This week, a series from urban designer Gloria Venczel (principal of Cityscape Design), who asked “Is Vancouver the Urban Design-City-Building leader in North America?”

Tuesday looked at the traditional Manhattan streetscape. Today she contrasts it with ‘New’ Manhattan.

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In a PowerPoint  analysis of Manhattan’s urban-design successes at a developers’ networking forum in Spring 2016, one of the members asked whether Manhattan’s newer developments had the same level of care on the ground floors, with people friendly “edge programming” for the “public living room”.

I had to think for a moment. We can all be dazzled by the streetscape vibrancy of older Manhattan neighbourhoods and its overall safety. But as seen in the picture below, the recent developments appear to make maximum use of the zoning envelope, the square footage, and “hive-off” the public space amenities to a green park in the next block. The fourteen storey development coming straight down to a narrow sidewalk would be difficult to categorize as a public realm that is people-scaled and pedestrian friendly.

“New” Manhattan development with a 14 storey setback and a park amenity that appears to be hived  off site at the park on the foreground

My impression of the places that my feet took me in Manhattan was that the newer developments had not embraced the public-realm successes of the older neighbourhoods; had not translated them into contemporary materials, construction economics and design on a consistent basis.

How does this compare to Vancouver’s newer developments from a pedestrian oriented urban design perspective? Livability? Vibrancy?