Cities, a love story Cities, a love story

Cities, a love story

Creating a sustainable city takes affection, intimacy, action


Peter Kageyama says you should send a love note to your city. And your city should send you one, too.

To build a better, more lovable place to live, community development expert Kageyama says cities need to be functional, safe, comfortable, convivial, interesting and fun.

Peter Kageyama

Love notes, or gestures between cities and its citizens, are part of it. They can be expensive, like Chicago’s Millennium Park, he says, or inexpensive, such as a water feature made from a garden hose in a neighborhood park.

Kageyama, of St. Petersburg, Fla., headlined Envision Charlotte’s Envision America workshop in Charlotte in January. Envision Charlotte launched in 2011 when Duke Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, Cisco, Verizon Wireless and other groups joined to reduce energy use by 20 percent in uptown Charlotte’s largest buildings within five years.

More than 250 people from government, corporations and nonprofits from around the country came to the conference to discuss how to improve cities’ energy, water, waste and air. Ten cities won the chance to present their sustainability projects and solicit suggestions.

Jaume Plensa's giant Millennium Park sculptures in Chicago. (Michael Weinstein)

Utilities power the way

Who provides the foundation for sustainability? The utilities that power cities.

While regulations may differ in localities, utilities nationwide have the same focus: responding to their customers’ changing habits. They, too, are considering what could be called love notes to their customers.

People want control, Heather Rosentrater of Avista in Washington state told the group at a panel discussion. That could be saving money, helping conserve energy and predicting their bills.

Sasha Weintraub, Duke Energy’s senior vice president of customer solutions, says, “Customers want convenience and choice and that’s what we’re striving [to give them].”

Initiatives include allowing customers to pay as they use electricity; getting service disruption alerts through text messages; and electric car charging stations, which are love notes from the electric company.

Love where you live

Raleigh, N.C. (Dennis Lockard)

People tend to love small things about their cities, says Kageyama, author of “Love Where You Live.” Those small things can come in a variety of forms, he says, such as pedestrian-only areas (New Yorkers returned to Times Square when vehicles were banned), dog parks (the most social place in a city − people talk to each other), murals and water features. Other examples:

  • In Raleigh, N.C., signs in the center city direct people to walkable attractions.
  • At Millennium Park, people interact with public art, such as giant water video sculptures. What do children do when they see water? They play, Kageyama says. “When kids are happy, parents are happy.”
  • A student had the idea to create a scavenger hunt for brass mice scattered around downtown Greenville, S.C. It cost only about $1,200 to pull it off. Clues are available in stores, and people scour the area for the mice (#miceonmain).

What do you love about your town?

A brass mouse in downtown Greenville, S.C. (Ryan Mosier)

People in love with their cities are co-creators, Kageyama says. Government, institutions and citizens all take part in making a city sustainable and interesting.

“Be creative, financially responsible and responsive to the community,” Kageyama says.

“We need more people to fight for your cities. That’s the heart of sustainable, long-lived, better cities. Let’s build cities that are lovable, that grab us by the heart. That’s the kind of city I want to live in.”


Getting smarter

Envision Charlotte

Duke Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, the City of Charlotte, Cisco, Verizon Wireless, the U.S. Green Building Council, Intelligent Buildings and UNC Charlotte created Envision Charlotte in 2011.

Envision America cities

These cities won the chance to present proposed community projects at the Envision America conference and listen to ideas from the audience: Cambridge, MA, (sustainability metrics and data dashboard); Dallas (transit, parking); Greenville, SC, (smart transportation corridors); Los Angeles (Internet of trees); Milwaukee (eco-industrial district and microgrid); New York City (neighborhood innovation labs); Pittsburgh (uptown eco-innovation district); Portland, OR (Powell Corridor sensor network); San Diego (streetlights and smart poles); Spokane, WA (smart streetlights).

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