Two members of a firm that specializes in making cities more livable will be visiting Columbus Monday and Tuesday and are seeking help from local residents.
Matthew Lister and Julia DeMartini Day work at Gehl Studio New York, the New York City office of the world-renowned Gehl Architects of Denmark.
They are being brought here by the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
"They are rock stars in urban design who do work all over the world to improve the lives of people in cities. We are so fortunate to have them," said Betsy Covington, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.
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She said the Gehl architects and social scientists are known for emphasizing the relationship between the built environment and people's quality of life. Their purpose in Columbus is to do research that will culminate in a project brief with short term and long term suggestions for improving public space and public life here.
To do that, they want to hear from the people who live here. A community conversation, "Think BIG: Designing Your Dream Community" will be held Monday 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at the Columbus Museum on Wynnton Road.
The urban planners will talk about the concepts of the firm's People First Design and learn from those attending the meeting about the city.They are going to ask people what their favorite place in Columbus is, what are the qualities of those places and how can we translate those qualities to other parts of the city.
"You can see how far downtown has come in the last few years, so many people interacting, so much activity. I could not have imagined that 10 years ago. Now, we need to bring that to other parts of town," Covington said.
She said that the city is already a cool place and Gehl coming here is not about fixing Columbus but to help the city reach its special potential.
"In the future, it will be easier for people to live wherever they want and work. They will be looking for happy places," Covington said.A team that includes the mayor, city manager and other staff members, representatives from Uptown Columbus,Midtown Inc., the Coalition for Sound Growth Historic Columbus Foundation and other volunteers has worked with the Community Foundation to put together a schedule for the visitors.
"They are going to visit many parts of the town and talk to a lot of people. They will be exhausted when they finish here," Covington said.
Based on the company's ideas, New York City made drastic changes to Times Square.
The philosophy of the company's founder Jan Gehl is: "In a society more privatized with private homes, cars, computers, offices and shopping centers the public component of our lives is disappearing. It is more and more important to make the cities inviting, so we can meet our fellow citizens face to face and experience directly through our senses. Public life in good quality public spaces is an important part of a democratic life and a full life."