Hamilton city – A 2018 Louis Wirth measure

This post is an update on the 2013 post on Louis Wirth’s measure of a city. Louis Wirth (1897-1952) was a noted urban scholar who created a typology of urbanism that defines cities according to three factors ‘(a) numbers of population, (b) density of settlement, (c) heterogeneity of inhabitants’. Hamilton, at over 160,000 people, is a medium-sized city. Using density as a basis for the definition of a city, Mark Jefferson (1863-1949) proposed 10,000 people per square mile (3,886 per square km or 39 per hectare).

In 2013, none of Hamilton’s census areas had a population density of over 39 people per hectare (pph). In 2018, the census showed that Greensboro had 81.4 pph, Swarbrick had 47.5 pph, and Melville North had 40.3 pph. This clearly shows that existing building height rules are not a barrier to higher density; perhaps anyone suggesting that to increase density, buildings need to go higher should be challenged?

Heterogeneity is a word that signifies diversity. In 2013 in Hamilton, 22 percent of people spoke more than one language, with 5.6 percent speaking Te Reo Maori. 2018 shows Hamilton improving its diversity in terms of language spoken, with 25 percent speaking more than one language and an improved 6 percent speaking Te Reo Maori.

In 2013, people born overseas made up 24 percent of Hamilton’s population. This increased in 2018 to 27.2 percent.

Using factors 2 (Density), 3 (Heterogeneity using Language), and being born overseas, we can identify Hamilton’s most compact and diverse neighbourhoods. The table below ranks census areas in Hamilton by density, percentage of people that can speak a second language, and percentage that were born overseas.

The central areas of Kirikiriroa and Hamilton Central rank low because of their low population density; the mixed use development north of the corner of London and Tristram St will help once counted in the next census, but to reduce the business centre feel of the city centre, it needs to increase its night-time population in order to reduce the size of the overnight dead zones. Frankton does not show on the table because it has a large industrial area included in its census area. Focusing on Frankton village, once the apartments are populated, this mixed neighbourhood has the potential to be a generator of new ideas because of the ease of spontaneous face-to-face contact between different people. In the Hamilton East Village planned apartments, the town centre and mixed land use are a style of their own, giving it the same potential as Frankton Village. Whitiora has a diverse population but apart from the accommodation industry it appears zoning rules force people to socialise outside of their neighbourhood; this is a handbrake on creativity. It is easier to suppress new industry with over-zoning. Local neighbourhoods need to provide low barriers for entry level people for creating new businesses and products.

Category: News

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