Chicago’s urban planning history is epic and, therefore, it’s no surprise that the city draws young folks fresh out of school with their MUPs, MPAs, and MPPs in droves (yours truly was one these eight years ago). However, Eavesdrop had no clue how many of them were gay until a couple weeks ago. A young buck, Daniel Ronan—fresh (meat) off the boat from Portland, Oregon—started an LGBT social group for planner and policy folks called Moxie. The inaugural meeting, which took place at Hubbard Inn, was well-attended, including not one, but two AN contributors and Dr. Curtis Winkle, the department head at UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. And some hot guy from our gym whom Eavesdrop didn’t know was a planner—heyyy! The next meetup takes place on Thursday, April 17 at the Vinyl Lounge Chicago. RSVP here.
Posts tagged with "urban planning":
As a team of designers gear up for an overhaul of Nicollet Mall, dubbed Minneapolis’ main street, civic leaders there have cheered on the project in an op-ed in the StarTribune. Mayor Betsy Hodges and Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, write of the plan to revamp 12 blocks of pedestrian and public transit thoroughfare:
Never before has the need to leverage the mall as “the” public square providing space for a range of users been more apparent. This is our opportunity to elevate our offerings to ensure we can compete with other cities for tourism dollars, remain home to corporate headquarters, continue to grow the city, and attract new generations of families and employees while developing a space that will serve generations to come.Minneapolis lacks a visible tourist magnet, they write, like Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Boston’s Newbury Street or Beale Street in Memphis. New York–based James Corner Field Operations won a design competition last year for a plan draw up with local firms Julie Snow Architects and Coen+Partners. As Hodges and Cramer write, Nicollet Mall was originally built in 1968, just as many Twin Cities residents were flocking to the suburbs. Now, with some of that momentum bending back to downtown, the op-ed authors and others are hoping to capture some of the economic impact of projects like New York’s High Line, which was also designed by James Corner Field Operations. What does this mean for the rest of downtown Minneapolis? Hodges and Cramer say the public-private partnership model that built the mall almost 50 years ago should be revived to ensure that the Twin Cities “take this opportunity to further enhance downtown.”
The jostle of potholes notwithstanding, motorists might find nothing unbalanced about Chicago’s public streets. But the Active Transportation Alliance points out while nearly a quarter of the city is in the public right-of-way, cars dominate practically all of it. Citing the city’s Make Way for People initiative, which turns over underused street space to pedestrians, the group released 20 proposals Wednesday, calling on City Hall to create car-free spaces from Wrigley Field to Hyde Park. Their full list is available here. It includes a protected bike lane and landscaped seating area on Dearborn and/or Clark Streets, from River North to the South Loop; a pedestrian plaza on 18th Street in Pilsen, created by a dead-end at Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan Streets; closing Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square; and closing portions of the vibrant retail corridor on 26th Street in Little Village to vehicle traffic. “Our hope is to jump-start conversations that lead to further study and the creation of car-free spaces,” writes the Active Transportation Alliance. The civic group said the list is inspired partly by places like Navy Pier, Times Square in New York City, and existing pedestrian plazas like Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square. A spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Transportation told the Tribune that the agency “agrees with the concept,” but wouldn’t weigh in on any of the Active Transportation Alliance’s specific suggestions just yet. The Make Way for People initiative's so-called “complete streets” have gained traction among urban planners for their inclusion of pedestrians, bicyclists, and green space within the standard two- and four-lane roads that cater almost exclusively to cars. New York has overhauled dozens of public streets and plazas in recent years. Chicago designers, including North Center-based Altamanu, have worked with the city in recent years to draft plans for pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets from Mayfair to the lakefront.
