Visions of vibrancy: London’s Soho

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The vibrancy of cities comes in all shapes and sizes. Many believe that what works in internationally known cosmopolitan settings may not be applicable for cities in America that have struggled with embracing walkability. If we look hard enough, we may realize that this type of view should be challenged. Despite the diversity around the globe, all lively cities, downtowns and urban cores have something in common: being pedestrian-friendly.

Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t the only Jaxsons that have their eye on London. London is a leading global city, a cultural capital, financial center and the world’s most visited destination as measured by international arrivals. As of 2018, London’s official population was 8,908,081 with a total of 14,187,146 residing within its metropolitan area. The largest city in the world between the 1830s and 1925, it’s still the most populous municipality in the European Union.

When it comes to identifying a place where historic preservation, modern iconic architecture, color and streetscape lighting schemes seamlessly come together, London is hard to beat. If one desires to see the impact of lighting on the pedestrian environment, this article is a great place to start. Here is a visual opportunity illustrating lively street scenes full of innovative concepts and ideas that can be absorbed locally without major public investments in studies and transatlantic trips.

London’s Soho is a place that defies many of our regulatory assumptions. Its streets and sidewalks are extremely narrow and off-street surface parking lots are hard to find. The demolition of historical and culturally significant structures rarely happen, so most of the district’s buildings are older than the majority of America’s cities. Yet, despite elements commonly labeled as “blight” by many civic leaders, people seem to be attracted to Soho like bees are to honey.

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