Recently, Massachusetts-based planning and design firm Sasaki partnered with Equation Research to find out what urbanites love most about their city lives. They hoped to use the information to "shape a more satisfying and sustainable urban experience." But even if you're not a multi-purpose "architecture, interior design, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and civil engineering" firm, the results are pretty interesting. The survey questioned 1000 people who both live and work in Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Washington DC; here's some of what they had to say [PDF].
People are proud of their city's history. When it comes to ascribing icon status to a building, respondents were pretty divided on what matters most. But historical value took the top priority, with 36 percent of people polled saying it's their primary consideration. Meanwhile, 30 percent think it's great architecture and 24 percent appreciate unique design. Similarly, 57 percent said they would stop on the street to admire a building with historic significance. Other notable features—public art and unique design elements (38 percent) or inviting public space (33 percent)—were also likely to attract lingering, but not as often. And when asked how their city could most improve architecturally, a majority (54 percent) thought funds should go towards renovating historical buildings to upgrade their utility while retaining character. That said, answers differed by generation, and younger people were more likely to want their city to invest in more flexible space that could be used for pop-ups and community projects.
What else do people love about city life? All the food, of course! And shopping, too. Fifty-six percent of city-dwellers polled said they enjoy consumer activities—shopping and dining out—and 45 percent get excited for programmed events, which can include outdoor concerts but also farmers' markets and food festivals. When asked what the best part about visiting another city is, the food scene took top marks with 41 percent of the vote. Similarly, 46 percent of respondents said a new restaurant is the thing most likely to incentivize them to venture to a new neighborhood in their own city. New Yorkers, however, were least likely to be enticed by a new restaurant, but maybe that's because there's good food (almost) everywhere here.
It's the buildings that make the cities, but people love the in-between spaces the best. A whopping 65% of people said that their most memorable favorite city experience occurred outside—in a park or on the street. When it comes to what kind of open space people like best, waterfronts took first place with 47 percent.
And ultimately, although they hate the traffic (41 percent say it's the biggest transportation gripe), 76 percent of the current city-dwellers reported seeing themselves staying put for at least another five years.