All posts in City Terrain

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Neighborhood of the Moving Image

Bjarke Ingels designs an Astoria film production campus for Robert De Niro
It's no secret that New York's film and television industry is booming, or that there's been a recent real estate push for investment in spaces for the creation of shows, movies, and more. Robert De Niro has thus enlisted the help of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design a “vertical village” for film in Astoria, Queens. Initial renderings were released this week, unveiling a 650,000-square-foot facility dedicated to film, television, and AR/VR atop the former home of a Steinway & Sons Piano Storage Facility. The $400 million project was first announced in July when a group of investors, including the actor and his son, purchased the five-acre plot along Steinway Creek in the northwestern edge of Queens. Promising to bolster the city's fast-growing production economy and provide over 1,000 daily union jobs, Wildflower Studios will be a “true destination film campus,” said Adam Gordon, president of the company, in an interview with The New York Times BIG’s grand vision for the grounds, sited at 87 19th Avenue, so far includes a singular structure that will house interconnected spaces for offices, production-support, stages, and lounges. Because the building will be located within a rather industrial part of Astoria and overlooks part of the East River, Wildflower is required to provide public water access and land conservation where necessary.  In a statement, Bjarke Ingels said the spatial constraints made it tricky to design the project: “We were challenged by Wallflower to distill all the physical, logistical, technical and experiential aspects of film production into a one of a kind vertical village for film."  Most studios in the city, from Steiner in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Silvercup in Long Island City, are located on large plots of land within warehouses that have long-existed as the homes of manufacturing outlets. These unassuming properties include open floor plates, ample oversized doors and elevators, as well as little access to light—perfect for film production. BIG's design for Wildflower is clearly seeking to strike a different tone as it uses natural light spilling in from exterior cutouts, greenery scattered from the lobby to the lounge, and views of the adjacent water. For De Niro, this strategic focus on design symbolizes the studio's commitment to production spaces where creatives want to work and are proud to be every day. “Completion of this project ensures that future generations of producers, directors, writers, and storytellers will play a vital role in filmed entertainment in New York for years to come,” he said in a press release. So far, no date for completion has been announced but the plans are now being filed with the New York City Council. 
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Rink On

Long-neglected North End of Central Park will get a $150 million revamp
The northern end of Central Park is slated to get a major upgrade by 2024. Today the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Parks Department unveiled its plans for a $150 million restoration of the long-damaged landscape surrounding the Harlem Meer Envisioned by the conservancy’s design office, led by chief landscape architect Christopher J. Nolan, in collaboration with Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture | Design and Mitchell Giurgola, the project aims to repair the land, restore the local ecology, and revamp access to a new recreational facility that will replace the 53-year-old Lasker Rink and Pool. Built like a concrete box, the building has blocked views of the Harlem Meer towards the south and diminished the size of the 11-acre landscape since it opened in 1966.  The project is the final piece of the puzzle that is the conservancy’s 40-year renewal plan to update Central Park. In 2016, the group completed restored the Ravine landscape next door to the Lasker Rink, and the Loch watercourse in the North Woods. Pedestrian circulation was improved, infrastructure was updated, and the deteriorating rustic bridges and stone steps that populated the landscape were rebuilt.  The design team wants to build upon that project by further enhancing access to all the recreational activities available at this end of the park. By removing the rink building, they will build a new, sustainable, light-filled facility that shows off the surrounding landscape rather than obstructing it. The building will be embedded into the topography of the site along its eastern slope and feature a green roof that doubles as a pathway and gathering place. It will boast views of the park, pool, and rink below, which will be lowered slightly than its existing location and reshaped into an elongated oval to maximize its impact on the site.   All of these design moves, big and small, will allow for water from the Ravine to flow more easily into the Meer. Visitors will be able to observe this transition as they walk around a curvilinear boardwalk that extends over the freshwater marsh and across a series of small islands. Other upgrades to the project will include a new pool deck, bathrooms, locker rooms, and concessions area.  Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2021.
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OAUF

