Councilmember Tommy Wells and DC’s Director of Planning Harriet Tregoning led a book club last night at the Shaw public library, the first stop on Tommy’s Traveling Book Club.
Wells picked Triumph of the City as the first book, a bestseller by urban economist Edward Glaeser, which seeks to prove that cities are the healthiest, greenest and most innovative places in the world.
Wells and Tregoning were joined by a well-read crowd of 40 or so, and like any good book club, there were questions, disagreements, varying interpretations and snacks. The leaders brought up many of Glaeser’s ideas and explored their implications in DC.
Some of the author’s main points:
- Health and Livability — People who live in cities are healthier and more environmentally-friendly than those who don’t, despite the leafy, running-around-in-the-grass look of the suburbs. Wells spoke about how to make DC more desirable to the inflow of citizens, including creating green space, improving schools, slowing down traffic and providing amenities like grocery stores.
- Affordable Housing — Cities need to increase their housing supply to push prices down. Tregoning brought up some idiosyncrasies in DC that would limit this theory; if the supply of housing increases in the District, wealthy Marylanders and Northern Virginians might move into town, keeping prices high and pushing them higher.
- Poverty and Mixed-Income Development People without jobs and not tied down to homes are extremely mobile. If need be, they can travel to a city that has the best social services and this, Tregoning thought, is something cities need to consider. She also talked about the importance of DC’s continued support of mixed-income housing, so that lower-income individuals have access to neighbors who may be able to help them.
- Tall Buildings — Glaeser loves tall buildings full of people, and sees historic preservation as limiting. Tregoning, however, noted that shorter, historic buildings are part of what draw people to places like DC and Paris.
- Retail — In the age of Amazon and Etsy, where almost anything can be found online, Glaeser believes that people will still pay for experiential retail (i.e. an exceptional meal or a great haircut). Tregoning and the group pondered how to use that knowledge to help local retailers adapt.
- Interaction — City dwellers benefit from their neighbors, generating new ideas and networking. Wells touted programs like Capital Bikeshare that make it easy for citizens to stay in touch with each other.
Tommy’s Traveling Book Club will meet again in April. Stay tuned for the book.
This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/city_living_tommys_traveling_book_club_cities/4711
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