viernes, 18 de noviembre de 2016

Urban Living in Colima. How it changed my preconceived notions in defining “City Living”.

I have lived the typical second generation lifestyle of being born and raised in the downtown core of a city, to then be forced to participate in the wave of mass suburban sprawl with parents wishing for a bigger home, a car dependent lifestyle, and dare I saw it “the all American dream.” Against this idea of suburban life, I have always made it a point to move back to the downtown core where walkability scores were high, transit plentiful, and I was immersed in the core of historical and cultural spaces buzzing with energy, restaurants, markets, shops, amenities and people.
This was my understanding of urban living.
So when I was given the opportunity to work in the City of Colima living within walking distance to downtown and where the office also happens to be, I jumped with excitement for a chance to continue my lifestyle in an urban setting. The thought of living in Mexico where I had quick access to events, an abundance of fruit stands and vegetable markets littering the streets at all hours, and access to all the amenities I was used to, only this time, it was going to be the “latin way” meaning, plentiful fresh fruits to my liking.
I was told Colima is “a small city” and though I was well aware of that, I continued to withhold the same preconceived notions of what I understood as a “city”.
To my surprise, my understanding of “cities” and “downtowns” happened to be the complete opposite once I’d arrived here. Yes, I live walking distance to the heart of the city, but the streets were sparse, if not mostly empty. You can easily encounter convenience shops every other block, but they weren’t the fresh fruit stands I’d been expecting. And for the most part, the downtown wasn’t this centre of exciting activity filled with people, restaurants, and an abundance of things to do.
Quite contrary, Colima operated a little differently. The general sentiments here are to avoid unnecessary walking due to daily temperatures of scorching heat. Historical and cultural spaces has largely been abandoned with the younger and mobile actively deciding to sprawl outwards ultimately relying on car ownership to get around. All the modern spaces, malls, and entertainment now reachable only via driving reserving the downtown area for a majority of retirees and pensioners.
Occupying the central area now are a mix of newly constructed, large-sized homes alongside smaller, decaying ones. Lining up the streets also lay abandoned colonial buildings with various neglected plots of land, beside homes that are converted to restaurants by day – everything is just a little random.
I found it interesting and eye opening with the realization these homes didn’t have setbacks from the walkway – a common guideline I was used to seeing. Rather, when you walk on the narrow sidewalk one can easily peek into each home to see homeowners laying in bed, watching tv, or cooking in the kitchen. It seems Colima happens to be a random mix of varying structures of height and width with no regulations on density.
Colima has helped shed light on how city centres and downtowns can have very different meanings depending on where you are. And it finally dawned on me that historically speaking, city centres were a place that witnessed its initial settlers. My preconceived notions of these spaces are based on more modern cities that have witnessed much of its regeneration process, and therefore depending on which city you’re in, there can be different connotations and perceptions to the term.
It’s interesting because everything I knew about “downtowns” have now been reversed. Living close to the centre I still reap the benefits of walking to necessary amenities, but beyond that if I’m seeking great products, services or restaurants, the need of a car is absolutely more desirable here. What was once a standard, leisure 30-40 minute stroll in Vancouver or Toronto is now an uncomfortable, sweat-drenched, heat-stroke inducing activity, deterring many from getting around unless they have a car.
And it is only now after living in Colima that I realize what the City is trying to achieve in rebranding and regenerating the downtown core. I’m understanding the reasons for opposing views as well as the City’s aggressive agenda to transition Colima to become a collaborative, smart city. There are certainly many challenges to overcome, but more than anything after only being here for a couple of weeks, I am empowered by the City’s objectives. I couldn’t be happier to be living here and a part of the process in witnessing Colima achieve its sustainable urban planning goals.
Ly, Wendy . 17 de noviembre de 2016. Urban Living in Colima. How it changed my preconceived notions in defining “city living”. Recuperado de: Sustainable Cities International Youth Internships

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016

Cooperation in Colima

Por Ruth Casanova

I have just completed my first month here in Colima working at the IPCO office (Planning institute for the city of Colima). It has been a very welcoming experience thus far. My supervisor, coworkers, and fellow interns have gone out of their way to integrate me into the office and I can easily say I already feel confident making my way around the workplace.

                                                            Most of the currentl IPCO team!

A big part of the projects that IPCO has undertaken have to do with a wider goal to reactivate the downtown in Colima that has been abandoned and underused since a major earthquake in 2003. IPCO therefore has an agenda of several projects all linked to the economic, social, and cultural, reactivation of the city centre. Because it is a city planning office, these projects are linked to the ministry of culture, human resources, economics, etc. For that reason, our projects require ongoing communication and cooperation between a numbers of different actors. Learning about this process of cooperation has been a very interesting part of my first month here, along with my research for a potential city branding project.
My supervisor, Jesus Rios, nicknamed “El ingeniero” because of his endless knowledge on a range of disciplines, has been persistent about inviting us interns to attend all meetings that touch on any of the projects that IPCO is involved in the centre. Having sat in on a number of meetings thus far, I feel like I  have already  learned so much about the processes that take place in city planning, the obstacles, the public and private partnerships involved, and the interactions (often difficult) between the federal, municipal and city governments.
Palacio Municipal de Colima, located across the street from the IPCO offices, where they hold many of the meetings we sit in on. 

As IPCO continuously participates in sharing new initiatives and communicating advances in current projects, other offices of the municipality also present what they are working on and it is inspiring to see the will to drive forward the reactivation of the city centre working towards benefiting the wider public. For example,  the ministry of culture in our last meeting presented two of their upcoming cultural events that they are organizing in a meeting with merchants of the city centre. These cultural events take place over the course of several consecutive days in the various gardens of the city centre with the objective to attract people to the city centre to spend time, eat, drink, and drive foot traffic and therefore commerce in the area. These bigger cultural events are initiatives that are relatively new in the city since 2003 and are an exciting part of the city centre reactivation agenda for the year to come. I am looking forward to being in Colima and experiencing these cultural events first hand, not only to evaluate their success but also as a way of  further getting to know the city that I am living in for the next 5 months.

Most recently, I attended a meeting with other members of IPCO, with merchants located in one of the gardens in the centre one of the area we are looking to improve. The meeting was to inform and encourage the merchants on rebranding certain aspects of the physical appearance of the front facing part of their businesses. This has the purposes of unifying the businesses of the centre under one consistent color palette, theme, and image for the end goal of having a cleaner, more organized, attractive city centre. During the meeting, some of the merchants took the time to stop and thank the organizers for inviting them and including them in the discussion and decision-making matters that directly affect them and their businesses. That was very cool to see.
Jardín Libertad right around the IPCO offices. This is one of many gardens in the city centre.

Jardín Libertad is surrounded by Los Portales (sidewalk are with the archs) which holds many businesses with patios and umbrellas that we are looking to organize and rebrand. 

Casanova, Ruth . 15 de noviembre de 2016. Cooperation in Colima. Recuperado de: Sustainable Cities International Youth Internships