Akoaki designs a new future for Detroit's Oakland Avenue Urban Farm
Detroit Cultivator, a six-acre urban plan developed between design firm Akoaki and the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm (OAUF), uses architecture and community organizing to help formalize a legacy urban farm in Detroit’s North End neighborhood.  The OAUF started with a single plot back in 2000, but over time has grown to encompass over 30 lots and 8 structures. Today, the farm administers mentorship programs, hosts classes, and offers community and art spaces alongside its agricultural activities. As Detroit has recovered from financial calamity following the Great Recession, development interests have taken to surrounding areas, threatening the farm’s future. That’s where Detroit-based Akoaki saw an opportunity to apply its design expertise and institutional connections in innovative ways. The firm is helmed by Anya Sirota, associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and her partner, designer Jean Louis Farges. Together with neighborhood residents, several university-based teams, and outside “impact investors” like The Kresge Foundation and ArtPlace America, Akoaki has helped design a way to ensure that the farm can become a permanent neighborhood fixture by setting out a long-term growth plan and designing site-based interventions that will promote economic and environmental sustainability. Sirota said, “As architects, we became interested in the challenge of what architecture could do systemically to create a more sustainable operating system for the farm.” The designers sought to discover how the farm could become an “autonomous cultural actor in a complicated urban scenario” that included unclear land ownership, development pressures from land speculators, and water access issues, among other concerns. Because some the farm’s components were located on blighted plots of land that the farm did not own outright, the first step for the project was to secure a path toward formalizing land ownership over these parcels to ensure that developers could not wipe away the farm’s gains. The designers worked with the University of Michigan Law School and a team of “moral investors” to flip the script on land speculators by studying and imitating the tactics they use to exploit Detroit’s land bank. The plan secured land ownership for little-to-no cost via a community land trust ownership model that will keep the land out of the hands of speculators. Once the existential issue of land ownership had been laid to rest, the team worked with volunteers from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business to craft a business plan for the farm. The plan focuses the team’s efforts on two complementary goals: First, by prioritizing the farm’s productivity to create a stable source of income to fund operations and second, by designing the farm’s individual components to create a flexible one-stop-shop for nascent neighborhood entrepreneurs. As a result, the farm is peppered with existing structures that will each eventually become activated as public amenities: A vacant big-box grocery store will be converted into a community gathering space containing a commercial kitchen with the help of a for-profit social venture, Fellow Citizen; an existing shoe shine parlor and former speakeasy will reopen as a multi-tenant commercial space and performance venue; several of the existing homes on the property will eventually house an herbarium, studio, and a design-focused library. New elements created for the site will include a commercial market hall as well as water-harvesting and power stations.  In creating their plan, the designers realized that they could not keep the farm purely agricultural, and they instead sought to formalize other existing uses through building and site interventions. The design embraces both the “urban” and “farming” aspects of OAUF, which, according to the architects, is what the community wants and needs most.  The project, according to Sirota, represents an “attempt to marry form-making with productive landscapes,” to sustain the social and economic impact of land that was once considered marginal in value.  Next, the designers are working on developing and prototyping water harvesting, solar generation, and insulation techniques to help feed into the long-term sustainability plan for the farm while fundraising efforts get underway. 
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Architectural Archipelago

Denmark plans to build nine new islands to house "European Silicon Valley"
The Danish government and Hvidovre, a city outside Copenhagen, are planning a series of nine artificial islands to house a new tech hub. The new archipelago, dubbed Holmene, will create over 33 million square feet of new land, 10.5 miles of new coastline, and, hopefully, 12,000 new jobs directly and up to 30,000 new jobs indirectly. The islands will set their buildings in over 170 acres of parkland intended for a variety of recreational uses.
Holmene will rise next to Avedøre Holme, an existing industrial area outside of Copenhagen, and is meant to be a home for up to 380 businesses, ideally tech companies that will transform the area into "a sort of European Silicon Valley,” according to the head of the Danish chamber of commerce, Brian Mikkelsen, as reported in The Guardian. The project still has to be approved by the Danish parliament, but current estimates say that construction could begin in 2022 with the first island becoming inhabitable six years later, and the entire complex completed by 2040.
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Park No More

