Posts tagged with "sprawl":

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Boomtown: Houston poised to overtake Chicago as country's third-largest city by 2025

The Texas metropolis of Houston is famous (or perhaps infamous) for its sprawling footprint. But as recent census numbers affirm, that growth reflects more than just a lack of zoning—within 10 years, more people will live in Houston than Chicago, according to information from health departments in Illinois and Texas. (Read AN's feature examining Houston's first General Plan here.) Long the country's third-largest city, Chicago is projected to have just 2.5 million people by 2025. Houston is expected to surpass that number, possibly growing to 2.7 million residents. A June study by Houston's Rice University found “if both cities maintain their average growth rates of the last four years, Houston would surpass Chicago as the country's third most populous by 2030.” Previous data from the 2000 and 2010 censuses had forecast a similar changing of the guard, noting Chicago had lost 200,000 people in the millennium's first decade, while Houston gained nearly 119,000. But new data publicized by Business Insider suggests the Texas metropolis could overtake the Windy City sooner. Houston leads the nation in job growth, owing largely to its expanding population.
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Video> Shanghai Talks: Toronto city planner James Parakh talks skyscraper design, sustainable urbanism

Last September the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for its Shanghai symposium, entitled "Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism." I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers, and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. Among the many designers, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Toronto City Planner James Parakh. Parakh talked about enhancing public space through Toronto's POPS program for privately-owned public spaces. Downtown Toronto has added over one million square feet of these developments over the last 10 years—think plazas, parks, pedestrian connections. “I often say it's a win-win,” he said. “The developer gets extra height through the process.” As one of the newest hotbeds for tall building development, Canada's largest city is trying to walk a line between runaway “Manhattanization” and suburban sprawl. At the same time Parakh said Toronto is grappling with questions about its urban character—from the top of its skyline down to its pedestrian spaces. “I don't think every building is a landmark building and I don't think every building should be a gateway building,” he said. “How do we intersperse tall buildings—whether it's in Toronto or Chicago or Mumbai or São Paolo—how do we do that the best that we can so that we can improve the quality of life for people around the world?”
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Report warns of runaway sprawl in Columbus, Ohio

By 2050 the city of Columbus, Ohio and its expanding suburbs could more than triple the city's footprint, according to a new study examining sprawl around Ohio's capital. The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus hired the planning firm Calthorpe Associates to assess the development impact of current trends and make recommendations aimed at curbing patterns that could balloon the region's environmental problems and its residents transportation budgets. From the current city land area of 223 square miles, said the study, Columbus and its suburban jurisdictions could swallow up an additional 480 square miles by 2050 if current trends continue. The culprits include large lots for single-family homes and traditional suburban-style development. If population growth continues—MORPC said the region will add more than half a million new residents by 2050—the study warns Columbus will lose its ability to attract new residents and jobs. “These trends raise important questions about the vitality and competitiveness of our communities and region,” reads MORPC's website. The study is part of a larger effort dubbed insight2050 that hopes to chart a course for sustainable development in central Ohio. Calthorpe sketched out four development scenarios for projected growth in the region, which found effective planning could reduce that 480 square miles of new sprawl to just 15. Of course Columbus is not the only city to struggle with these issues. Last year The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium made a similar assessment for the region emanating inland from Cleveland. Columbus' population and economic growth has come in part due to its expanding municipal boundary, which annexes small townships on the city's outskirts.
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Frustrated transit advocates blast ballot delay by Detroit's Regional Transit Agency

detroit_light_rail_01 Detroiters have heard before that the Motor City could see better mass transit as soon as 2015. Local and state leaders came together in 2012 to form the area’s first regional transit agency (RTA), but Streetsblog reported locals are losing patience with Michigan’s newest RTA. detroit_light_rail_02 While waiting times for buses drag on, frustration grows. The RTA recommended holding off on a ballot measure for another two years, prompting a protest march from transit advocates. They marched from the Rosa Parks Transit Center to the board’s meeting place at 1001 Woodward, one of many Rock Ventures developments in the region (Read a Q&A with Rock Ventures real estate chief Jim Ketai here). We Are Mode Shift reported even members of the RTA are losing faith:
Larry Dilworth, a member of the board’s Community’s Advisory Committee and the disabilities advocacy group Warriors on Wheels, told board members he had considered stepping down from his position with the CAC due to doubts about the RTA’s short-term effectiveness.
RTA’s chief executive John Hertel resigned in January in part because of concerns about funding stability—a problem that still plagues transit efforts in a region with a long history of sprawl, segregation, and steep financial challenges. Detroit’s light rail project, the Woodward Light Rail Line, got a boost last year from former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the form of $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue would include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center.
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Letter to the Editor> Master Architect or No, Gehry is Wrong About Los Angeles

