We’ve talked of York Central as a community made through exchange; this implies a place where people choose to live and/or work because it brings together people and capital of all sorts in a way which encourages the interactions which can make cities great places to be. It would be a conscious community – designed on the basis of high density and mixed use, giving neighbourhoods where most of the resources needed for life are within walking distance (and with easy links to public transport or good onward walking/cycling routes) and where that process of life and work animates the place – streets and places are busy, and life and culture shape the experience of being there.
To enable this to happen, buildings, infrastructure and economic structures need to work together. In addition to this walkable density the economics of the place need to be shaped in such a way as to allow accessibility and opportunity. Recent graduates should be able to live there, in apartments which allow workspace and also give proximity to employers and shared facilities. Families should be able to live there to bring stability to the community and to bring life to streets and public spaces. Older people should be able to downsize there – swapping an oversized family house for a really high-quality apartment with no heating bills and a high standard of year-round comfort, but still leaving them with spare capital.
One way in which this might work is for those moving into York Central to invest in the community. For example, the down-sizers might be able to invest in joint ownership of ground-floor commercial space – an opportunity to foster economic development by helping business start-ups which in turn contribute to the neighbourhood. The young professional in the rented unit then brings trade and life to the corner café, which also rents out meeting space when needed; they run occasional classes or late afternoon sessions to teach skills to local teenagers. Retired professionals have opportunities to pass on a lifetime’s experience to people starting out, and the young parent who needs a free afternoon for work gets local childcare.
There is an opportunity within this to create a place where additional resources help drive this process of exchange. A building where business incubator space attracts knowledge and skill, where flexible space provides for meetings / workshops / learning and where shared equipment allows boundaries to be pushed. Plus where facilitation and sharing of time and skills gives opportunities for people who need them and where inequalities can be addressed. Where young and old can teach and learn, where arts and culture can interact with making and technology. A place where York’s rich mix of bodies involved with learning and economic development can work together.