Against all odds, progressive land-use reforms are taking root in American cities
With Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles moving forward with progressive land-use and transportation reforms last week, much of the conventional thinking behind how American cities work could soon be upended.  As the converging threats of climate change, housing unaffordability, and pollution continue to hamstring the country’s urban areas, cities across the country are taking matters into their own hands by enacting bold but common-sense reforms in the face of federal and state inaction. For one, a groundbreaking comprehensive plan update in Minneapolis that would eliminate the city’s single-family zones took a step forward last week after two years of public debate and negotiations. The so-called 2040 Minneapolis Plan would make the city the first in the country to upzone all of its single-family residential neighborhoods to allow up to three dwelling units per lot. Under the 2040 initiative, the city will be able to re-establish a tradition of building what’s known as “missing middle” housing, the types of naturally affordable small- to medium-scale neighborhoods that make up the backbones of most American cities built before the 1950s. The plan is designed to break down racial and income disparities between neighborhoods in the city while allowing Minneapolis to absorb expected job and population growth over coming decades. Housing activists across the country are now looking to Minneapolis to see how the experiment plays out as efforts to enact similar policies pick up across the country, especially in Seattle, where a similar effort is gaining steam. In Oregon, a plan to eradicate single-family zoning in cities with 10,000 or more residents took a step forward this week. Aside from taking on exclusionary zoning, other cities, including Buffalo, San Francisco, and San Diego, are looking to eliminate off-street parking requirements to varying extents as they work to reclaim the enormous amount of space taken up by parked cars. In 2017, Buffalo became the first municipality in the country to totally eliminate parking requirements city-wide. The effort comes as part of a new zoning initiative that will bring what is known as a “form-based code” (FBC) to the city. As the name implies, FBCs typically regulate the overall geometries of urban areas by setting particular height limits, setbacks, and other design guidelines that can be followed regardless of use. The approach runs counter to more common use-based codes that carve cities up into monofunctional areas with residential, industrial, and commercial districts. FBCs are seen both as a way of re-establishing mixed-use neighborhoods while also creating contextual and preservation-friendly zones. With the update, Buffalo joins Denver, Las Vegas, and Miami, which have also recently enacted FBCs. Over in California, as the state’s new legislature takes up a series of bold housing reforms, San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer is one step ahead with a proposal to scrap parking requirements for transit-adjacent areas. A new proposal would eliminate required parking for housing located within 1/2-mile from a transit stop, a change similar to a state-wide effort that was derailed last year. The latest effort, according to the mayor, will be geared toward lowering the cost of building housing—a single parking stall adds between $35,000 and $90,000 in costs per unit of housing in the state—while also resulting in shorter and less bulky buildings. San Francisco has taken the proposal one step further by moving to become the largest city in the country to scrap parking requirements outright. City Supervisor Jane Kim put forward a measure this month to totally eliminate the requirement city-wide in an effort to bolster the city’s climate bona fides and help reign in housing costs. But don’t call it a “parking ban,” developers will instead be allowed to build parking up to a maximum threshold if they deem it necessary. The yet-to-be-approved initiative could go into effect next year. Nearby, Sacramento is working to enact a city-wide transit-oriented development plan that would limit drive-through restaurants and gas stations and lower parking requirements within 1/2-mile from transit stops in the city. Change is afoot even in car-loving Los Angeles, where an ambitious but currently under-funded plan to build 28 large scale transit projects by the 2028 Olympic games has prompted local officials to consider so-called “congestion pricing.” No official plan has been unveiled, but the Los Angeles Metro CEO Phil Washington last week presented several ideas that could potentially fill the funding gap, including requiring drivers to pay for traveling in some of the city’s most congested areas. To boot, Curbed reported that during a presentation to the Metro Board of Directors, Washington even proposed using the fees generated from congestion pricing to make Los Angeles the first city in the United States to offer free public transportation every day of the year.
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Art of Texting