[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted comment from the AN Blog in response to the post, “Gehry Lets Loose on Los Angeles, Downtown Ambitions,” which cites an interview Frank Gehry did with Los Angeles Magazine. It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN07_08.14.2013. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email] The only thing that makes Los Angeles unique is that so much of it was built during the auto era (albeit on an infrastructural framework established during the interurban rail era). Different parts of Los Angeles were developed in a manner that was identical to how other cities across North America were being developed at the same time. The same succession of transportation, construction, and development technologies created a downtown in Los Angeles that is nearly indistinguishable from portions of San Francisco, Chicago, and Manhattan. The fact that the city also has linear urban spaces, such as along Wilshire, does not make Los Angeles unique nor incompatible with the sort of transit-oriented, mixed-use urban living that has been thriving for over a decade in our major cities. “Linear Downtowns” such as Wilshire are not currently pedestrian “friendly.” The scale and velocity of such spaces have long been attuned to the auto. The city could use focus on retooling these areas to serve both motorists and pedestrians. The Purple line extension will be an important step. I do not think anyone is suggesting that we abandon the automobile or the spaces it has created, but Los Angeles’ downtown will continue to become a better place as more people choose the lifestyle that level of density affords. For decades, all development in Los Angeles was auto-reliant. Now a small portion of new development has been working to revitalize a late-19th/early-20th century urban downtown. This is long overdue, and serves a demand for urban living that has been nearly impossible to find in Southern California. Master architect or no, Gehry is wrong, and pedestrian-oriented urbanism continues to be on the rise. As a west-sider, and a member of a previous generation, he appears to hold the same anti-downtown prejudices outlined in Mike Davis’ City of Quartz. Randolph Ruiz Principal, AAA Architecture San Francisco
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Building Community in the Twin Cities' Suburbs

The economic hangover of suburban sprawl is well-documented in many U.S. metropolitan areas. But the cultural identity of inner-ring suburbs may too be shifting, as towns like those in Minneapolis' suburbs attempt to restore a sense of community. The Star-Tribune reports on two such towns, north suburban Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Park, that are taking a new approach to neighborhood building — call it reaching across the white-picket fence. Columbia Heights is launching a neighborhood association pilot project meant to connect longtime residents with newcomers, who live increasingly in townhouses recently built on former industrial sites in the city. Brooklyn Park, too, hired a neighborhood relations specialist to help “create neighborhoods, working with residents in a grass-roots way,” the city’s community engagement coordinator told the Star-Tribune. They point to nearby St. Louis Park as a prime example of a people-centered suburb. Suburbs across the nation are increasingly diverse and increasingly afflicted by problems thought to be the domain of inner cities, like widespread poverty and crime (note diversity and crime are inversely correlated — as an area’s percentage of foreign born residents rises, its crime tends to fall, according to the Brookings Institution). They’re even, paradoxically, increasingly urban. So it looks like whether or not the actions of Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Park pay off, the Minneapolis suburbs will look very different in 10 years either way.
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Northeast Ohio Group Fights Back Against Sprawl

051107_arch_suburbSprawl_ex The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium is striking back against a wide-ranging problem that has scarred few regions more than this corner of the Midwest: sprawl. The non-profit is a collaboration between city, county, and regional government entities, as well as private foundations and academic institutions. It is funded by a $4.25 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with $2.4 million in local matching funds. As part of its final push in a three-year effort to chart a sustainable future for Northeast Ohio, the voluntary group has convened a series of public forums to persuade roughly 400 municipal entities in the 12-county area to reverse course before business-as-usual development trends further burdens the regional economy. New infrastructure to accommodate more suburban development would leave the region as a whole with a 33.7 percent gap between revenues and expenses, the Consortium estimates, if people continue to move away. If population loss is less severe, that gap could shrink to only 6.4 percent, but in that case local developers would need to sacrifice nearly 50,000 acres for suburban development. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the Consortium’s third way: A third scenario, labeled “Do Things Differently,” assumes that the region consumes only 4,100 acres of land through additional suburban development, but builds 2.5 times the amount of new urban housing than under the “Trend” or “Business as Usual” scenario. “Do Things Differently” also assumes that 20 percent more jobs would be located near transit than if current trends are allowed to continue. The result: a 10.4 percent surplus in local government budgets. Cleveland has made a push for high-density development and urban renewal, including recent developments around Cuyahoga County’s new $465 million convention center. But as Northeast Ohio attempts to escape its past, regional initiatives could play an increasingly important role.
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Squandered Land: An Update From Architects & Urbanists Biking Across the Country

