Urbanization involves transforming rural lands into urban areas. Approximately 79% of the U.S. population lives in urbanized areas (cities). In the U.S. to qualify as an urban area the population must be 2,500 or more people. Cities traditionally offer more jobs than rural areas and most people have jobs not related to natural resources; such as jobs in the fields of education, industry, economic development, and cultural opportunities.A well planned city benefits the environment with less pollution and preserves rural areas. A concept called Compact development (tall, multiple-unit residential building close to shopping and jobs all connected buy public transit) offers fewer parking lots and highways because travel distance is less walking, cycling, and public transit are a more appealing mode of transportation. This compact lifestyle leaves more open spaces for parks, housing, and businesses.
With urbanization come challenges. As a city grows the things one thought to be benefits of living in the city can also become a problem. When the population grows so do the needs of the residents; more transportation, housing, schools, medical care, places of employment, and services such as water, sewage, and waste disposal become major problems. These problems create poverty, unemployment, and pollution. The explosion in population can cause farmland and natural areas to be swallowed up as buildings begin to sprawl into the suburban area creating environmental problems; such as destruction of wildlife habitat. This is when a concept such as compact development may be a solution because the idea is to keep things compact and to only build and use what is needed.
The problems that occur when an urbanized area grows rapidly became such a major issuethat the U. N. Conference on Human Services, held in Istanbul in 1996 focused on issues such as poverty, crime, and potential epidemics in densely populated cities. The theme was that overpopulated cities could be made livable. The U. N. Conference of Human Settlements gave awards for urban development projects that resulted in the greatest improvements in human settlements called the Dubai Award. The Dubai Award was givento six participants out of 600 entries. (Unknown Author, 1996)
One of the winners of the Dubai Award was theNeighborhood Committees in Adjame, Abidjan, for “Successful Institutionalization of Community-Based Development.” The Mayorof Adjame opted to focus on unemployment, poverty, and environmental degradation. Neighborhood committees (CDQs) were set up to employ the energies and resources of local communities and direct efforts toward improving living conditions and the economic situation in the area. The CDQ activities ranged from environmental improvements providing sanitary settings for housing to the building and operation of community facilities and services. The CDQs promoted individual self improvement initiatives and economic self-reliance in its communities. The CDQs were also involved in many other activities including street cleaning and garbage collection; security services; and operating commercial enterprises. They also took on infrastructure improvements like road maintenance, drain cleaning, and street lighting. In 1995 a health center managed by the CDQ was opened and the CDQ also started training programs to encourage young Ivorians to start businesses.
The Bronx Center project encompassed a 300 block area in the South Bronx and included revitalization projects in area of economic development, health and human services, housing, transportation, and education and culture. The four fundamentals of this project employed the values, desires and hopes of the Bronx Center participant in both planning and implementation phases.Planning must be a community-based process, which holds the most promise for long-term benefits for all community members.The plan must form the basis for physical renewal, it must be interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and integrated at every stage. The renewal of the area’s physical infrastructure is integral to the development and delivery of new social, educational, and economic opportunities for residents.The Bronx Center must become an economic engine for the municipality as a service center that will influence an area beyond its nominal boundaries.The Bronx Center must be anchored by an enduring community-driven participatory process that helps develop civic responsibility and rebuild public life.The formation of the Bronx center has created a community labor exchange to secure jobs; rehabilitated landmark buildings, such as the courthouse building now the Bronx Planning Center; proposed more retail, day-care, a high school, library, literacy training, and adulteducation opportunities into the City’s Supreme Court Complex building plan; developed a plan to reuse Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Terminal Market; prepared funding proposals for three Bronx Center theme high schools; and designed and constructed a senior citizens residence among many other things that benefit the Bronx and surrounding areas.