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OpenCities Notes: Creating A 24-Hour City

2007_06_28OpenCities.jpg
OpenCities was a weekend-long unconference that took place on the 23rd and 24th of June. Many excellent conversations came out of the weekend, and this is one of them. You can read notes from the rest at OpenCities.ca.
The late Jane Jacobs asserted that a great public space should attract different people for different reasons at different times of day. Why, then, have we forgotten the last part in our planning—and our thinking?
Torontoist and the OpenCities participants agreed that Toronto is not, in fact, a 24-hour city. In almost every neighbourhood, we decided, there is a point after which the streets are literally deserted, and in most places, buying or doing anything becomes impossible. This is in stark contrast to some of the examples offered, such as New York’s Union Square where there are just as many hundreds of people sitting, playing, eating and breakdancing at 3 a.m. as at 3 p.m.
What was difficult to agree upon, however, was what would be necessary to spawn a 24-hour culture, and therefore a 24-hour city. Would the ability to buy goods 24 hours a day create the push needed to bring people out of doors in the middle of the night? Would a 24-hour transit system get people out? Perhaps not—Nuit Blanche was completely free (and transit options remained the same) and it persuaded people to postpone their bedtimes. (It is worth noting, however, that this year’s Nuit Blanche may see part of the Yonge-University-Spadina line running 24-hours for the first time ever.)
Some excellent suggestions came out of the conversation, though: to truly create a 24-hour city, we need to stop stigmatizing the hours after dark as a “dangerous” time, namely by abandoning the under-16 midnight curfew, opening up public space to people of all ages at all times of day (or night). The worry that “we wouldn’t want six year olds running around alone at night” was quickly answered with “we wouldn’t want six year olds running around alone in the daytime either!” Extending last call was also proposed, which was met with unanimous support.
A plan of action was formed, and it was agreed that we’d need to start with a directory and map of all the 24-hour locations in the city, and add more as we asked our local businesses if they would consider staying open. That directory, we realized, already exists, or can, in the form of Torontopedia, using its Google Maps capabilities. The idea of a project called Bloor24 was also proposed, in which Bloor Street store owners would be asked to stay open 24-hours for the first night of Spring.
However, like all of the topics of discussion at OpenCities, this conversation is far from over. How would you, Torontoist readers, create a 24-hour city?
Photo by Kieran Huggins on Flickr

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