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5550 Wilshire at Miracle Mile: Modern Urban Living in the Heart of LA

5550 Wilshire at Miracle Mile: Modern Urban Living in the Heart of LA

Along Los Angeles' iconic "Main Street" is a new luxury apartment building with a retro look, offering a long list of coveted amenities and proximity to some of the best shopping, dining and entertainment in the city.

Featuring a resort-style pool surrounded by cabanas, outdoor space with fire pits, a two-story state-of-the-art gym, and a cozy theater, 5550 Wilshire at Miracle Mile gives tenants a place to relish in the ultimate urban L.A. lifestyle.

The community contains one-, two- and three-bedroom residences, ranging in size from 770 square feet to 2,061 square feet in a variety of floor plans—from traditional layouts to loft penthouses. All units contain a gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances, Caesarstone countertops, Kohler sinks, large islands, and every apartment dweller's dream, full-size washers and dryers.

Additional amenities may include 10-foot ceilings, walk-in closets, soaking tubs and private balconies. Occupants receive assigned parking spaces and the security of controlled access to the property. Four legged friends are welcome too, so the whole family can live lavishly.

The central location makes it easy to get around, whether taking the metro, bus, walking or jumping on the 405, 101, or 10 just a few blocks away. The Grove, Museum Row and the farmers market are all close by, as well as downtown, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. For leasing information, call 866-912-6813 or visit WindsorCommunities.com.


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


The Nation : Streets vs. Malls: The Modern Dilemma of Urban Public Spaces

The increasing backlash against retail giants like WalMart in cities across the country makes an important statement not only about the type of stores but also the type of communi ties that people want and don’t want in the future. The WalMarts and other warehouse retailers, and the development they represent, have nibbled at and now seem to have gobbled up many of America’s communities, replacing them with something less than we had before. The trend toward suburban, free-floating retail unconnected to a downtown shopping district is making communities less convenient, less personal, less diverse and less safe.

Living in New York, we feel lucky. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the neighborhoods of New York are, for the most part, convenient, diverse and safe. They are places where vitality is drawn from the street and the people who use the street. They are places where retailers know their customers. For example, after frequenting a coffee shop for three days, the waiter will inevitably have the coffee ready before you’ve even opened your mouth to order--you’ve become a regular! Or the greengrocer who, as you walk into his store four years after having moved away and then back again, asks “Where ya been?”

In these neighborhoods, service is a necessity because of the challenge of competition at a scale that is far smaller and more personal than the level at which places like a mall or WalMart function. In these ways, New York’s neighborhoods are more like small towns.

Los Angeles is different. During the past two years, we have spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles and feel the need to sound an alarm. The city seems to be giving up on its streets and, in doing so, may be closing the door to becoming a more “urban” city.

By contrast, Los Angeles seems to be creating an endless number of privately owned, highly controlled real-estate developments. Although these developments lure large numbers of people, they are isolated pockets of exclusivity--not a part of the city’s fabric. They are not the places from which real cities evolve.

What makes good cities and how can they continue to evolve as places where people want to be? Just look at where people dream of spending their vacations--strolling the boulevards of Paris, sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in an Italian piazza, even coming to New York.

A good city is about experiencing diversity--even if that means simply walking on a street to observe people who are not like you. In good cities, there are also public places--places that are part of the city, that show you what a city is all about and give it a heart. Sometimes, these places are a grand avenue or a large plaza. Whatever, they are an important part of people’s daily lives.

A good city cannot exist without good streets. Can you imagine Paris without its boulevards? In fact, Paris has just widened the sidewalks along the Champs Elysees to better accommodate the social and economic life and the joie de vivre that the city is famous for.

It is easy to identify a great street. Notice who is there and who isn’t. A good street has variety: seniors, teen-agers and children. It is a good sign if there is about an equal mix of men and women: Women are more particular about choosing a street to use than men. How fast are people walking and what are they doing? Are people meeting each other, stopping to talk with people they know and just happened to run into? Strolling and a lot of socializing is another indicator of a good street.

Good streets are thought to be “owned” by the people who use them: customers who come back time after time, and retailers who are continually monitoring a street’s problems. Even if they are not shopping, people feel they “belong” on a good street. They know the short cuts and secret parking spaces. They have accrued memories of experience that become part of their sense of identity in a community. They are concerned when something happens that would change the street.

In contrast to cities that focus on the street as their social and economic cornerstones, Los Angeles seems to be focused on creating “experiences.” In places like CityWalk, the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion, the term “ownership” takes on a different meaning than it does on a good street. These places are thriving as a “place to go” and seem, on the surface, to have many of the qualities of a good street. CityWalk, designed to look like a street, is walkable, with convenient parking, larger-than-life retail facades, fountains for kids to play in, a multitude of places to eat, movies to see and even a theme park. But it is not “owned” by a community who would rally to its defense if it were threatened by, say, redevelopment or by a proposed freeway cutting through it. It is a real-estate investment, owned by its investors.

The differences between a good street and a real-estate investment are more obvious at a mall. One drives to the mall, parks in a large parking lot and enters an internalized, climate-controlled environment. Inside, it is comfortable and more or less predictable, because the stores are owned by chains that provide the same type of products and prices everywhere. The chances of personal service or knowing the store owners by name is fairly slim.

The success of these retail “experiences” has not been without consequences to the streets and public spaces that should be the real livelihood of a city. In Los Angeles, once prime shopping streets--for example, in the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire Boulevard--have been abandoned. As people drive to get to the malls, traffic engineers have widened streets and sped up the traffic flow, destroying any remnant of pedestrian life.

But there are some hopeful signs that cities can “nibble back” at the qualities that have been negated by development insensitive to streets and to people. Two California cities whose downtowns, only a few years ago, had ceased to be places to go, have now begun to “nibble back.”

In Riverside, the area around the Mission Inn is being brought back as an “urban resort"--as the city focuses on improving the streets, the alleys and the existing exquisite and human-scaled buildings.

Only 10 miles away, San Bernardino, whose downtown has been afloat in a sea of parking lots for several years, is bringing back its downtown incrementally. Last year, they built a central square that has now been used as a site for hundreds of events--including several weddings. They have slowed down traffic and added angled parking around the square. Across the street, the shopping mall, built on the old Main Street in the 1960s, is planning to renovate its entrances to improve its access to downtown.

In Los Angeles, one of the most innovative programs in the country is currently under way, the Los Angles Neighborhood Initiative, with plans to take back the streets and public spaces of neighborhoods throughout the city. This program begins with the people of a neighborhood making small changes--"nibbling back” to create a sense of community for themselves. Little things that can be done right away are the focus--such as bus stops that are safe and comfortable, small outdoor markets, slower traffic and better crosswalks and stop signs--changes that bring the community back to the street. It is grass-roots measures like this that’s needed to “nibble back” Los Angeles.*


Watch the video: 5550 Wilshire at Miracle Mile Apartments in Los Angeles, CA - (November 2021).