Another article on what the Big Picture is for a Fortress concept by applying new or a different look at urban planning. Most modern cities are not set up for business continuity (stay open) or survival of the general population. Most experts agree and history has shown that evacuations can be very problematic. Going to the Fortress Concept will mitigate these risks.
Before we talk about changing urban planning let’s try to agree on what would be called the “basics”. Urban planning is about the people, the places (work and play) and the environment for the area under consideration. All this is intended to be planned growth on into the future. This has been going on for some time and we got off track at some point. With people now going to school to learn about urban planning, making it a profession, it would be reasonable to expect that a brighter future lay ahead for all cities, great and small.
You can disagree with me on the direction we are headed but I see no valid attempt at stopping things like sprawl, downtown decay, urban flight, zoning and re-zoning issues, etc. Several people have tried to point us in the right direction. The first ‘shopping mall’ had many other features to it besides shopping retail stores. It had a zoo and recreation areas planned in. You could say it was a hit but someone decided that no, a mall is for shopping. You have to ask about how they lost sight of keeping customers there that translated into more shopping time / more purchases.
As I drive around areas that have new development all I see is more of the same. It seems the planners realized, “Oh, we need some retail stores”. Put a stand-alone one here, a strip mall here and okay, another few stand-alones here. Same with the housing needs. Some apartments here and oh yes, a nice subdivision here, a nicer one here from our fav developer. Oops, need a gas station or two, an entertainment zone, a bank…oh my. A Monopoly board comes to mind. Everyone will pass Go and will stop by all these places we have set up. They are so spread out you need a vehicle to take you around. Spread out rapidly turns into sprawl no matter what your plan is supposed to look like.
The Fortress Concept calls for several improvements. A reasonable number of people should be able to walk to work and some kind of recreational or entertainment zone. Zillow.com, Walkscore.com and other sites have walkability indexes built in now. Planning for a walk to work and to a park is easy enough to plan but walk to your local food market takes a considerable amount of forethought. Despite “Farmer’s Markets” making a small come back the distance from where food is sold to your residence requires a vehicle in almost every case. How far of a walk is to the basic needs of life is a key component in the fortress concept. When you think of a fort or castle do you think you have to walk a long way to anything?
A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, in an article “Livable Communities” discussed the needs of the boomer generation. Is a community livable for the 10,000 people turning 65 every day? He rightly went on to ask if the community was just as comfortable for an 80-year-old as an 8-year-old. It made me think back to my thought above about planning to make a community “livable” takes a great deal of forethought especially if many areas have to be reworked or just plain started over. Mr. Rand said this is an AARP priority and finished it with this statement:
“It is big, long-term job that requires everyone to be involved”.
Beyond walking people in urban areas need to see a transportation plan. Roadways (streets) should make it easy to move from one area to another. Driving to work should not involve “rush hour” traffic that forces commutes to be over 20 to 30 minutes. Planning in a walk to work goes a long way to alleviate this problem. So does public transportation. Buses may not be the most desirable mode of transportation they do cut down on the number of individuals driving one vehicle around only to arrive at their destination and start looking for a parking spot. Perhaps many of you have been to a city that has a great metro or subway to get you around. Taking out the figuring out directions while on the move and finding a parking place goes a long way to an enjoyable day outing.
Public services (energy, utilities, water, sewer, safety) are not just important they are critical. Anyone that visited a third world country where electricity is prone to shut off or brown out, potable water is hard to come by or a sewer system was never planned doesn’t make for the greatest trip. You could be staying at a 5 star hotel and get Montezuma’s Revenge eating out in town. Thank goodness many of these are not an issue in most cities today. The basics of future planning has to take these into consideration and not in the traditional way. Getting power and water to every living and work area may grow to be a concern. The fortress concept takes deals with this more like a giant RV (Recreation Vehicle). You “have” what you “have” onboard. Your batteries better be charged and your water tanks full before you start a long journey. A Pollyanna attitude of getting the services as you go along is a recipe for disaster. A closer look needs to be taken at self-sufficiency and going “Green”.
Safety can mean many things but for this article I will touch on safety from natural and man-made disasters. The first step is understanding what is in your area, weather or man-made, that can pose a threat to at least one day of normal activity. What is the current plan for tornadoes, sever thunder storms and snow, hurricanes, flooding, etc? Is the current plan going to work…realistically? You don’t want to find out that the levee system is no longer viable or that 90% of the homes and schools don’t have a shelter to go to. Is there a chemical plant in your city, oil or fuel storage facilities or pipelines, or a large dam? The man-made structures need a contingency plan for workers and the local population. As the saying goes, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. If the plan involves evacuation then is that workable or would it lead to “gridlock”? From what I read about the World Trade Towers on 9/11 one company had a plan to evacuate and rehearsed it often. On that fateful day they evacuated hundreds of people that would have been casualties if they had stayed in place.
While the focus of this article has been on communities or cities the same questions can be asked at the corporate or business level. Does your company view “work” as someplace to go and do your job from 9 to 5? If you want to eat lunch outside the office space then how far do you have to go? If you are hosting visitors or a large conference how do you get services for all of these people? Where do they stay over night? Some businesses are leading the way on this and close to a fortress concept. Any business that has a cafeteria falls into this area. If there is a hotel co-located or within walking distance then great. This all comes down to what happens if a disaster forces evacuation of homes but the business is still in operation. Can the workers (and their families) be put up in the hotel or shift to a conference mode of daily working conditions? Can your business afford to be out of operation for days, weeks? Most likely not so start to plan on how to keep operations going. If you have customers and clients in another region that is not affected then you have to continue to deliver. Come up with the contingency plan to keep operations going at all costs. This plan has to be 360 degree or cover all angles and risks but most of all it has to be workable.
My goal in this article was to raise awareness. Awareness that corporate and community planning may not be in sync and most likely is not set up for business or group continuity. A disaster whether man-made or not can bring out the weaknesses with deadly results. Future articles will talk about examples, tips and what you can do to prepare for “that day”.
Quick Tip: Think back to the RV example I gave you. How can you make your residence or business more like an RV…more self-sufficient? Any RV can only go as far as it’s supplies hold out. Plan for power (an extra battery or generator), water (start a home delivery service) and stock up some food. Make it food that you would eat. Medical is a big concern but that is a Quick Tip for another day.
Look Who’s Talking: Boulevard Brewing added some solar arrays to their building. I hope to tell you more about this as they work to address their power concerns. Some cities are having “Going Green” contests. I will be taking a look at some of them. How could some of the fortress concept have helped Detroit? Good question and look for the discussion in a future article.
What Do You Think? Please reply and let me know. I don’t know if you are out there if you don’t.