[ Editor's Note: Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect’s Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. ] When the author Bill Bryson moved back to the US from England he wrote a goodbye book entitled Notes from a Small Island. I was frequently reminded of Bryson’s analysis as I rode through Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. By comparison to these great open spaces England is neat and manicured, with everything in its place. These huge states are shockingly profligate with their land—your barn falling down? let it, and build another next door; getting a new truck? leave the old one to rust in the field. Large areas of this beautiful countryside are disfigured by rotting trailers, wheel-less automobiles and discarded junk. Cities stretch out for miles and miles with low rise sheds and malls and scrub—Helena, capital of Montana, was probably the worst example we came across.When I get home I shall never again criticize the UK’s Green Belt policy; this key part of our planning system stops any development in a ring around the edge of major cities thus effectively restricting endless urban sprawl. To be fair to Helena they have done a pretty good job of improving their city center. Traces of the huge wealth created by the prolific output of gold from Last Chance Gulch can be seen in the heavy stone buildings of the CBD, St. Helena Cathedral, based on Cologne’s Domkirche, and the imposing State Capitol by Frank Mills Andrews. There is an open greensward outside the cathedral and Last Chance Gulch itself—now the main street—has been partially pedestrianized with spaces to sit out and for live performances. The landscapes we have cycled through have been awesome, but it is hard to say the same about the buildings. I yearn to see an elegantly detailed residence, a modern barn that has the charm of those that are now disintegrating. I long for a building positioned in the landscape with the elegance of composition of a Tuscan estate. So many buildings look like they have come out of a catalogue and just plonked anywhere. We’re a bunch of architects cycling through beautiful places, meeting friendly, welcoming people, served outsize meals, but we’re starved of ARCHITECTURE! I guess it is because there is so much space out here that development in such exquisite surroundings is taken so lightly. A map of the whole of Britain is just 1:10,000; the map I used to trace our route across the US is 1:3,800,000! That says it all really. When you’re a small island you care for every bit of it, sometimes too much, so that development is thwarted by conservation; but when you’ve got a lot of something, it’s easy to squander it.
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Massive Monsanto expansion in St. Louis suburbs has urbanists asking, "Why not downtown?"

Agribusiness titan Monsanto has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades to its research facility outside St. Louis, and design details are starting to pop up. Cannon Design will plan, design and engineer a new 400,000 square foot center for life sciences research. The expansion will bring 675 new employees to Chesterfield, on the western fringe of the St. Louis metropolitan area. Those jobs will be mainly high-paying research positions, encouraging for suburban Chesterfield after tax revenue sagged following 2009 layoffs at Pfizer, another major tenant of the business complex. But, as NextSTL points out, some urbanists would rather see such development closer to the urban core—namely in the CORTEX bioscience district in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. CORTEX would turn an old telephone factory and other industrial buildings into a biotech business district along Duncan Avenue.
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More Regions, More Problems

Planetizen's Nate Berg brings us an interesting report from America 2050's recent LA conference. The group is trying to develop a nationwide infrastructure strategy. In order to handle the U.S.'s mega problems, it's divided the country into 11 "megaregions," to "encourage regional thinking and cooperation on issues like transportation, energy, and water." Around here those regions include Southern California, Northern California, Cascadia (metro areas in Oregon and Washington), and the Arizona Sun Corridor (Phoenix, Tucson, Scottsdale, etc). The idea is that our problems are too large and too geographically dispersed to be handled by individual states alone (and too specific to be handled federally). Like our worldwide economic situation, issues need to be coordinated on a larger scale. Hmm. regional planning in a sprawling region where problems are far too large and interconnected to be handled by local authorities alone? Why didn't we think of that?
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The Downturn of the McMansion?

Amid the anxiety, speculation, and real hardship caused by the ongoing economic downturn, the provocative thesis of this Washington Post article stands out, which, if correct, could hold a silver lining for architects. Reporter Elizabeth Razzi interviews housing historian Virginia McAlester about how previous periods of economic declines shaped consumer demand for housing. The answer is simple and somewhat obvious: the demand for small houses rises. Her predictions for this cycle are less so. While McAlester argues the downturn of Depression through World War II, and the resulting shortage of materials, led to the construction of smaller houses, specifically Levittown and its progeny, she argues that this cycle could lead to a different landscape. While she argues that McMansions, with their multiple gables and double height foyers, will fall out of fashion, they will not be replaced with rows of modest Cape Cods repeated in endless rows. She argues that some McMansions will be converted into multiple unit “manor houses.” New construction, she argues, will likely be more compact, attached and more closely located to shopping and other amenities. While a spokesman for the National Association of Homebuilders refutes some of McAlester’s predictions, he agrees that highly energy efficient houses will be increasingly in demand.
What could this mean for architects? While many architects design lavish, over-scaled homes, speculative builders, who rarely employ architects, dominate the McMansion segment of the market. Architects have for the past twenty years, been increasingly designing mixed-use buildings and districts, as well as compact, urban, and green projects. So it seems logical, then, that developers who are looking to salvage their unfinished subdivisions or respond to future demand may give enterprising architects a fresh look.
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Anti Sprawl/ Pro Transit... in California??!!

After weeks of waiting, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger finally passed anti-sprawl bill SB 375 into law today, reports the LA Times. Among other things the measure will reward sustainable, dense, and transit-oriented communities with more state funds and will also discourage development on valuable untouched land. It will also call for state agencies to study new developments' effects on transit patterns and on greenhouse gas emissions. Next up: Measure R, which will be on California's November 4 ballot. The measure seeks expansion and improvement of local rail and bus systems, street improvements, and traffic reduction in the Los Angeles area. That could include expansions of LA subway and light rail lines in all directions, new HOV lanes for highways, better traffic monitoring, and even reduced fares for bus riders. This is a big one, so don't forget to vote!