What Makes A Healthy Urban Environment?

October 16, 2018

In 1900, about 13 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. That number is now around 50 percent and is expected to grow. By 2050 it is predicted that over 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. As Norwalk envisions its future with the development of a ten-year citywide plan, let’s take a look at some of the things that make a city successful in terms of liveability, economics and attractiveness to visitors.


A city should be designed so that there are easy options to get around. A city has to set the stage for memorable interactions to occur. No one wants to live, work or visit a city with empty sidewalks which means providing a population that is sufficient to fill them and enjoy them is a necessity. In great cities people want to go outside to walk, cycle and enjoy the natural beauty of the city. A city is designed not only with buildings in mind but for people while incorporating smart growth principles that balance development with green and open spaces. A city should have walkable thoroughfares combining into a network of pedestrian-friendly streets connecting great public spaces such as plazas, squares, greens, and parks.

Quality of Life

This is a very broad category, but for this blog, it means that the basic needs of a city’s residents and visitors are being met. A city must prioritize and make investments in safety, public services such as water, roads, public transportation systems, schools and health care. These are the basic building blocks that every city needs for people to want to live, work, visit, and stay in in a city for the long term.


To have a thriving business environment, a city should offer economic opportunities for all. To do this, a city needs to attract creative people and thriving companies. Having a few anchor institutions is helpful as these provide stable jobs and an increased potential for start-up businesses. A city can also encourage venture capital to spur entrepreneurship and innovation. Thriving culture and arts also benefit a city bringing in visitors and providing traffic for restaurants and retail. Along with job options for a variety of people, a city must also have an openness to different kinds of social, political and cultural ideas to attract people to sustain those jobs. And finally, bringing us back to quality of life, for companies to operate in a city, the employees must want to live and work in it.


Housing options are a must if you are to have a diverse population with many kinds of people, job holders and ages. A mixture of housing, including affordable and workforce housing, enables people to stay in the city, supporting businesses and restaurants and keeping it vibrant and alive all hours of the day. Most importantly, an abundance of housing options brings with it an abundance of people which keeps communities and businesses alive and thriving.

There are a number of questions to ask ourselves as we envision the next ten years in Norwalk. Does the city – and the corporations doing business here – make smart, environmentally friendly use of the land? Can you walk and bike safely, or get high-quality public transportation at a reasonable cost? Are there choices in housing and work opportunities? Are public spaces accessible, well used and safe? Does the city put resources into keeping crime low, education high and roads and bridges maintained? As part of Norwalk’s POCD or citywide plan, the city is looking into ways to improve all of these attributes. The planning is taking an integrated approach to a broad set of topics – housing, neighborhoods, economic development, parks and open space, historic resources, transportation and infrastructure, sustainability and climate change resilience, and more.

Learn More About the Citywide Plan
Read Here How Your Neighbors Envision Norwalk in 2028