The derision met by the word ‘urban’ is increasingly dismaying. Urbanism is, in actuality, simply the built environment with a mix of uses within close proximity to each other. All areas thrive for the principles of urbanism – walkability, convenience, alternatives, choices. Why do suburbs aspire to “town centers?” Why is the historic, and in some cases current, center of rural communities the country store? Why do vacation destinations, especially in the mountains, viciously protect their village cores? Why are DisneyWorld and DisneyLand centered on Main Street? Few, if any, people long for an auto-centric existence. The urban alternatives of public space are desirable. Playgrounds, sidewalks and parks, assuming they are well maintained and safe, are breeding grounds for social interaction and creative and active play. Isolation in one’s cocoon does little to improve self or society.
The Agora is a forum devoted to understanding urbanism at its best, and sometimes its worst, by focusing on the built environment, whether the revitalization of infill properties and neighborhoods or the re-amenitization of the suburbia. It is a forum to raise the debate beyond urban v suburban by focusing on all types of neighborhoods. It is not calling for the Manhattanization of rural enclaves, but rather adherence to principles that promote familiarity, convenience, walkability and aesthetics. It is not a call for a mass exodus from suburb to city. It is simply to understand what the market demands, but is not receiving. The Agora is the intersection of real estate development, planning, sustainability, design, sociology and anthropology.