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News & Notes

flickr-kansas-city

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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Los Angeles CicLAvia


StreetFilms

Ciclovías are an event where a major street(s) in a city is closed to automobiles and turned over to bikes (and pedestrians, and dancers, and performers, and a whole bunch of non-auto activity). The events started in Columbia, South America and have been spreading across the world, with Los Angeles getting into the action on 10/10/10 as seen in the video above.

Wikipedia describes Ciclovía:

Each Sunday and holiday the main streets of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and other municipalities, are blocked off for the event to become Carfree. From 7 am to 2 pm, runners, skaters and bicyclists take over the streets. At the same time, stages are set up in city parks. Aerobics instructors, yoga teachers and musicians lead people through various performances. Bogotá’s weekly ciclovías are used by approximately 2 million people (30% of citizens) on over 120 km of carfree streets.

In Bogota, permanently designated bicycle lanes are also known as ciclo-rutas, while streets temporarily closed for that purpose are called ciclovías.

Ciclovías happen in many cities but the inspiration is credited to Bogotá.[1] The events have taken place since 1976 when they started through the efforts of organizer Jaime Ortiz and others. Some credit Bogotá Mayor Hernando Duran Dusan with starting Ciclovías in the early 1980s. Mayor Enrique Peñalosa deserves some credit for turning Bogotá into a safe cycling city by taking on the dominance of automobiles in the late 1990s.

So now the question is, if (when) we start a Ciclovía in Providence, where and when should it be? How often should it be? What type of events should surround the Ciclovía? Should it run all year..? Sound off in the comments.

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News & Notes

Café Life, PDX Style: Recreating the Euro Bar

Nothing symbolizes the singular nature of European public life more than the ubiquitous neighborhood bar – a place where people of all ages gather for a variety of food and libations, including coffee, alcohol, ice cream and maybe a local delicacy or two such as anchovies or squid.

Such establishments, also known as snack bars or café-bars depending on the country, are more than community hangouts. Featuring ample outdoor seating, the Euro style bar is also an anchor for the lively street culture that is the envy of many an American urban planner.

[Enzyme PDX]

‘Piano Building’ tunes up

On the intersection’s northeast corner, Rhode Island-based CVS wanted to tear down existing businesses and homes to build a new store that neighbors criticized as not fitting with Dundee’s character.

That’s our CVS, destroying neighborhoods and soiling our state’s good name coast-to-coast. Good on ya. Oh, and in Norwich, CT they’re tearing down a building and 2 houses, and regrading a hill to build a 12,900 square foot store on a 1.78 acre site.

[Omaha World-Herald]

What Is It About 20-Somethings and Cars?

American young adults are driving less, says a recent piece in AdvertisingAge. Only 77 percent of 19-year-olds today have their license, compared to 92 percent in 1978. And the proportion of automobile miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 fell five percent in 2009, compared to 2001.

[The City Fix]

NYS Gov. David Paterson signs monumental smart growth bill into law
[Smart Growth America]

The Childish Folly of Dubai
[UrbanPhoto]

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News & Notes

Wind farm challenged in R.I. Supreme Court

Three entities have asked the Rhode Island Supreme Court to overturn the approval of the Block Island wind farm contract.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch, the Conservation Law Foundation and large industrial concerns Toray Plastics and Polytop Corp. argue that the state Public Utilities Commission approval of the Power Purchase Agreement reached between Deepwater Wind and National Grid was legally flawed on several levels.

[The Block Island Times]

America’s Ten Dead Cities: From Detroit To New Orleans

What this list does not take into account is the suburbanization of America and the fact that many of the sunbelt cities that have taken top spots in population are largely suburban in nature. Never-the-less it is interesting to look at where cities were, what contributed to their downfall, and consider how they should re-invent themselves for the 21st century.

[24/7 Wall Street]

Relocating Route 195: Cost more than double

“The people here hadn’t done these big projects before,” said Robert A Shawver, the DOT’s assistant director for financial planning. “We learned a lot and we’re improving. I think you can see from our managing our other projects that we’re doing well.”

Emphasis added. I mean… really.

[The Providence Journal]

How the Stimulus Is Changing America
[Time]

The State of the Interstate

Now, officials are contemplating taking I-10 down, as part of a national trend in which dismantling freeways is favored as a cheaper option than rehabilitation. But resistance to change runs deep in New Orleans. A proud sense of tradition, racial polarity, corruption and a history of inequitable large-scale redevelopment projects such as the construction of I-10 make many residents distrustful of any big changes — including, paradoxically, the dismantling of I-10.