Brooklyn Museum will activate its public spaces with a year of text-based installations
Beginning in September, the Brooklyn Museum will bring four site-specific installations to its indoor and outdoor public spaces. The installations, which will include existing and new works, are part of Something to Say, a year-long exhibition that will highlight the museum's role in civic conversation through text-based works installed in its entry pavilion, plaza, and lobby, all of which were designed by Ennead Architects. The exhibition is curated by Sharon Matt Atkins, the museum's director of curatorial affairs, and Carmen Hermo, associate curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. The four selected artists are all Brooklyn-based and include Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Hank Willis Thomas, and Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine (BHAM), a Crown Heights–based collaborative art project of Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney. All four grapple with text and language in their work. BHAM's woven text work, DO NOT DISAPPEAR INTO SILENCE, will take over the facade of the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, reflecting the duo's concerns about gentrification and the role of artists to speak about and with silenced communities. Deborah Kass's giant, eight-foot-tall OY/YO sculpture, which was most recently displayed on the North Fifth Street pier in Williamsburg, will be installed on the museum's plaza and reflects a polyglot sensibility (in Spanish or Yiddish, depending on how the sculpture is read) that the artist believes is an urgent intervention at this fractured political moment. Rasheed's two-part installation will include a series of questions installed on the interior brick arcade that are meant to spur conversation, while her outdoor text-based work will be installed on the steps and invite visitors to reflect on location, time, and direction. Her work will also be accompanied by a programming collaboration with the nearby Brooklyn Public Library, where she will have a solo exhibition in 2019, in the form of a public reading group. The artist is currently engaged in an exhibition at the New Museum alongside The Black School that offers a learning space and library inspired by the community organizing of the Black Panthers and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Finally, Thomas, who founded an artist-led "super PAC" currently leading a massive public art project encouraging voter participation via artist billboards in all 50 U.S. states, will bring something a little less monumental to the show. His nearly seven-foot-tall neon work, Love Rules, will hang above the museum's front desk and flash variations of the words in the work, from "Love Over Rules" to "Love Overrules," based on a phrase that was among his cousin's last recordings before he was killed in 2000. The Brooklyn Museum is located near four Brooklyn neighborhoods: Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Park Slope, and its recent programming has been steadily oriented toward bringing more diverse museum-goers and local community members into the museum. For this show, the museum will kick off with a public event on October 6 at 11 a.m. that is open to the general public. The show is on view until June 30, 2019. Something to Say Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn Through June 30, 2019
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Six Feet Under

Historic Mecca Flats apartment building unearthed in Chicago
Summer term at Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture is typically uneventful, but excitement recently percolated to the surface after a maintenance project uncovered a bit of history beside the school's home in S. R. Crown Hall. The existing building, widely regarded as one of Mies van der Rohe’s masterpieces, stands on the site of the former Mecca Flats (or Mecca Flat), a storied residential building that once stood at the intersection of 34th and State streets. As workers were digging a trench for a new condenser pipe along the west side of the building, they uncovered the tiled floor of the basement of the Mecca Flats, which revealed the building's design in bright and vivid colors. The Mecca Flats was built in 1892 and was expected to house visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. At that time State Street was a line of racial division with white residents to the east and African American residents to the west. The building’s location immediately west of State made it challenging to attract upper middle-class white tenants as originally intended, and in 1911 the owners of the building retracted their all-white tenant policy. Thereafter the building quickly became populated by African American tenants who were eager to rent sizable apartments in a relatively new and well-designed building. The building’s innovative design (by the Chicago architecture firm Edbrooke and Burnham, no relation to Daniel) featured a pair of quadruple-height skylit interior courts surrounded by stacked open corridors with ornately-detailed iron guardrails. Residents could enter the building directly through these interior courts, prompting the central space to become an extension of the street life along “the Stroll,” as the entertainment strip on State Street was known, and which by the 1920s had become a destination “jammed with black humanity” and brimming with jazz clubs and cabarets. The open interior also contributed to an atmosphere of irreverent social drama in which residents could observe each other’s comings and goings. The vibrancy of the building inspired musician Jimmy Blythe to write “Mecca Flats Blues” (1924) and, later on, Gwendolyn Brooks to write “In the Mecca,” (1968) a long narrative poem reflecting on the Black experience in the building’s later years. As the building fell into disrepair, IIT purchased the Mecca and spent 15 years fighting with residents and housing advocates who opposed the university’s plan to demolish the structure as part of the expanding campus. The Mecca was finally demolished in 1951. Knowledge of the design of the Mecca Flats was relatively limited because the building survived only in black and white photography. The recently exhumed tile reveals new information about the vibrancy of the building's color. For instance, because the uncovered basement tile matches the same pattern as the court flooring, it shows us more detail about what that distinctive court looked like, including the presence of a dazzling blue tile in the mix. Other rubble found in the dig site includes warm orangey-brown exterior facing brick that was concealed by a layer of grey pollution at the time of the building’s demolition. Aside from providing new information about the Mecca Flats’ design, this recent discovery is also a test case for the emerging field of urban archeology. Among other consultants, IIT approached Rebecca Graff, an assistant professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College working in this field, to help determine next steps for this new archeological site. The university is pursuing a recommendation to document the conditions as found, and to remove, reassemble, and preserve the tile. A selection will be installed on site at the Graham Resource Center in the basement of Crown Hall in a permanent exhibition. Others will be donated to national and local cultural institutions to be conserved and shared with future generations.   The IIT College of Architecture invites the public to view these artifacts for the first time since their excavation at a program entitled Shared History: The Mecca Flat Revealed at IIT Architecture. The event will take place in S. R. Crown Hall on Tuesday, August 7, at 12:30pm. Part cultural and part educational, the event will include talks and readings with community leaders, local historians, authors, and members of IIT, and will provide an opportunity to share and reflect upon how the unearthed artifacts activate collective memory. Many thanks to Tim Samuelson, Chicago’s official cultural historian, for his insight and knowledge that contributed to this article.
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Launching Satellites in L.A.

