December 11 2012

Walkability in the No. 1 City for Biotechnology

In the conventional city fabric, the two attributes walkability and biotechnology are seemingly contradictory. This, of course, is not without good reason; the large research complexes fundamental to technological innovation are unsupportive of the intimate, walkable communities so presently desired.

The Milken Institute, a leading policy think tank, designated Raleigh, North Carolina as the No. 1 City for Biotechnology in 2005. Walk Score, a firm which assigns cities and their enclosed neighborhoods a numerical grade representative of their analyzed walkability, ranks Raleigh as the 36th most walkable large city in the U.S. with a score of 41, implicating it to be “Car-Dependent.” This may be compared with New York’s 85.3, Los Angeles’s 65.9, and Tampa’s 51. A further enlightening detail may be found on the service’s website. Although an aggregate score of 41 and “Car-Dependent” moniker may not be the respectable grade Raleigh strives for, its neighborhoods’ attest to a different impression. Distinct sections of Raleigh boast much higher scores, such as a “Somewhat Walkable” 69 and a “Very Walkable” 71. Reasons why, such as urban farms, volunteerism, and grassroots business relations, may be deciphered in a previous GSP article; Social Entrepreneurship in the City of Oaks.

Raleigh's Neighborhoods

Raleigh’s compartmentalized structure allows for it to manage both impressive neighborhood walkability scores and centers for biotechnological production. Urban planning occurs in a bottom-up, participatory process conducive to the prospering of localities. Top-down, big-picture plans are cast aside in favor of smaller, involved processes. This facilitates neighborhoods like Central and Hillsborough to boast their respective scores of 75 and 71, as well as Research Triangle Park to house the leading biotech firms of Bayer, Biogen Idec, and the N.C. Biotechnology Center.  Growth of social media and government accessibility assists the system. Charrettes, urban design education forums, online petitions, and many other elements of Raleigh’s city planning department empower citizens to shape their neighborhoods and ultimately create a diverse array of concentric localities. Denizens may walk amongst their native streets, and research complexes may exist and yield meaningful work.

“Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful”. What are the merits and/or demerits to planning on a small scale?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Evan Comen

Evan Comen is an undergraduate at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a B.S. in both Economics and Environmental Studies and a minor in Urban Studies and Planning. A philosophical outlook towards education led his career aspirations to the realm of urban planning, which he intends to foster through completion of a master’s program in the topic post-graduation. Through growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and attending school in Chapel Hill, Evan has had the fortune of experiencing the unparalleled smart growth of the properly dubbed “Research Triangle”; a region in the Piedmont of North Carolina notorious for its numerously expansive high-tech companies. His blogs principally speak for the area’s burgeoning success. He is also a devoted cinephile, reader, and cyclist.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 at 4:01 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Energy, Environmental Design, Housing, Social/Demographics, Technology, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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