Pittsburgh’s new mayor took office this week, and with him comes a cabinet division dedicated to neighborhood development. The Steel City has largely scrubbed its image as an ailing post-industrial town in recent years, drawing in new artists and young professionals, but the revival has not touched all parts of the city equally. Some urbanists have pinned their hopes of remedying that on incoming Mayor Bill Peduto. During his victory speech on November 5, Peduto contrasted himself with his predecessor, Luke Ravenstahl, who saw “Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance” in large developments like stadiums and convention centers. "Tonight, we end the era of renaissance. There is not going to be a Renaissance Four," he said that night. "It's about building within, rebuilding the neighborhoods." He tapped Valerie McDonald-Roberts to serve as the Chief of Urban Affairs, who will work with the city’s expanded planning department, non-profits and others to oversee the city’s housing initiatives, “with a particular focus on underserved neighborhoods,” according to her profile on the city's website. Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff, will also oversee development and city infrastructure as Pittsburgh’s chief development officer. Peduto has also advocated improving bike infrastructure. Whether Peduto can realize his vision for a more equal Pittsburgh, with economic development beyond its resurgent downtown, remains to be seen. As the Post-Gazette reported, Peduto faces a capital budget largely depleted by his predecessor:
Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle believes working within the city's financial constraints will be the biggest obstacle to Mr. Peduto implementing his vision. "It's one thing to be visionary, [but] once you've sort of hit the ground you've got to govern," he said. "You've got to make the hard choices."
In 50 to 75 years, SimCity, the virtual city-building game just about every architect or planner has played around with at some point, imagines an average metropolis taking two routes—a sustainability-based, green utopia or a money-driven, oil-dependent corruption—and gives players the tools to construct these futures. Slated for release in the United States on November 13th, Cities of Tomorrow, the new SimCity expansion pack, allows players to engage in futuristic urban planning using imagined versions of current technology. Elevated Maglev trains transport passengers high above congested vehicle traffic; drones deliver packages and prevent neighborhood crime; high-rise “MegaTowers” become mixed-use complexes with customizable retail, residential, education, and solar energy plant levels. However, PSFK reports that unlike previous editions of the game, the Cities of Tomorrow expansion requires its virtual city planners to consider the tradeoffs of their architecture and urban construction efforts. Source and type of energy for power will determine the government and pollution level of each town and consumerism and lure of cheap labor can overcome clean, sustainable methods for maintenance of each urban environment.
Northwest Indiana’s 2040 masterplan took home top honors for comprehensive planning last week, when the American Planning Association handed out its 2013 National Planning Excellence Awards. The association also saluted 12 projects with the first-ever National Planning Achievement Awards. Tying into a major theme at this year’s conference, the APA award winners tended toward projects with an ambitious scope, such as Philadelphia’s sweeping planning and zoning rewrite and New York’s Zone Green initiative. Cincinnati’s riverfront development, The Banks, won the implementation award, winning praise for its resurrection of an area cut off from downtown by an expressway since the 1950s. Since then the city’s population has dropped 41 percent. But after a low point in 2002 when the mayor abolished the planning department, Cincinnati is in the midst of a “rebirth,” according to city planners there. “How do we modernize our city without suburbanizing it?” asked Katherine Keough-Jurs, a senior city planner with Cincinnati. She was speaking at a panel on the resurgence of urban planning in the city. “Maybe what makes our city great is what we strayed away from. Let’s look back to that.” Bridging the expressway that once severed downtown from what is now, The Banks was one key example. The city is also developing a form-based code, targeted to areas where walkable communities still thrive. The goal is to keep planners from trying to start a new neighborhood center where it would compete with an existing one. Michael Osur, Deputy Director of the Riverside County, California Department of Public Health was selected for the National Planning Excellence Award for a Planning Advocate and Ronald Shiffman was named National Planning Award for a Planning Pioneer. Goody Clancy, Interface Studio, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning were also awarded in the Planning Firm, Emerging Planning & Design Firm, and Planning Agency, respectively. More National Planning Excellence Awards winners, from coast to coast, below. View the twelve winners of the National Planning Achievement Awards here. (All images courtesy APA.) National Planning Excellence Award for a Grassroots Initiative Cathedral City's Environmental Conservation Division (ECD) Kids & Community Program Cathedral City, California From the APA: "The Environmental Conservation Division (ECD) Kids & Community Program is an environmental education and awareness project where young people conceptualize, design, plan and create hands-on environmental projects that help reduce landfill waste and beautify the landscape