LACMA is planning to launch up to five satellite campuses throughout L.A. County
During a recent breakfast with members of the local AIA|LA chapter at Gensler’s Los Angeles offices, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan announced a potential plan to add up to five satellite campuses to LACMA’s current sites. While the plan is largely still in the works, Govan explained that as the institution seeks to demolish and replace its existing William Pereira and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer-designed complex, LACMA was “hitting the limit for space on Wilshire Boulevard” and would need to start looking at other sites for potential future expansions.  Explaining that he had explicitly instructed Peter Zumthor—the architect behind the controversial $600 million revamp—to design a singular structure that would be difficult to expand, Govan said, “There’s never been a building that’s been added onto that has been made better [because of that addition].” Govan explained that it would be better if LACMA’s future expansions happened “elsewhere in Los Angeles” so that the new facilities might become a resource for the broader population of Los Angeles County. Govan then detailed a conceptual plan for the future of a “de-centralized” LACMA that could bring a jolt of arts and educational programming to arts-starved communities throughout the city, starting with South Los Angeles, where the organization recently announced what could turn out to be its first regional outpost.  Earlier this year, LACMA announced plans to expand to a 80,000-square-foot industrial building in South Los Angeles Wetlands Park and to a vacant site located in the 104-acre Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park in an effort to boost community outreach and make better use of its resources while the expansion at the Wilshire campus is under construction.  LACMA is also currently operating a small gallery at Charles White Elementary School in L.A.’s MacArthur Park neighborhood, where it is working to have an updated security and ticketing system installed that would allow the space to be open to the public on weekends, Govan explained. LACMA plans to exhibit objects from its collections there and to work with local artists and students at the school to create programming for the site, as well.  Aiming for a “decentered museum for a decentered metropolis,” Govan also explained that LACMA is currently partnered with the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College for an exhibition on ancient Egyptian artifacts in LACMA’s collection. Govan hinted that sites in the San Fernando Valley were also potentially under consideration and that ultimately, he would like to see five 50,000-square-foot satellites in operation over the next decade or so. 
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Lights! Camera! Gondola!

