Food, Liquor and Urban Planning

A great article via GOOD Magazine (“There flows the neighborhood”) about bars and restaurants being an indicator and catalyst for urban change.

“In a way, liquor is the lifeblood of the modern urban neighborhood. Where it flows, growth often seems to follow. Upscale bars can be a sign of change—as they are in a neighborhood like mine—or they can drive change, as they do in places just starting to transform. In some cities, such as Detroit, people are even hopeful that well-placed watering holes can be a tool to reverse-engineer neighborhood revitalization—if you build it, the young will come. And as more 20-somethings embrace city living across the country, bars and restaurants have become, perhaps, what the church or country club are to the suburban lifestyle: tangible evidence of a vibrant community.”

The article describes an overseas context but you can also see it happening in Brisbane.  I see “trendy food precincts” are generally happening in 2 places:
1) Older neighbourboods and traditional main streets  – such as West End, Paddington, Park Rd, Bulimba
2) More interestingly they are in areas of very purposeful urban renewal – such as the Valley (James St, Emporium), Tenerife, Barracks, Portside Hamilton, and Southbank.   The emerging trendiness of bars and restaurants clustered in the ‘Gabba is also a hint to the urban renewal opportunities already flagged for that Eastern Corridor.

The relationship between a great bar/restaurant and its surrounding street/ neighbourhood should be a mutual give-and-take and of benefit to both.  When choosing a new location, owners are probably making fundamental judgements of the desirability of a neighbourhood, including the connectivity to transport options, the quality of pedestrian environments, the visibility of landmarks and views, notable architectural character and general safety of a street.  They might be seeing it with business filters on, but whether they realise it or not, they are evaluating urban design.

The Brisbane Good Food Guide might primarily be for foodies, but I’d be curious to consider if it also turns out to be a reflection of Brisbane’s urban change, its best urban design spaces, and its vibrant neighbourhoods.

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2 thoughts on “Food, Liquor and Urban Planning

  1. musedemuzz says:

    Interesting. I went to the Sky Room in the Valley last week for the first time. I enjoyed the openness of it, and the views of McWhirter’s and the Walton building. BUT, at 2 floors above street level, I missed the cool interactions and observations of people it could have provided.

    I think it’s also important to note that you need those smaller bars and restaurants, rather than large hotels, which tend to attract people drinking larger quantities of alcohol, which tends to have a negative social impact. I do note the possible “classist” nature of this development though, distinguishing inner-urban middle-class venues from outer-suburban pubs.

  2. It’s interesting that you point out how a Food guide can become a reflection of urban change. We have begun to notice in our own neighbourhood (Bannerghatta road in Bangalore, India) that one street off this main road seems to have become attractive for young people. When we moved here four years ago, it had just one restaurant at the corner junction. Perhaps, this attracted the initial numbers, but now there are eateries, a gym, a beauty parlour, a popular book library all making this zone into a vibrant street. We’ve often wondered why THIS street and not another one that should have grown this way. We learnt from the Library chain that their study of the area before establishing a franchise here was to survey the customers who frequented the restaurants and shops. They decided that this was the segment of the population they were looking to target. This seems to have a multiplier effect in how change is taking place here.

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