Central Business District or City Centre?
The critical need in cities to make them great is for them to have living, breathing city centres. The unfortunate coining of the term ‘Central Business District,’ or CBD, for short, was a term introduced into city planning in the 1950s, and it misses the key point: that downtown areas must be more than single-shift business districts.
This really struck me.
I’m so familiar now with the term CBD, that I hadn’t thought about the whole ‘City Centre’ aspect.
Wellington’s beating heart
Wellington’s a place that’s constantly changing. Turn your back for a minute and they’ve torn down a building to replace it with something else.
For the last few years they’ve been building apartments downtown, or converting other buildings into apartments. Every time I think they’ve inserted as many apartments downtown as Wellington could possibly hold, up goes another set.
Wellington City’s awash with people. The central area is no longer the sole preserve of businesses; now it’s full of people living, playing and relaxing. Naming it the ‘Central Business District’ reflects only a small portion of the activities that take place there.
Our best friends?
Yet dogs are banned in the central city from 8.00am to 6.00pm every day. People who live in the centre and own dogs are allowed to move swiftly and directly through the restricted area with their dogs to reach an unrestricted area, such as the waterfront. That’s a very clinical and utilitarian approach.
Not everyone likes dogs, I acknowledge that. But in general, in my experience, when people see dogs they smile, often stop to pat the dog, or chat for a moment, even with total strangers. Kids commonly exclaim happily and many want to stroke the dog.
Dogs create talking points and ease conversations. They do their bit to help build a community: a smile, a word, a nod.
It just seems wrong, and anti-social, to try to expurgate dogs from a City Centre. Perhaps they have no place in a CBD, but in a City Centre they remain people’s best friend.
When a whole town loves its dog
We’ve drifted a long way from the days of Paddy the Wanderer, a stray dog so loved by Wellingtonians that the watersiders and seafarers of the 1930s took care of him, taxi drivers took him for tours around town. One pilot even took him for a joyride in a biplane.
They all chipped in to pay his annual dog licence fee.
When Paddy died, on 17 July 1939, obituary notices were placed in the local papers to inform everyone of his death. A fleet of black taxis, led by a traffic officer, formed a funeral cortege to carry his coffin from Queen’s Wharf to the City Corporation yards for cremation.
There’s a town that loves its dogs.
The heart at the Centre
A ‘Central Business District’ is a cold and clinical thing. Its purpose is commerce. It’s the domain of cars and trucks, parking meters, and wind-blown rubbish in empty concrete canyons. It’s a place of commerce.
A City Centre is a vibrant, living, breathing personality. It has adults, and dogs, and children, and bikes, and cafes and the arts, and smiles and warmth. It’s a community.
How much difference a couple of words make!
1 Doug tells me:
I didn’t think of ‘CBD vs. City Centre.’ I read it last month in Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of American Cities, page 165, published in 1960. Her wonderful concluding sentence wasA Central Business District that lives up to its name and is truly described by it, is a dud.