Warner Brothers proposes gondola to Hollywood Sign from San Fernando Valley
In the latest escalation of Los Angeles’s Hollywood Sign wars, Warner Brothers has announced something of a truce: a plan to build a $100 million gondola system that would connect the entertainment company’s studio backlot in Burbank, California with the iconic sign.  The plan was announced via The Los Angeles Times earlier this week and comes as Los Angeles works to assuage concerns of the wealthy homeowners who live near and around access points to the sign. Those homeowners complain that increased public desire to visit and see the landmark has created gridlock and unsafe conditions in their neighborhoods as tourists peer out from their cars and stop in the middle of the street to take photos of and selfies with the sign. Though world famous as an iconic symbol of L.A., the Hollywood sign has never functioned as a traditional monument that people can freely visit. Instead, intrepid hikers and explorers must traverse a series of canyon trails, including the Beachwood Canyon access point, which the city closed in 2017, to get close to the sign. The super-adventurous have long illicitly hiked to the site of the sign itself, where the 40-foot-tall letters are simply and unceremoniously affixed to the hillside with poured concrete footings. But in recent years, as athleisure activities and Instagram have taken off, interest in visiting and seeing the sign has blossomed, presenting headaches for neighbors and questions of safety for visitors alike.  After a recent trail closure, local city councilperson David Ryu commissioned a study aimed at finding ways to increase public access to the sign without impacting neighborhood residents. The wide-ranging recommendations included punitive measures like planting new trees and shrubbery to obscure views of the sign from the circuitous Mulholland Drive as well as visionary fixes, like potentially building a gondola system and visitors center along south-facing slopes of the Hollywood Hills. The most outlandish recommendation called for erecting a replica sign on the opposing side of the mountain that faces the San Fernando Valley. Warner Brothers’ plan represents a strange hybrid of the latter approaches. The company has large studio and production facilities in the San Fernando Valley that are a tourist draw in their own right. The proposed plan—an architect or design team has not been announced—would essentially expand those facilities to include access to the Hollywood sign by spanning over nearby Griffith Park and other adjoining hillsides. The scheme is in the very early phases of planning and study and will require many agency and local approvals, but the studio has offered to pay for the gondola, so at least funding is secured. Chris Baumgart, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust said via email, “The Warner Brothers proposal is just one of many solutions that added together will help ease the burden of over-tourism faced by the neighborhoods.” Baumgart added, “There is no one solution to the complexities of this issue. The scope of the Warner Brother’s project will have a long road of vetting with community groups and local governments involved. The Environmental Impact Report for construction in an open space is just one of the challenges that will have to be navigated if this intriguing idea is to come to fruition.” The gondola proposal comes weeks after Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies, LLC announced its own plan to construct a gondola system that would take passengers from the Los Angeles Union Station to Dodger Stadium. That $150 million proposal is also under development, has support from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and is projecting a 2022 opening date.  A timeline for the Hollywood Sign gondola has not been announced. 
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Carbon Goals

Saint Paul, Minnesota pledges to make its buildings carbon neutral by 2050
Saint Paul, Minnesota has set an ambitious goal to reduce its carbon footprint by making all public buildings carbon neutral by 2030 and all private buildings carbon neutral by 2050, as first reported by Twin Cities Pioneer Press. St. Paul officials found that 52 percent of all carbon emissions were related to structures and the energy needed to power, heat, and cool buildings, according to Pioneer Press. Another 37 percent derived from transportation-related emissions. In an effort to encourage a reduction in a building’s carbon footprint, St. Paul has created a competition for private building owners called “Race to Reduce”. Participants monitor and compare their energy use to comparable structures across the city. The city council also recently approved a resolution that outlines general goals such as inspiring a culture of energy stewardship, working with major institutions such as colleges to set energy goals that align with the city, and promoting efficiency in large buildings. Another key aspect is lowering the energy burden on low-income households, ensuring that no household spends more than four percent of its income on energy costs, said Russ Stark, St. Paul’s chief resilience officer, to Pioneer Press. Small changes such as switching off air conditioning at night, as well as buying more renewably-sourced energy from community solar gardens, will help the city achieve its goal. Under the Trump administration and its decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, cities around the U.S. have been setting their own clean energy goals and emission reduction projections. St. Paul joins cities like Seattle and Boston, which have both declared a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $4.5 million to help cover the U.S.’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement.  
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Scooters Take Flight

