→ The Economist: Hong Kong in Honduras
Trujillo is a sleepy backwater, but one with a lot of history. The beautiful bay surrounded by lagoons and mountains on the northern coast of Honduras was where Christopher Columbus set foot on the American continent during his fourth voyage in 1502. But in a few decades, it might be known for something entirely different: being the Hong Kong of the West. Scores of skyscrapers and millions of people could one day surround the natural harbour. The new city could dominate Honduras, today one of the poorest and most crime-ridden countries in Central America, becoming a magnet for most of the region’s migrants.
The prospect may sound fantastic, but this is the goal of an ambitious development project that Honduras is about to embark upon. In a nutshell, the Honduran government wants to create what amounts to internal start-ups-quasi-independent city-states that begin with a clean slate and are then overseen by outside experts. They will have their own government, write their own laws, manage their own currency and, eventually, hold their own elections.
→ The New York Times: In Madrid’s Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted
The park here, called Madrid Río, has largely been finished. More than six miles long, it transforms a formerly neglected area in the middle of Spain’s capital. Its creation, in four years, atop a complex network of tunnels dug to bury an intrusive highway, also rejuvenates a long-lost stretch of the Manzanares River, and in so doing knits together neighborhoods that the highway had cut off from the city center.
→ Mr. Money Mustache: Prospering in an Anti-Mustachian City
The result is astounding. Although the city was small only a few decades ago, it is ENORMOUS now, stretching about 62 miles (100km) when measured diagonally. Inside, every street contains about 6 grotesquely wide lanes, all packed with $100,000 cars and SUVs driving quickly through well-timed traffic lights at the 45MPH speed limit. On each side of each road is a row of fancy gardens and palm trees, then a thousand-acre parking lot, then a row of gleaming office buildings or high-end retail stores made of glass, copper, and aluminum. At intervals, you will see wide winding streets leading to residential areas off to the side where large stucco luxury homes with tile roofs and impeccable landscaping perch on large lots behind “no parking” signs. Then if you drive far enough, you’ll eventually reach an airport-runway-sized intersection where you are offered on-ramps to the freeway that runs on a hundred-mile-plus journey around the city. Once on the freeway, you’ll find an infinite number of lanes of immaculate black pavement, moderately but not overly packed with $100,000 cars and SUVs traveling at about 75MPH. Each vehicle is always populated by only one person, of course.
On the western edge of Phoenix, it’s easy to find vast tracts of empty land once prepped for two-by-fours and work crews. Utility stanchions emerge like errant whiskers from the desert floor.
This is the land of zombie subdivisions. Some experts believe up to 1 million dirt lots in central Arizona were in some stage of approval for new homes when the market crashed.
→ North County Times: ESCONDIDO: City merges panels to spur development
Aiming to boost Escondido’s economy by accelerating the approval of commercial and housing developments, the City Council voted Dec. 14 to merge the city’s Design Review Board and Planning Commission.
Critics said the merger could damage the city’s appearance and character by limiting input on proposed projects from architects and experts on historical preservation. The city has required the Design Review Board to have members with such expertise since it was founded in 1991, but no such requirements will apply to the merged panel.
“We’re trying to simplify the process for someone to come in and get a permit to build something,” said [City Councilman Ed] Gallo, suggesting that some developers might be choosing to build their projects in other cities that have less red tape. “We don’t want them to have to go to meeting after meeting.”