The Toronto Star reports on an initiative by a group of Rotterdam, Netherlands architects, who successfully led a crowd-sourcing project for a pedestrian bridge to open up redevelopment in the city’s downtown.
There are plenty of interesting tidbits in this story, and at other Internet sites describing the project and other activities that combine community, enterprising capitalism, urban development trends, public-private initiatives, and more, into what could be an almost idealistic portrayal of urban development. I mean, this isn’t the type of story about intensification we’re seeing in Ottawa (in most part), even though some new pedestrian bridges have been constructed at relatively low cost, in one case bridging a natural barrier (a canal) separating two neighbourhoods, including one of our city’s universities.
Development that has community grassroots support seems rare; compared with big developers and bureaucracies pushing through policies to construct mammoth structures, often in the face of local opposition crying out: “Don’t change our neighbourhood.” Of course big projects require plenty of capitalization. There is a correlation here with concepts that advocate that government development funds be ranked and applied through a popular vote competition — in other words, the ideas which have the greatest public support should go first; and presumably the ideas that can attract the most private contributions should have even higher priority. Combine this with business incubator and entrepreneurship concepts and you can presumably implement some really amazing ideas without burning or wasting scarce public budgets.
But wait: Is this just another example of the story that catches a bit of attention, goes “viral” and where the true story is less than might be seen underneath the surface? I don’t know — but am intrigued as I hear so many “same old, same old” arguments and almost cliche-like expressions when people from the left and right clash on ideological grounds. The Rotterdam folks appear to have managed things so that the community benefits from the best combination of capitalism, community contributions and populist support. Maybe we can truly learn something useful here.