How livable is your community?

Walkable community

Courtesy morguefile


By Marilyn Skolnickk

Nearly half of us now live in urban centers and as our population continues to grow so do our outlying municipalities.

Unfortunately, since the advent of the automobile, much of our development has been haphazard. Today ugly sprawl has replaced vibrant downtowns and unique communities with big box stores, chain restaurants, and cookie-cutter developments.

Working to combat this type of chaotic growth is the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a non-profit that helps developers and municipalities plan and build new development that provides people-friendly settings that serve communities. By considering the needs, values, and aspirations of their residents, regional and urban planners can help build stronger communities and a sense of place for local residents and workers.


To help your communities evolve into desirable and livable places, PPS President, Ethan Kent, and Senior Vice President, Kathy Madden, created the checklist below.

How does your community stack up?

  • Do local leaders and planning professionals routinely seek input from community residents?
  • Do residents feel they have a responsibility and a sense of ownership for their public spaces?
  • Are there public places in both neighborhoods and downtowns where people can gather informally and regularly? Are these public spaces accessible and well-used?
  • Is there is a walkable commercial center convenient to every neighborhood that provides everyday needs and services (grocery store, pharmacy, library, medical services, coffee shop etc.)?
  • Are new developments, both public and private, designed to include mixed-uses that can be easily accessed without an automobile?
  • Are transit options available to get people to places they want to go? And is it used by all types of people?
  • Do parks feature attractions for people of different ages and are they used at different times of the day?
  • Do waterfronts allow people to actually reach the water?
  • Are neighborhoods respected fostered and do they have unique identities?
  • Can both children and seniors easily and safely go where they want to go?
  • Is there is a mix of new housing types and layouts that allows and encourages people to grow old in your community?


Marilyn Skolnick serves as co-chair of the Chapter's transportation and land use committe.

Published April 2008