In your December 5, 2019 print edition of The Meaford Independent you asked: “What will a small downtown look like in 50 years?” Here is my dream.
Before we jump to year 2070, let’s fall back and look at the evolution of our way of life over the last 50 years. The urban model is based on a sprawling community on the edge of town. The automobile is king of this world. We must drive everywhere to do everything. A two-car garage is the predominant feature of our homes. Meanwhile the core of downtown becomes increasingly jammed with traffic, parking spaces, and drive-thru services, polluting our environment, damaging our way of life and our health, and discouraging pedestrians.
But enough negativity: These days, as David Miller says, “We’ve spent, collectively, a really significant amount of time telling people what to be worried about, but we haven’t spent enough time talking about the kind of future people want.” Thanks to the editor for inviting us to dream. (David Miller, Regional Director, North America, C40 Cities.)
Imagine in 2070, several blocks of downtown Meaford are now lined with glass-covered arcades landscaped with native plants and trees, protecting pedestrians from snow in the winter, rain in the spring and fall, and sun in the summer, offering a comfortable environment to do business and socialize with our neighbours. These everyday places are where shared experiences around arts and culture, food, entertainment, living and working coexist, thus encouraging a strong sense of community.
The buildings along these streets are human scale, no more than four stories high. Retail stores and mostly service-oriented businesses occupy the ground level; the floors above are reserved for residential dwellings; and the rooftops will be green places where residents can relax and socialize. Downtown Meaford will be a place where independent mobility for everyone is key, even 8 and 80 year olds (https://www.880cities.org/about-8-80-cities/), where locals grab a coffee on their way to work, and where the community gathers for public events. Only now, they experience inviting spaces to gather, pedestrian-only streets with comfortable places to rest, and a range of unique local experiences to enjoy, like an outdoor skating rink and a suspended bridge over the river.
In 2070, the cars, as we know them, will no longer be around, replaced by automated pods moving safely at ten feet above ground. These pods would be shared by everyone and will convey us from home to any destination.
Sharing in 2070 could also influence the service-oriented business community by fostering employee ownership programs to increase the proportion of capital held by the local population. Now the work force becomes a partner with a long-term commitment to the town.
With this kind of vision and the spectacular list of assets Meaford owns, it should be attainable to lure hundreds of young families to work, live, and play in the pedestrian core of Meaford.
To help us achieve this vision, I would suggest researching initiatives discussed here:
Institute of Southern Georgian Bay: https://tisgb.com/about-us/
880 Cities: https://www.880cities.org/about-8-80-cities/
C40 Cities: https://www.c40.org/about
Danish architect Jan Gehl, who helped turn Copenhagen into one of the world’s most liveable cities: https://gehlpeople.com/
Jean-loup Dalle, Meaford resident