Posts tagged with "President Obama":

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Thom Mayne’s mentoring program is featured in showcase at Pratt

The educational mentorship program spearheaded by Morphosis principal and co-founder Thom Mayne headed into its third semester this year. For sixth graders at Hall Elementary School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was a chance to receive an architectural education and access to design software via after-school classes led by Pratt Institute architecture students. Tonight, Mayne himself will host a closing reception of their final projects from last semester at Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall, beginning at 6pm. Founded in 2017, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was spurred by Mayne's participation in President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Mayne partnered with TurnAround Arts, a 2012 program launched by Michelle Obama and the president's committee to bring arts education to the bottom five percent performing public schools, which includes Hall Elementary. The sixth grade students have been working on a site close to home–their own classrooms. Their design prompt is to create a "beautification proposal" for their classrooms. In the course of the 12-week program, students learn about design thinking, architectural design fundamentals and computer design, aided by the donation of Pixelbook laptops loaded with design software by Google. Beyond design skills, the program also includes lessons about photo editing, branding, marketing, and budgeting. The exhibit, which opened on February 12, closes on Saturday, February 17.  
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Obama administration releases “Housing Development Toolkit” to lower barriers to new housing

The White House has published the "Housing Development Toolkit" in a bid to allow cities meet housing demands. The paper derides the current zoning laws and red tape that stand in the way of authorities building housing, thus leading to economic inequality and high rents that take a toll on the U.S. economy. Advocating increased density (which will mean more tall buildings), faster paths to construction, and fewer zoning barriers, the toolkit will not be welcome among NIMBY protestors. However, developers, mayors, and builders may think differently. The paper outlines "actions that states and local jurisdictions have taken to promote healthy, responsive, affordable, high-opportunity housing markets," including:
  • Establishing by-right development
  • Taxing vacant land or donate it to non-profit developers
  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines
  • Eliminating off-street parking requirements
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units
  • Establishing density bonuses
  • Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning
  • Employing inclusionary zoning
  • Establishing development tax or value capture incentives
  • Using property tax abatements
The paper also says:
Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas increasingly fueling the national economy. The accumulation of such barriers—including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes—has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions. By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.
“When unnecessary barriers restrict the supply of housing and costs increase, then workers, particularly lower-income workers who would benefit the most, are less able to move to high-productivity cities,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaking to Politico. “All told, this means slower economic growth.” “It’s important that the president is talking about it,” said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. “Local restrictions on housing supply are a crucial economic issue. I would say it’s one of the top 10.” A link to the toolkit can be found here.
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After letter-writing campaign, Senate committee backs down on massive change to TIGER program

Since 2009, the United States Department of Transportation’s TIGER program has helped realize some of the country’s most innovative and overdue urban design and transportation initiatives. Launched as part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, TIGER grants have since provided funding for projects like the Brooklyn Greenway, Kansas City streetcar, and new light rail in the Twin Cities. By the numbers, seven rounds of TIGER funding have funneled over $4.6 billion into 342 individual projects around the country. (Check out Transportation for America’s map to see if there is a TIGER-backed project near you. Spoiler: There probably is.) As StreetsBlog explains, the structuring of these grants streamlined funding procedures, allowing these types of urban projects to flourish: “By working directly with cities and regional agencies, TIGER bypassed state DOTs more interested in big highway projects than enhancing transit, biking, and walking options.” But this month, the Republican-led Senate Commerce Committee moved to drastically change the program, effectively stripping bike lanes and multimodal projects from future funding rounds in favor of freight rail projects. This prompted a swift and massive letter-writing campaign aimed at urging senators to change course. The plan worked: This week, committee chair John Thune (R-SD) removed that language from the bill. Now we have to wait to see what happens next, as Streetsblog noted, “[the] bill appears to be on hold for at least another five months after the House passed another short-term extension of the current law.”
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It’s official: Barack Obama’s Presidential Library is coming to Chicago’s South Side

