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Data Mining Reveals the Four Urban Conditions That Create Vibrant City Life

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Anyone who has enjoyed walking around city neighborhoods has an intuitive sense that Jane Jacobs' four pillars of urban vitality are correct, but over many decades now it is has been hard to gather enough data to come up with a test that will be acceptable to all -- and remember there are still people who think her ideas are hippie anarchism! Now an innovative team in Italy has used cellphone data plus information from the web to confirm many of Jacobs' original insights in a more rigorous way.

Hmmm, high rent and low rent mixed together seems no longer common in American cities.

Here are the four conditions:

In her book, Jacobs argues that vibrant activity can only flourish in cities when the physical environment is diverse. This diversity, she says, requires four conditions. The first is that city districts must serve more than two functions so that they attract people with different purposes at different times of the day and night. Second, city blocks must be small with dense intersections that give pedestrians many opportunities to interact.

The third condition is that buildings must be diverse in terms of age and form to support a mix of low-rent and high-rent tenants. By contrast, an area with exclusively new buildings can only attract businesses and tenants wealthy enough to support the cost of new building. Finally, a district must have a sufficient density of people and buildings.

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