and attempted to do better by themselves and those around them by getting a better handle on the crime situation through outreach programs. Sadly, as the crime disappeared, the land area became more valuable, and the well-to-do locale (literally on the other side of the tracks) simply kept buying the local land near by and building into it as the formerly concerned residences simply couldn't afford the property tax on the newly assessed value of the real estate.

It was the reverse of the situation mentioned, and just as ruthless. The last vestiges of the "Old Guard" were forced out to another place they can afford, which sadly is smack dab where they started. Essentially, all their good effort was for naught, and in the worse case, some one else's benefit. The dirty work was done.

Oh, and there was a very dichotomous racial divide on the well to do and not so well. That SOOOOoooooo did not help.
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Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/19/2015 8:51:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 10:38:07 PM, FaustianJustice wrote:
A lot of the land in my area is being repurposed, and due to the nature of the economy here, prices out many of the locals on the fringe of the newly repurposed land.
That sucks :(
One such instance comes from a smaller well-to-do suburb that was up against a pre-existing collection of planned sprawl that was similarly mentioned in the OP.
Just a minor nitpick there: When it's planned, it's called encroachment. Encroachment, however, can and does lead to sprawl.
I am not gonna sugar coat it, some of those residences and centers of commerce were a blight, however a few people did take pride in the neighborhood, and attempted to do better by themselves and those around them by getting a better handle on the crime situation through outreach programs. Sadly, as the crime disappeared, the land area became more valuable, and the well-to-do locale (literally on the other side of the tracks) simply kept buying the local land near by and building into it as the formerly concerned residences simply couldn't afford the property tax on the newly assessed value of the real estate.
Awwww! So it's the same old situation again: Gentrification. I often wish the government would do something to stop it, through more restrictions on redevelopment and land use change. We have the same problem here, except people in the old neighbourhood are often forced out with various techniques, such as constantly annoying them, stealing their stuff, etc. They get to pull down the building as long as they manage to force 80% of the residents in a block out. Rumour has it that some of the major fires and acid attacks are related to those guys too.
It was the reverse of the situation mentioned, and just as ruthless. The last vestiges of the "Old Guard" were forced out to another place they can afford, which sadly is smack dab where they started. Essentially, all their good effort was for naught, and in the worse case, some one else's benefit. The dirty work was done.
Yep, that sucks. :( I think the government really should step in and halt gentrification, or build public housing in nearby government land, etc.
Oh, and there was a very dichotomous racial divide on the well to do and not so well. That SOOOOoooooo did not help.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...