of Cathedral City. The program's goals include making recycling and conservation fun, preserving the beauty of the local environment, and encouraging youth to play an active role in community efforts. It engages youth within the community and offers a way to learn about the environment while being part of the solution." The HUD Secretary's Opportunity & Empowerment Award Restoring the American City: Augusta's Laney Walker/Bethlehem Augusta, Georgia From the APA: "The Laney Walker/Bethlehem Revitalization Initiative involves two historic African American neighborhoods and is a pioneering effort to reverse decades of blight and disinvestment and regenerate nearly 1,100 acres of Augusta's urban center. This decision to catalyze regeneration of Augusta's urban core was primarily driven by politics and the need to address a historically disenfranchised population. The project addresses a number of needs and community objectives outlined in the Augusta-Richmond County Comprehensive Plan, including affordable housing, access to jobs and services, open space, blight abatement, infill development, and preservation of local heritage." Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan: A Vision for Northwest Indiana Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties, Indiana From the APA: "The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's (NIRPC) 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan (CRP) represents the first broad planning initiative covering the counties of Lake, Porter and LaPorte. The CRP focuses on a variety of issues including transportation, land use, human and economic resources, and environmental policy objectives. The objective is to offer residents more transportation choices, and making the cities more sustainable and livable." The Pierre L'Enfant International Planning Award The Valsequillo Initiative Puebla, Mexico From the APA: "The Valsequillo Initiative is a planning effort not only to improve the quality of urban areas growing around the Valsequillo Reservoir and increase opportunities for area residents and remediate decades of environmental degradation, but it also aimed to unify urban and environmental planning for the first time. Four years ago, the 58,000-acre Valsequillo region was set to become a new mega-development, a companion city to Puebla, Mexico's fourth largest urban area. Development proposals would have reduced the value of the area's ecological resources and displaced indigenous communities, small farmers, and communal landholders." National Planning Excellence Award for Urban Design Lancaster Central Market: Assessments, Guidelines, and Recommendations for Preservation and Development Lancaster, Pennsylvania From the APA: "The Lancaster Central Market: Assessments, Guidelines, and Recommendations for Preservation and Development guidelines was created after a comprehensive study of the Lancaster Central Market that connected the importance of architectural preservation, urban development history, and cultural heritage, to present planning and development decisions. The Central Market is on the National Register of Historic Places and was named by APA as one of the Great Public Spaces in America. The study of the Central Market that resulted in the planning guidelines was a regional first, producing a historical-architectural report to guide building renovations, before decisions were made for a capital improvement project." National Planning Excellence Award for Environmental Planning NYC Department of City Planning, Zone Green New York, New York From the APA: "Zone Green is an initiative to modernize regulations for greener buildings. It is a coordinated package of zoning amendments, city legislation, and state legislation that promotes the construction and retrofitting of greener buildings. The regulatory changes adopted through Zone Green affect all categories of buildings throughout New York City, from single-family detached homes to high-density office buildings. It also gives owners and builders more choices for investments to save energy, save money, and improve environmental performance." National Planning Excellence Award for Transportation StarMetro's Route Decentralization Tallahassee, Florida From the APA: "For years, StarMetro operated a hub-and-spoke transit system that brought all passengers to one central transfer location downtown. Riders were forced to unnecessarily travel through the central business district to get to work, resulting in extended commutes and overcrowding. A survey revealed that 93 percent of passengers were traveling somewhere other than downtown. StarMetro was tasked with decentralizing all routes at the same time, within its normal operating budget." The HUD Secretary's Opportunity and Empowerment Award Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico From the APA: "Ohkay Owingeh is the first Pueblo tribe to develop a comprehensive preservation plan that guides practical housing improvements according to cultural values. The Owe'neh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project is a multi-year, affordable housing, rehabilitation project within the historic core of the tribe's village center. Only 60 homes remain of the nearly several hundred that once existed. Most had been abandoned by 2005 due to deterioration." National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice Philadelphia's Integrated Planning and Zoning Process Philadelphia, Pennsylvania From the APA: "The Philadelphia City Planning Commission's (PCPC) integrated Planning and Zoning Process is an innovative approach to leveraging the synergy between citizen education, planning, and zoning reform. The PCPC coordinated three distinct planning