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News & Notes

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Kansas City. (cc) Zach Werner

→ The New York Times: Millennials Going to Kansas City, to Live and Work

On one of the hottest days of the year in mid-July, Michael Knight, a real estate developer, made note of the torn-up street outside Commerce Tower, which opened in 1965 as this region’s first modern high-rise office structure with a glass curtain wall.

Workers were preparing the road for Kansas City’s $100 million streetcar starter line, which will begin running in 2015. It will include a stop right outside the 30-story office building, and the streetcar is one reason among many that the Commerce Tower Group, of which Mr. Knight is a partner, acquired the property just 70 days after he walked through it for the first time a year ago.

In October, the company plans to begin converting the 500,000-square-foot tower into a $90 million vertical city of residential and office space, and retailing and restaurants. The renovation will also include a Park University satellite location, which already operates in the building, and an early childhood school, among other amenities like a fitness center and a rooftop gathering spot.

I think it is cool that Knight Rider went into real estate.

The number of people living in the central business district has increased about 50 percent, to 20,000, since 2000, according to the Downtown Council of Kansas City. Apartment developers added more than 6,130 units from 2002 through 2012, and occupancy is above 95 percent, according to the Kansas City office of Cassidy Turley, a real estate brokerage firm.

Officials would like to see the current number of downtown residents double.

Officials in Providence seem to have no goals whatsoever about increasing the population in Providence, even with similar demand for downtown living as what is seen in Kansas City.


→ Governing: Do Cities Really Want Economic Development?

So many cities and regions continue to struggle economically. Even within nominally well-performing places there are pockets that have been left behind. Most of the have-nots in the current economy have been struggling for an extended period of time, often in spite of enormous efforts to bring positive change.

Why is this? Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that these places are getting exactly the results they want: Maybe they actually don’t want economic development.

Jane Jacobs took it even further. As she noted in The Economy of Cities, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” And it isn’t hard to figure out that even in cities and states with serious problems, many people inside the system are benefiting from the status quo.

This is a something that I’ve been hearing more of around Providence lately; some feel that people in Rhode Island don’t actually want anyone to be successful, especially if those people are from away. I think of the General Assembly reading the Jacobs quote.


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News & Notes

Electric car charging.

Electric car charging station in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo (cc) CityofStPete

→ Grist: States promise to sell one new EV for every 24 people by 2025

They’re starting to step up. Eight states that represent, according to the New York Times, “a quarter of the national car market” just announced they’re going to work together on creating a better system for drivers of electric vehicles. They are, in descending order of population size, California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and they say their goal is to help get 3.3 million new EVs sold by 2025. With a combined population of 79 million people, that means one EV for every 24 people.

How are they going to do it? By creating a system that will give EV owners something only gas-guzzling car drivers have now: certainty about where and when and how they’ll be able to fuel up.

I’m all for things that help improve the environment, but I’ve got to say, I’m a little sad that the environmental press is not being more thoughtful on this story. Reduced carbon emissions are wonderful, but it is not simply the carbon which is problematic, it is safety (for people inside and outside of cars) land-use, household budgets, and more. These are among the things states are supposed to do to encourage electric cars:

  • More charging stations
  • Building codes that require chargers at workplaces and “multifamily residences”
  • Reduced tolls
  • Better parking
  • Cheaper electricity prices

These are all things that encourage more driving; encouraging sprawl, paving land, putting pedestrians and cyclists in conflict with auto-traffic (I don’t think you’re any less dead after getting run over by an electric vehicle than you are getting run over by a gas powered one), and leaving individuals and families tied to the expense of a car (granted, made less so by reducing the costs of powering the vehicle).

Rhode Island seems quite proud of itself for being part of this group of states, but Rhode Island continues to poorly support alternatives to automobile use, namely mass transit and cycling infrastructure.

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News & Notes

→ DC Streetsblog: Oregon Takes the Next Step in Moving Beyond the Gas Tax

Rep. Earl Blumenauer likes to say that Oregon was the first state to adopt a gas tax and it will be the first state to get rid of it. In 2006-2007, the state conducted a pilot study of alternative revenue collection methods, with an eye toward moving to a better system. This fall, they’ll do another pilot, fine-tuning their process for replacing the gas tax with a vehicle-miles-traveled fee.