Although the decision had already been widely reported by May 1, Barack Obama‘s nonprofit foundation today announced that the 44th President's library will be built on the South Side of Chicago. "With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and effect change locally, but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago," said the President on the occasion. The official decision ends perhaps years of speculation about the location of the former University of Chicago law professor's legacy project. But it officially begins speculation on who will be the library's architect, and what the ultimate design will bring to the president's longtime home.
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Read all about it: Obama Presidential Library reportedly headed for Chicago

The Associated Press has reported that Barack Obama's presidential library will be in his adopted hometown of Chicago. After months of speculation that the 44th President of the United States might site his legacy project in New York City—where he attended Columbia University—or his birth city of Honolulu, Hawaii, multiple unnamed sources cited by the AP and other publications say Obama and his nonprofit foundation have settled on Chicago, where he forged his political career. The University of Chicago, where Obama taught law, will host the library and museum. No architect has yet been named. The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, likely spurring more development on Chicago's South Side. As the city from which Obama was first elected to public office and in 2008 first addressed the nation as its first African-American president-elect, Chicago was seen by many as an obvious choice. But in the long lead-up to the decision—made longer by the protracted race for Chicago mayor, which saw former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel spend millions of dollars to fend off an unexpected political challenger from the left—sources close to the president's foundation had raised concerns about the proposals from several universities around the city. The University of Chicago's winning bid benefitted from having friends in high places. Emanuel led the charge in Chicago City Council to cede public park land to the private library project, successfully lobbying for the same assurance from the state legislature. That move remains controversial, however, and the design team selected to realize the president's legacy of public service will have to contend with opposition from open space advocates in Obama's own backyard.
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San Antonio Mayor Reportedly Tapped To Replace Donovan as HUD Secretary

President Obama will reportedly nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed by the senate, Castro will succeed Shaun Donovan, a trained architect, who has been at the agency since 2009. Donovan is expected to head the Office of Management and Budget. Since the news about Castro broke, there has been very little discussion about what this appointment means for the future of HUD. Instead, the Chattering Class has been entirely focused on what it means for national politics. And that is not surprising given that Castro is a “rising star” in Democratic politics. He gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is seen as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016, and has been referred to as the "next Obama" in countless columns. Many political observers believe this nomination is a way for President Obama to increase diversity in his cabinet, and for Castro to build a national profile. But back to the task at hand: What will Castro mean for the future of HUD? That is a hard question to answer because, again, this appointment is so wrapped up in politics. His background at the helm of a major Southwestern city brings its own distinct qualifications to the job. One possible glimpse into Castro’s legislative priorities is SA 2020, an initiative his administration launched in 2010 as a community-based approach to city planning. According to an SA 2020 progress report, by 2020, the city plans to add 5,000 new apartments downtown, reduce vehicle miles traveled per individual by 10 percent, and double attendance at cultural programs. As HUD Secretary, Castro will be tasked with setting somewhat similar goals, but on a much larger scale. Implementing any big plans, though, will be difficult considering the president has less than three years left in his term. One immediately pressing topic on his agenda will be Rebuild By Design, a design challenge led by the agency to create a more resilient Eastern seaboard. AN recently reported that the competition's winner would be announced in the coming weeks. A possible change of leadership at HUD is not expected to change that. An official involved with Rebuild, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told AN "everything is moving as planned with full dedication and speed."
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Obama Appoints EPA and Energy Heads

obama_cabinet_01 President Obama is expected to announce Gina McCarthy (above, right) as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest Moniz (above, left) as the Secretary of Energy. McCarthy now serves as an assistant administrator at the EPA where she oversees regulating air pollution, including helping to double fuel-efficiency standards for cars, according to NPR. Moniz is currently a nuclear physicist at MIT, where he directs the university's Energy Initiative, according to the Washington Post. He has been a proponent of alternative energy sources, but some environmentalists are wary of his support for natural gas and "fracking." (Photo: Courtesy MIT / EPA)
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Michael Graves Appointed to Federal Post on Accessibility in the Built Environment