activities — the Citizens Planning Institute (CPI), Philadelphia2035 (the city's comprehensive plan) and a new zoning code and map revision. Individually, these activities educated hundreds of citizens and professionals, and engaged thousands in envisioning the future of Philadelphia and improving the way development is regulated. Collectively, they created an environment that hadn't existed for 50 years. The city not only adopted a new comprehensive plan and zoning code, but did so in the same year and has moved forward with implementation." National Planning Excellence Award for a Communications Initiative We Love Lake Oswego Video City of Lake Oswego, Oregon From the APA: "The City of Lake Oswego created the "We Love Lake Oswego" video as part of its public outreach effort to educate and engage the community in the comprehensive planning process. The video objectives were to convey a compelling story about why to plan for the future, provide a clear, concise concept of what the comprehensive plan update is about, and offer inspiration for the community to participate in the planning process." National Planning Excellence Award for Public Outreach Newberg 6th Grade Design Star Program Newberg, Oregon From the APA: "The Design Star Program is a learning collaboration between the City of Newberg and local 6th grade students that has engaged students in city planning. The program started as part of the city's outreach efforts during National Community Planning Month and is now an annual collaboration between Newberg city staff and middle school teachers and has been integrated into the curriculum. The program teaches students about why things are organized a certain way in their city, and it allows them to think critically about both the positive and negative impacts of development, the need for jobs in the community, how to differentiate between city wants and city needs, as well as environmental impacts of commuting for jobs and recreation. It also teaches students mapping, writing, presentation, and teamwork skills." Advancing Diversity & Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff YWCA Central Alabama Birmingham, Alabama From the APA: "The YWCA Central Alabama undertook a multimillion-dollar urban neighborhood revitalization effort called YWoodlawn. The YWoodlawn Plan was a collaborative empowerment initiative intended to reduce poverty and hopelessness within an underserved area of Birmingham through reinvesting in the neighborhood; providing innovative housing for families experiencing homelessness; introducing affordable transition housing for families; bringing health, education, and employment-based services to the community's doorstep; and reintroducing homeownership opportunities in a stable, growing community."
Layered SPURA: Spurring Conversations Through Visual Urbanism Sheila C. Johnson Design Center Parsons The New School 66 Fifth Ave. Through February 25 The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) that occupies 14 square blocks on the Lower East Side has remained one of the largest underdeveloped city-owned parcels of land for more than 40 years. Very few of the originally-planned buildings came to pass, and vast parking lots created by slum-clearance on the south side of Delancey Street symbolize a hotly contested renewal plan. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani and students of the New School’s City Studio have spent three years investigating the complex issues surrounding the site, and in an exhibition highlighting their research and artwork they propose to instigate a new grassroots conversation rather than a top-down planning vision.
Chaohu city in China has been canceled. It wasn’t a small city. In fact the population of more than 4 million is comparable to Los Angeles, the Phoenix metro area, and the whole of South Carolina, but that is now irrelevant data, since Chaohu's official city status was annihilated on August 22. Although buildings and inhabitants remain as proof of a once-coherent city plan and living organism, the land has since been divided into three parts and absorbed by its neighbors, Hefei, Wuhu and Ma'anshan. Situated in eastern China’s Anhui province, about 200 miles west of Shanghai, the idea was to strip the dead wood and make the surrounding cities more competitive, which, unlike the former Chaohu, are rapidly industrializing and urbanizing. In a recent interview for NPR, economics professor Jiang Sanliang from Anhui University explained: "Chaohu's development hasn't been good, but Hefei … needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province's GDP," he says. It turns out, according to this report, Hefei’s average growth of 17 percent was enough of a reason to dissolve an entire city. Though it is an unusual scenario, there are some benefits to the new divisions. For years the city’s namesake, Lake Chaohu, has been undergoing an intensive clean-up effort to meet the countrywide agenda to cleanse its badly polluted lakes. In the new arrangement the lake falls under Hefei’s administration and has more chance of getting the funding it needs to meet the Government’s 2030 deadline. However, there is no doubt that the move is at odds with other city-planning approaches in China; in August we reported on a new kind of utopia in Chengdu. Designed by a New York architect and local developer, it was one that aimed to foster connections and strengthen communities rather than amalgamate and alienate them. Indeed, instead of public consultation and even public announcement many inhabitants of the former Chaohu learnt about its abolishment from local news on the morning it happened; the striking off happened overnight. No ceremony. No funeral. No Chaohu.