→ The Guardian: Paris to return Seine to the people with car-free riverside plan

The pedestrianisation of one of Europe’s most picturesque urban riversides means the death knell for the Seine’s non-stop riverside expressways. These were the pride of Georges Pompidou in the 60s when France’s love affair with the car was at its height. Opened in 1967 by him, under the slogan “Paris must adapt to the car”, the dual carriageway with perhaps the best view in France allowed a speedy crossing of Paris from west to east. But environmentalists have long complained it was a dreadful, polluting waste of architectural heritage.


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News & Notes

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook and live in Providence, then you’ve seen this story posted a thousand times already today, if you’re not, then here you go:

→ The New York Times: 36 Hours in Providence, R.I.

Providence’s grit and obscurity make it easy to underestimate. On the verge of bankruptcy, with a former mayor who served four years in federal prison for racketeering conspiracy, the capital of the country’s smallest state has something of an image problem. But like Portland, Ore., or Austin, Tex., it’s also a town many times more creative and cosmopolitan than its modest population and municipal troubles suggest. Home to an Ivy League college, one of the best design schools in the country and a major culinary institute, Providence, unsurprisingly, has exceptional food, compelling art and architecture, a thriving gay scene and an inordinate number of very smart people. Yet the city remains unpretentious and affordable, a place where even the best restaurants rarely demand reservations.


→ Boston Society of Architects: Why punish Rhode Island?

…the [Boston-Providence] corridor has remained overshadowed, particularly after a few recent academic and professional Boston–Washington (Bos-Wash) rail concepts that shift the primary rail corridor between Boston and Washington westward, away from Providence and southern Rhode Island. The shift would reward regions and states, such as Connecticut, that have pursued a suburban auto-centric approach well into the 21st century. In turn, the process punishes Rhode Island after 15 years of rail-oriented advancement and three major breakthroughs…

See also: Fast Lane: High speed rail: right here, right now


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News & Notes

→ Apartments, stores planned on Loyola Avenue near Superdome [The Times-Picayune]

Spurred by the future Loyola Avenue streetcar line, a local development firm plans to transform a sea of downtown [New Orleans] parking lots into 450 apartments and 125,000 square feet of shops and restaurants that it calls the South Market District.

Jewelry District, this is your fuiture.

→ In Quest for Revenue, Cities Turning to PILOTs [CitiWire]

“PILOTs can provide crucial revenue for certain municipalities, and are one way to make nonprofits pay for the public services they consume,” Kenyon and Langley say. “However, PILOTs are often haphazard, secretive, and calculated in an ad hoc manner that results in widely varying payments among similar nonprofits. In addition, a municipality’s attempt to collect PILOTs can prompt a battle with nonprofits and lead to years of contentious, costly, and unproductive litigation.”

→ Moving an Interstate highway [Let's Go KC]

In recent months a movement has started to relocate I-35 from Downtown to the West Bottoms, undoing one of the city’s worst 1950s-era highway mistakes. MoDOT is planning to rehab the aging section between the state line and Downtown Loop, and several neighborhoods have seized the opportunity to broaden the conversation to include the idea of moving the freeway instead of rebuilding it.

Been there, done that.

→ No Free Parking [Physics Central]

Next time you’re searching for a parking space and someone grabs a spot from right in front of you, it might seem like the last space left on Earth, but ponder this: there are at least 500 million empty spaces in the United States at any given time.

The researchers extrapolated on a rule of thumb used by urban planners that claims eight parking spaces exist for every one car. The group says that there is little science to support this scenario, but the result would be a whopping 2 billion parking spaces. If all of those spots were consolidated into a single location they would cover an area the size of Massachusetts. The most likely scenario calls for about half that area in parking spaces.

→ seattle: quick notes on “rapid ride” [Human Transit]

Looks to be a lot like RIPTA’s proposed Rapid Bus [.pdf] service.

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