The globalized living lifestyle we are familiar today has gone through generations of on-going (re-)definition. Since the beginning of human civilization, our society has slowly evolved from agricultural communities into the modern urban environment. With the exponential increase in population, major cities are facing challenges in developing their used lands into functional and sustainable communities.
Worldwide, urban environments are going through a redevelopment phase, aiming to improve its residents’ quality of life with a set of commercial, residential, and environment goals shortlisted by the municipalities.
These goals are key elements to successful urban redevelopments. An integrated commercial plan helps to direct a city’s financial growth. A housing strategy prepares a city for its projected density increase. A sustainability initiative minimizes a community’s long-term environmental impact. On paper, an urban redevelopment is backed with sound reasons.
But why, more than often, do municipalities face strong resistance from the public when redevelopment plans surface?
Looking at recent redevelopment projects in Canada’s Metro Vancouver Area, Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and Burnaby’s Metrotown projects both point to the same concern from the general public: housing affordability.
With redevelopment emphasis heavily aligned with the project developers' agenda, social housing is not the priority. Sure that these redevelopments will regenerate the community. Sure that these projects will create a better living neighbourhood. But, many original residents are likely to be forced out of their living communities. Fundamentally, these expansions benefit the rich and punish the poor.
The communities' existing identity is also at the stake. As these projects are often contracted to private developers, commercial value is prioritized over cultural preservation. Often times, part, if not whole, of the community culture is destroyed along with the demolished buildings.
To shift the public perception of urban residential redevelopments, projects should not only look good on paper, but also benefit the community as a whole. Certainly, a community’s culture and identity is given by its residents and redevelopments should carefully evaluate a community’s cultural and social values.