The last blog got me thinking about cemeteries. With a little imagination, they can be a fascinating community asset.
Back in the 1990s I was asked to join a team of talented design colleagues to do a preliminary concept plan for the historic Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia. Thinking about my gardens-in-a-cemetery story last blog, Ross Bay brought all sorts of interesting innovations to mind – innovations that yield cause for optimism in spite of warnings from the fearful who auger catastrophe.
Ross Bay is one of Canada's most famous historic, and beautiful, cemeteries. Overlooking the glistening waves of the Georgia Straight and the snow capped Coastal Mountains of British Columbia, Ross Bay had persistent problems with gravestone vandalism.
The damage to Ross Bay Cemetery suggested to some we should control access to the property. We easily could have. 1st Generation CPTED tacticians often push people away with target hardening, fencing, and access controls.
Yet a cemetery is not a warehouse; it is a place for remembrance and reflection. So we developed a concept plan for the cemetery perimeter incorporating new memorial spaces into the design solution. We programmed a bike path and walking trail through vulnerable areas of the cemetery along with seating areas. We capitalized on the magnificence of large sprawling trees and proposed an elaborate pedestrian stairway linking walkers to the nearby beachfront.
Our view was not to shut people out. It was to attract people in – people to walk, bike, tour, and visit the cemetery to celebrate the lives of its inhabitants and the history it represents. Unfortunately the project wasn't built for various economic reasons. I'm told it is now underway. No matter. What matters is that this project, and the Indianapolis garden-cemetery, reinforces how innovation can make places interesting and safe.
With assets like cemeteries we should not raise the drawbridge. We should lower it.
What kind of imagination do we need to activate communities and support positive street activities? I heard a great example last week while working in Indianapolis.
Community gardens are a thing of the future growing out of our past. Gardens have always been that sort of hobby urban retirees do to pass time. At least that was the image. Even if it were true, it is not so today. Urban gardens are the kind of community asset we can no longer do without. They are sprouting up in cities across North America.
Indianapolis is no exception. One report suggests that Indianapolis needs 300 active community gardens to help feed itself - an interesting project. Locally grown food will not only help reduce our carbon impact, but it will get more neighbors outside their homes interacting with each other in a positive way.
One of the more interesting locations for a community garden is the Pot of Gold Comunity Garden located in the Indianapolis Washington Park North Cemetery.
Community gardens in a cemetery?
Imagination, it seems, is limited by our ability to think outside the box. And thinking outside the box is impossible if you give the box power it doesn't deserve.
Steven Woolrich is an Alberta CPTED consultant and member of the International CPTED Association. He has worked in a wide-range of roles during the past 25 years including policing, corrections and security as well as practicum work with NYPD. He currently authors the Target Crime blog linked on LIKEMINDED.
An old 1972 classic song titled “Concrete Sea” by Terry Jacks got me thinking about how important color really is in our communities. Jack’s sings “No one is meant to be living here in a concrete sea”. If you look around many cities you will understand where his thoughts came from. This is especially true in many urban downtown areas of our cities, but this is starting to change and that’s encouraging.
City Hall Park in Red Deer, Alberta is a prime example and a popular gathering place throughout the summer months. Think about how you feel and act when you see color and you will appreciate how important it can be in various settings.
As crime prevention practitioners, urban designers, architects and anyone dealing with the built environment, learn to utilize more color. Colorful landscaping arrangements in our green spaces, textured pathways that incorporate color, and murals are only a few great examples of how we can use color to brighten up our lives.
Color psychology as it is often referred to is another valuable tool we can use to help reduce crime and improve quality of life. Color evokes many memories and mental associations that can drastically alter how we feel. The various hues can produce the power to recall sounds, smells, textures and other sensations that can comfort, calm, or intimidate. It’s difficult to predict with any certainty how someone may react to a specific color but there are some basic guidelines that can help us as professionals.
Choosing proper colors can help us create moods that are more “positive” and therefore support safer environments to live, work and play. Red for example, is considered one of the boldest colors because it demands our visual attention. However, where this color is used could be very important as it is associated with rage, confrontation, blood, aggression and ferocity. Obviously red is not a good color choice for prisons or hospitals. Orange, my favorite color tends to make people feel rushed, or in a hurry. People tend to feel that blue is clean, crisp and airy like a cloudless sky. Blue is a color for relaxation, it lowers the heart, pulse and breathing rates and has a cooling effect.
According to Carol Ritberger I’m considered a “green” personality. She points out that “Greens live in a world of hopes, dreams, and emotions where the intangibles of life are the most important. Their rich imaginations thrive when using their creative abilities – their minds work quickly, bouncing from one thought to another. Greens think in metaphors and analogies, painting vivid pictures in their minds; greens see life from a holistic perspective that allows them to see the complete picture. They love creating ideas and exploring possibilities”. As a Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) consultant I found this interesting.
Ritberger, points our that Greens “focus on what things could be rather than what they are or intended to be. Greens also rely on their hunches and insight to get a real feel for what is happening”. Most encouraging was that Greens along with many CPTED practitioners are “driven by idealism and the belief that their purpose in life is to make the world a different and better place. They feel they must influence the quality of life for others”, according to Ritberger. This takes the whole idea of going green to a new level.
With all this talk of police reform, it's easy to get sidetracked. Last week during business travel I came across another urban gem - an example of how to do neighbourhoods right.
I was working on the SafeGrowth program in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton is an older city in the rust belt. Manufacturing jobs, like a GM plant, have been shutting down and thousands have been laid off. Innovative police chief Richard Biehl is working with his agency and community to expand problem-solving and crime prevention in some troubled neighborhoods.
It was during this workshop the participants brought me to a fascinating area called the Oregon District. All the Daytonions I spoke to raved about this trendy neighborhood. And for good reason.
The Oregon District is an historic area just outside the main downtown area. It has interesting shops, restaurants and pubs. It is accented by tasteful street designs such as decorative lighting and pavement treatments. The residential areas behind the commercial street are among the most desirable in the city. During our safety audit walks we found plenty of TLC from front yard flower pots to artistic renos. The residents to whom I spoke loved living in this area. There is an active neighborhood association. Local folks are working to make it a safe place.
But the Oregon District wasn't always this way. For those working in troubled areas, it's important to remember all success stories have a beginning. Things don't just happen!
Thirty five years ago the street was blighted. Then a local doctor got the idea to invest and turn it around. He was followed by others. Essentially they tackled the blight and began purchasing properties in the cities oldest neighborhood. Gradually, the street began to develop. A gazebo in a retrofitted park here. Streetscaping on the commercial block there. Eventually, I was told, the positive energy spread to surrounding residential areas.
Today residents and shopowners participate in alley sweeps, local festivals, social events, garden tours, and baseball camps. The local neighborhood association tackles issues such as liquor permit saturation - what we call tipping point capacity in SafeGrowth. A theatre company is moving there. It has taken three decades, but Dayton's Oregon District is now among the most successful in the city.
In so many ways this story echoes the story of Westville in New Haven (see my blog from last month on Westville).
A half century later, Jane Jacobs' crazy ideas of vibrant neighborhood life still trickle down the years.
see the Oregon District