President Obama's second-term White House is still in transition, with Ray LaHood out and rumors of an NTSB replacement, Sally Jewell likely in as Secretary of Interior. Among the non-Cabinet-level appointments, the President appointed Michael Graves to a member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, an agency "devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities." Graves, who uses a wheelchair after an illness-induced partial paralysis, has been a leader in promoting accessibility in architecture, recently designing prototype houses for wounded and disabled veterans. This month, Graves will also be launching a new line of more than 300 products at retailer J.C. Penney, including kitchen appliances, candlesticks, and a toaster shaped like a piece of toast. The Indianapolis-born architect will return to his hometown on March 28 to give a lecture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and he recently spoke with the Indy Star about delivering papers for the publication as a child, architecture, and the new product line. An exhibition of Graves' work, From Towers to Teakettles, is also on display at the Virginia Center for Architecture through March 31.
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Farewell Ray: LaHood Leaving Post as Transportation Secretary

Last month, Ray LaHood made an off-the-cuff remark at a post-inaugural party that he would be "sticking around for a while" as President Obama's Secretary of Transportation, but last week LaHood made his final decision to step down from the position after four years on the job.  The Republican made a name for himself in urbanist circles for his support of High Speed Rail, efficient urban transportation policies, and safety pushes, most notably his efforts to curb distracted driving. Reflecting on his tenure at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), LaHood remarked in a letter to DOT employees across the country, "Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines." In an exit interview with the Huffington Post, LaHood said, "We are behind on high-speed rail," but remained optimistic that the topic will still maintain a top spot his successor's agenda: "As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities." LaHood will continue in his role as Secretary until his successor is found.
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President Obama to Nominate REI CEO to Lead Interior Department

President Obama is expected to nominate Sally Jewell, the President and Chief Executive Officer of national outdoor retailer REI, to succeed Secretary Ken Salazar as the head of the Interior Department. Jewell, a former engineer for Mobil Oil and commercial banker, has run the $1.8 billion company for over a decade and has established herself as a strong advocate for land conservation. The Washington Post reported reported that she is one of the founding board members of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, and serves on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association. The Department of the Interior manages and protects the country’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, along with relations with tribal nations. As extreme weather patterns put climate change front and center of the policy debates in Washington DC, the Secretary of the Interior will take on an increasingly critical role this term.

Obama on Souto de Moura

Last night President Obama spoke at the ceremony for this year's Pritzker Prize winner, Eduardo Souto de Moura. He invoked Thomas Jefferson, the architectural glories of Chicago, and praised Souto de Moura's work for balancing "form and function with artistry and accessibility." Obama is close to the Pritzker family, and Penny Pritzker was one of the most significant fundraisers for his campaign. Still it is nice to see the White House bringing some attention to the "Nobel Prize of architecture." Check out our recent interview and comment on Souto de Moura.
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World Trade Center: Got it?

In lower Manhattan, especially  today when President Obama was in town to lay a wreath, the world's media was fast talking about Ground Zero. Very few call it the World Trade Center. The GZ term is so widely used that few think twice about it. And yet, just yesterday, a contingent of men and women responsible for rebuilding the World Trade Center braved the cold rain for a conference hosted by the Building Trade Employers Association (BTEA) and found themselves struck on the semantics of just those words. The event brought together the builders and suppliers of the 16 acre site for an update on building progress. Very little was said about the momentous events of the past week or the impending presidential visit, which, like the rain, was going to slow down work. This was a group with a singular focus: rebuilding. BTEA President and CEO Louis Coletti introduced speakers who in turn discussed a particular aspect of the project. But when one speaker referred to One World Trade as "the Freedom Tower," Chris Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority grimaced, held up his index finger to signify the number one and said, "It's One World Trade." With the event over, the room cleared. In the elevator down, a deputy informed Ward that the Daily News had twice reported that the president would be visiting "The Pit" on Thursday. Ward rolled his eyes, clearly exacerbated. So what's in a name? Well, if you had attended as many community meetings as Ward, you'd know. At one community meeting he attended in February, the residents of downtown Manhattan reiterated that they were tired of the 9/11 terminology used to describe their neighborhood. The memorial fountains have been in place for almost a year now. "The Pit" has been filled and trees are taking root. It's a memorial, not a pit. It's One World Trade, not the politically charged "Freedom Tower."  And it's the World Trade Center, not Ground Zero.