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Placemaking: Revitalizing a Cincinnati Neighborhood

UNITS Magazine December 9, 2019

The suburbanization of post-WWII America introduced a significant transformation of the form of the built environment—the collection of places where we live, work, socialize and play. Driven by rapid population movement, new design criteria centered around the automobile, segregated use-based zoning philosophy, growth of franchise businesses and a host of other influencing factors, the physical form of our built environment drastically changed from its historic patterns.

Over time, these development patterns yielded an environment that was, at best, not locally meaningful to the community and, at worst, inhumane collections of vast parking lots surrounding single-purpose buildings or the nearly universally disdained “suburban strip.” During the more than 70 years since WWII, these patterns of growth have continued to evolve and, in the opinion of many, have finally been proven a failed effort now degradingly referred to as “suburban sprawl.”

During this transformation, hundreds of years of collective understanding of urban form and town planning—a body of knowledge known as Civic Art—has been frittered away. Once vibrant walkable urban areas have been traded for gated subdivisions, big-box retail, and stand-alone office parks and institutions. During this growth period, financial capital grew, but social capital was simultaneously degraded through the impoverishment of the quality of the built environment.

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