In the conventional city fabric, the two attributes walkability and biotechnology are seemingly contradictory. This, of course, is not without good reason; the large research complexes fundamental to technological innovation are unsupportive of the intimate, walkable communities so presently desired.
The Milken Institute, a leading policy think tank, designated Raleigh, North Carolina as the No. 1 City for Biotechnology in 2005. Walk Score, a firm which assigns cities and their enclosed neighborhoods a numerical grade representative of their analyzed walkability, ranks Raleigh as the 36th most walkable large city in the U.S. with a score of 41, implicating it to be “Car-Dependent.” This may be compared with New York’s 85.3, Los Angeles’s 65.9, and Tampa’s 51. A further enlightening detail may be found on the service’s website. Although an aggregate score of 41 and “Car-Dependent” moniker may not be the respectable grade Raleigh strives for, its neighborhoods’ attest to a different impression. Distinct sections of Raleigh boast much higher scores, such as a “Somewhat Walkable” 69 and a “Very Walkable” 71. Reasons why, such as urban farms, volunteerism, and grassroots business relations, may be deciphered in a previous GSP article; Social Entrepreneurship in the City of Oaks.
Raleigh’s compartmentalized structure allows for it to manage both impressive neighborhood walkability scores and centers for biotechnological production. Urban planning occurs in a bottom-up, participatory process conducive to the prospering of localities. Top-down, big-picture plans are cast aside in favor of smaller, involved processes. This facilitates neighborhoods like Central and Hillsborough to boast their respective scores of 75 and 71, as well as Research Triangle Park to house the leading biotech firms of Bayer, Biogen Idec, and the N.C. Biotechnology Center. Growth of social media and government accessibility assists the system. Charrettes, urban design education forums, online petitions, and many other elements of Raleigh’s city planning department empower citizens to shape their neighborhoods and ultimately create a diverse array of concentric localities. Denizens may walk amongst their native streets, and research complexes may exist and yield meaningful work.
“Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful”. What are the merits and/or demerits to planning on a small scale?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.