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City launches radical plan to solve major issue in many of its neighborhoods: 'We need nature as our neighbor'

"We need trees in our streets, plants in our gardens, and flowers on our balcony."

San Siro Park

Photo Credit: Studio Marco Piva

Milan was once known as a garden city. Now, the San Siro urban regeneration project aims to "gardenify" one crucial neighborhood, turning it into a "green heart" of sustainable living.

What is the San Siro urban regeneration project?

The municipality of Milan recently signed an urban planning agreement that includes three new residential complexes, one of which will be earmarked for social housing.

Landscaping is central to the project, focusing on spacious terraces, balconies, and canopies, and preserving trees while adding new ones. A newly constructed park will add more green space along with 111 new trees

The project, which was designed by Studio Marco Piva with investing firm Axa IM Alts, is also integrating energy efficiency and sustainability in its free housing flats. Groundwater will power its heating and cooling systems, and roofs will feature solar panels.

These eco-friendly measures will have economic and environmental impacts for residents and the community by reducing utility bills and lowering planet-warming emissions. Plus, parking structures will be underground, eliminating cars and other vehicles from the sight line.

Why is the San Siro urban regeneration important?

Simply put, this type of urban regeneration could be a matter of life and death for many people in the not-so-distant future.

By 2050, nearly 70% of the global population will live in cities, and making these urban centers as green as possible is crucial. Currently, about 9 million people die each year as a direct result of pollution. And more green space can help tackle that and a host of other issues.

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, "greening up" cities or neighborhoods creates oxygen, sequesters carbon, creates wildlife habitat, helps mitigate flooding and pollution, and improves mental health and well-being.

For instance, San Siro's newly planned park is predicted to absorb up to about 15 tons of carbon annually while generating almost 10 tons of oxygen. The park will also help mitigate "heat islands," areas of increased temperatures that are common in cities because of loss of vegetation.

Plus, this type of urban planning can save big money. For instance, New York City's green infrastructure plan is set to save $139 million to $418 million over the 20-year life of the project. The savings will come in the form of reduced energy demand, reduced carbon emissions, improved air quality, and increased property value.

"Research shows really clearly that we need nature in our surroundings," Cecil Konijnendijk, professor of urban forestry at the University of British Columbia, told the Natural History Museum in London. "We need trees in our streets, plants in our gardens, and flowers on our balcony. We need nature as our neighbor all the time."

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