Kelsey Wharton | Phys Org

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)Imagine walking through downtown Phoenix on a warm fall afternoon. Palm trees frame the clear blue sky as you pass brightly painted murals on the sides of buildings. The light rail passes with a friendly “ding, ding.” Down the perfectly parallel, flat streets you occasionally glimpse Camelback to the east.

Cut to a stroll through downtown Seattle. The air smells of the ocean and evergreens. A hot cup of coffee warms you against the autumn chill as you walk downhill toward the bustling Pike Place Market. People haggle noisily over goods from nearby farms. Beyond the market, you catch sight of twinkling boat lights and distant, snow-capped mountains.

Every city has its own “personality.” This is not only true of far-flung cities, like Phoenix and Seattle, but also of cities in close proximity, like Phoenix and Mesa. Where does a city’s unique character or sense of place come from? And how can understanding sense of place help us to create more sustainable cities? Read more