City of Milwaukee files lawsuit against dockless scooter company Bird
There’s a new battleground in the wars pitting transportation alternatives against cities. Milwaukee recently took legal action against Bird, a privately-operated dockless scooter company that is one of many trying to colonize city streets, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. California-based Bird dropped off 100 motorized scooters in downtown Milwaukee last month, but Deputy City Attorney Adam Stephens wrote a letter to the company warning that “Bird’s Motorized Scooters may NOT be lawfully operated on any public street or sidewalk in the City of Milwaukee." According to the complaint, Bird refused to cease operations, leading to the lawsuit. Bird sees it differently. "We respectfully disagree with the city’s contention that operation of any electric scooter in the state of Wisconsin is unlawful," a Bird spokesperson told Smart Cities Dive. These rental electric scooters operate in the same way as dockless bikes—scooters are left throughout the city and customers can unlock one using an app on their phone. Following the ride, customers leave it on the street or sidewalk for the next person to use. Bird charges a fee of $1 to unlock the bike and $0.15 per minute thereafter. Other companies in the dockless vehicle-sharing industry, including Lime and Spin, have invested in dockless scooters. Major companies have seen the potential in this form of micromobility. Uber recently invested $335 million into Lime and bought Jump, and Lyft bought Motivate, parent company to Citi Bike. These acquisitions have been touted as a way to solve the first-and-last-mile problem and consolidate transportation options under one umbrella. But the controversy over regulatory issues for these new modes of transport has stopped companies from moving fully forward. Dockless vehicle companies have infiltrated cities from Miami to San Francisco, only to subsequently have cease and desist orders issued against them. As is the case in Milwaukee, one of the main concerns is the lack of designated space for these scooters. Without a dock, it becomes easy for scooters (and bikes) to pile up on the streets and create both an aesthetic and safety issue. Milwaukee officials began complaining once seeing the scooters littering on the sidewalks and outside public buildings, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Cities are scrambling to find a way to regulate this new mode of transport and are even cracking down on it, much like in the early days of ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. San Francisco ordered the removal of the scooters until the start of an official permit program and Denver seized more than 250 scooters. Bird has faced legal trouble in other cities before for not complying with city orders, including in Santa Monica, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, Nashville, and Austin. A hearing is scheduled for this Friday, at which time the city will be seeking a temporary injunction to remove the scooters immediately.
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Won't You Ride My Bicycle?

Dockless bike-sharing is coming to NYC this summer
Are bikes slowly taking over the streets of New York? Extra Citi Bikes are being rolled out ahead of the L Train shutdown, ride-hailing company Lyft has acquired Motivate and its bike sharing company Citi Bike, and now the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) revealed further details for their dockless bike-share pilot. Following a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) from the DOT last year, 12 companies vied for the opportunity to pilot a dockless bike-share program in the city. DOT announced earlier this week that Lime, JUMP, ofo, Pace, and Motivate have been chosen to roll the program out. Bikes from those companies will be supplemented in each community by pedal-assist models capable of reaching 20-miles-per-hour courtesy of either JUMP or Lime. The first bikes are expected to arrive from PAce and Lime in mid-July in the Rockaways, Queens, followed by bikes from JUMP, ofo, and Lime in central Bronx and Staten Island later in July. Coney Island will also receive bikes from Motivate later this year, timed to avoid the worst of the summer crowds and construction concerns. The areas chosen for the pilot are out of Citi Bike’s current reach, and each neighborhood will receive at least 200 bikes. As the name suggests, dockless bike-sharing does not require a permanent docking station for bikers to return their rentals to. Instead, riders use an app to find and unlock a bike nearby; once the ride is finished, the rider leaves the bike on a sidewalk, and a fee is charged according to the amount of time spent riding. While each company has a different pricing structure, the DOT estimates that a 30-minute ride will only cost $2. Misplacement of the bikes—and having streets end up as 'bike graveyard' where abandoned bikes litter streets—is a concern that other cities are grappling with. Other regulatory issues surrounding ridesharing and similar transportation alternatives have plagued cities, from Uber to autonomous vehicles to e-scooters. However, it appears that concerns will be assessed during the pilot, as the DOT will “carefully evaluate companies’ compliance with requirements around data accessibility and user privacy” as well as look at the “safety, availability and durability” of the bikes themselves. The DOT’s announcement comes at a time when ride-hailing companies are changing the transportation landscape. In an interview earlier this year, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi claimed that he wanted Uber to be the “Amazon of transportation,” expanding the range of first-and-last mile solutions. Two of these dockless bike share companies are now owned by major ride-hailing companies—JUMP is owned by Uber and more recently, Motivate (parent company to CitiBike) was bought by Lyft. It’s unclear how dockless bike share will fit within New York’s transportation system and regulations, but DOT will be evaluating the sustainability of the dockless program before moving forward with a permanent program.