A proposal to unite the Great Lakes region

The idea of the megapolis describes uniting metropolitan regions. But what about bringing together an entire region? A Chicago architecture firm has made a proposal to bring together both the American and Canadian sides of the Great Lakes:

The bi-national blueprint from Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is still in its infancy, but the concept has garnered support from several mayors in Canada and the United States. The proposal calls on the two nations to re-imagine the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region as a shared space, where Canadians and Americans work together to protect waterways, ease traffic congestion, promote tourism and develop new economic ventures…

The bi-national vision, presented this week at a global green-building conference in Toronto, isn’t so far-fetched. The Brookings Institution in Washington and Mowat Centre in Toronto have been studying the idea, consulting 250 business, government and community leaders. The public-policy think tanks will present their regional blueprint at an international Great Lakes water-quality meeting in Detroit next week…

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region is massive, encompassing Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states. It contains about 84 per cent of North America’s fresh water and almost 18,000 kilometres of lake frontage. Nearly a third of Canadians and about a tenth of Americans live here, in more than 15,000 towns and cities…

But with the manufacturing sector waning in many parts of the Great Lakes and glum forecasts of a deepening economic downturn, Mr. Hjartarson says the region should forge closer ties to capitalize on its assets. Those would include top-notch educational institutions, a wealth of corporate head offices and a population of 105 million people. New industries could be created through stronger co-operation. Mr. Enquist, the urban designer, points to renewable energy and green technology as possible opportunities for the region.

This article seems to suggest that environmental concerns, such as clean water and air, would provide the backbone for this partnership with later opportunities for joint infrastructure and economic initiatives.

My biggest question: how in the world could all of the government bodies agree so that things could get done within this partnership? Take the Chicago region as an example: there are many separate taxing bodies so putting together regional plans is very difficult. This proposal would up the ante, putting together many metropolitan regions, Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, Toledo, Buffalo, Hamilton, Montreal, Quebec, and more. And this doesn’t even account for two different nations that would need to make concessions for the region rather than national interests.

On the other hand, this sort of proposal  should be applauded for pushing a new way of thinking about things even if they may be difficult to implement. It could lead to some interesting questions. Again taking Chicago as an example: is Chicago more tied to other Midwestern cities like St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Omaha or more to Great Lakes cities?

It is also intriguing that this proposal comes from an architecture firm. Have urban planners or government types not thought of something like this?

0 thoughts on “A proposal to unite the Great Lakes region

  1. Pingback: Another megatrend for 2030: the rise of megacities | Legally Sociable

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