Okay, let's take advantage of this Democracy thing, folks... Today you have the rare opportunity to shape urban planning policy in California by convincing a few swing voters in the state's Senate to support AB 710, the Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011. Apparently the bill is two votes shy of passage. If passed it would do a number of things to improve the state's sprawling urban development policy, including... The bill would encourage development on small lots in urban areas near transit corridors; it would require planning agencies to adopt regional transportation plans aimed at achieving balanced, coordinated, and planet-friendly transit systems; and it would prohibit cities and counties from requiring a minimum parking standard greater than one parking space per 1,000 square feet of nonresidential improvements. So write to the following assembly-people and tell them to vote YES: Senator Alex Padilla, Curren Price, Carol Liu, Kevin de Leon, Fran Pavley and Ron Calderon. Don't just sit there, start emailing!
Toy Cities. Our friends at Planetizen tell us that Avondale, AZ had urban planner James Rojas over for a playdate of sorts. Citizens who took part in this re-visioning session got to use pipecleaners, Legos, blocks, and other assorted toys to build their ideal version of the city. According to Rojas, this bottom-up community planning method breaks down barriers and allows people to exercise a degree of creativity not often found at the typical charrette. Food Oases. Streetsblog questions the much hyped notion of the "food desert": is it media myth or reality? It seems that urban areas aren't always as lacking in food stores as they seem, at least depending on your definition of supermarket. Even the USDA, who recently debuted their new food desert locator, might be a bit confused about what constitutes a food desert. (In fact, the web application says that a part of Dedham, MA is a food desert. Maybe they don't count the Star Market that's right near that Census tract...) Suburban Swan Song. Slate's architecture columnist Witold Rybczynski has penned an obit of sorts to that symbol of suburban sprawl, the McMansion. He posits that when the recession is over people will be in the mood to buy homes again, but that they may be hesitant to purchase a behemoth of a building that costs a lot to heat and cool. Green Alert. Inhabitat takes a look at the latest in the green roof trend in the form of sloping roofs on townhomes in the City of Brotherly Love. It seems that the historic Center City has a new (and almost LEED certified) infill development called Bancroft Green. The high-end homes here sport some nifty plant covered roofs as well as geothermal heating and herb gardens that capture storm runoff and spaces designed specifically for bicycle storage.
Move over NY Times Holiday Guide... Our friends at Planetizen have come out with something wonkier: their annual top 10 list of books in urban planning, design and development. The winners were based on a combination of editorial reviews, popularity, reader nominations, sales figures, recommendations from experts and books' potential impact. Some of our favorites include Los Angeles In Maps, a visual history of maps in LA that makes sense of the city's crazy grids and charts development over the years; What We See: Advancing The Observations of Jane Jacobs, a collection of essays putting a fresh perspective on Jacobs' views on topics like preservation and urban planning; and Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, which suggests shifting automobiles to "Ultra Small Vehicles," which could mean far less gas use and even automated driving. Any of these would be a perfect gift for anyone who knows what FOR, CEQA, or TOD stand for..
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor study suggesting that city dwellers harbor more stress than their suburban counterparts, but says access to parks could be the cure. Researchers have found that spending time in parks or park-like settings can help reduce cognitive effort and promote relaxation. Data seems to suggest that urban planning and the design of park space into our built environment can have a much more profound effect on our individual behavior and psychology than we might think. Parks, researchers suggest, are the best medicine for a chaotic world. Here's the problem from Dr. Gupta:
The problem seems to be "attention," or more specifically, the lack of it. With so many different distractions -- from a flashing neon sign, to the cell phone conversation of a nearby passenger on a bus, a city dweller starts to practice something known as "controlled perception." That toggling back and forth between competing stimuli can be mentally exhausting.Researchers asked different groups of students to spend a day in the city and in the suburbs and then evaluated their mood and attention. While the suburbs have their own unique stress points compared to the city (who enjoys the road-rage inducing commute on the choked interstate or the banal asphalt lots fronting endless shopping centers?), there's much more green within sight that soothes our brains. To be fair, there are many different types of urban experiences - many replete with green space. While a walk through the crowded, neon-flashing streets of Times Square with its hustle and bustle could undoubtedly strain the most focused individual, a stroll through the shady, tree-lined streets of the West Village, steps from where Jane Jacobs once lived, can offer a thoroughly relaxing experience. But increasing the amount of nature in cities can't be a bad thing. Even a little green can go a long way. From the Boston Globe:
Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.It looks like urban planners are a little like the doctors of the city. But what's your experience in cities, suburbs, or even in the park? Does the city stress you out? Can more parks save us from a world of stress? Share your insights in the comments below.