According to the city’s master plan, dismantling the interstate would add only eight minutes to commute times. The existing I-610 acts as a bypass and Claiborne Avenue, still operational beneath I-10, is four lanes wide. Dense street grids, experts say, handle heavy traffic better than highways by providing routes off of main roadways at more frequent intervals — at blocks rather than at half-mile exits.

Think of the traffic queuing to get on Route 10 at Cranston Street, then think if there were a more permeable grid for that traffic to flow through.

[Next American City]

Portland streetcar success has fueled interest elsewhere
[USA Today]

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Turning downtowns into suburbia

Christopher T. McCahill and Norman Garrick look at how land use devoted to parking may turn our downtowns into a sort of office park in the city. Case in point, Hartford.

At the Travelers Companies, Inc. – an insurance company in the downtown where employees are charged between 70 and 125 dollars per month for parking – only 71 percent of employees choose to drive alone to work. In contrast, at enterprises where employee parking is free and ample (including the both the city and the state government offices in Downtown), between 83 and 95 percent drive alone to work.

Read more at Planetizen.

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Parklets


Photo (cc) sfbike

San Francisco StreetsBlog reports on the city’s Pavement to Parks initiative.

On Divisadero, the city has taken two parking spaces from the street and created space for bike racks, planters, and cafe tables.

“This is all about taking the narrative of the 25 percent of our land mass that [is] streets, and begin to take a little bit of that back and open that up for the community and create a framework where there is a stronger community connection, a stronger sense of place and a better community environment as well,” said [San Francisco Mayor Gavin] Newsom.

The parklets cost $15,000 each and the Mayor has pledged to create 12 in 2010.


Photo from San Francisco StreetsBlog

Of course I see this and immediately start thinking of where this would work in Providence. Atwells Avenue leaps to mind.

Really, there is barely any street parking on Atwells, every damn restaurant has their own valet parking reserved spaces side by each lined all the way down the avenue. The restaurants should team up on parking. Make 3 or 4 valet loading zones up and down the avenue. One would be able to park at any valet zone, and pick their car at any other zone. The valets would be connected by radio and be able to retrieve the cars to where their driver’s end up.

This frees up dozens of street spaces which we could turn into parklets. Having these extensions of the sidewalk would then enable people to actually walk down Atwells. The way it is now, the sidewalk tables take up the whole damn sidewalk and you can’t walk down the street without landing in someone’s calamari.

When I was in Spain I saw many of these sidewalk extensions. A commenter on the StreetsBlog post remembers them from Spain as well and notes that they are on wheels to allow for removal for street cleaning. One mitigating factor for us would be having to remove and store them in the winter to allow for snow removal. Of course we could get around that by not making these temporary, but by actually extending the sidewalks into the street.

And Atwells is not the only area where this would be a welcome addition to the streetscape of course. I could see these on Thayer, Hope Village, Broad Street…

[Andres Power, Pavement to Parks project manager for the Planning Department said] “We’ve gotten calls from New York City, Portland, Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC inquiring about how we are making these happen.”

Providence should call.

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Potholes? There’s an app for that

Well, there is in Boston anyway.

Boston’s Citizens Connect iPhone App utilizes the iPhone’s camera and GPS to allow city residents and visitors to report on issues around the city. The app helps people report things like graffiti, potholes, broken traffic lights and signs, and other items.

The city will be assessing the efficacy of the iPhone app, and plans to release apps for other platforms if it proves worthwhile. For those without an iPhone, the city has an extensive list of items residents can provide feedback on and ask for service on at the Citizens Connect page.

Meanwhile, in Providence we have the Office of Neighborhood Services page*. I’m sure some members of the knowledge economy could get together with some people in City Hall and create a system that blows Boston’s out of the water. I don’t know what ever became of the Qalert system.

Via Boston.com

* Was the city’s website just relaunched like an hour ago? It looks hot!

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Pedestrian bridges of the world

As we are discussing the future Providence River Pedestrian Bridge, I thought it may be helpful to look at some existing pedestrian bridges aroung the world. Through the magic of Flikr, here are some:

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa

Photo (cc) nic221

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge between Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa is a 3,000 foot cable-stayed span across the Missouri River. This differs from the Providence River in that it is engineered to cross the river in one jump (the longest span being 506 feet), and with a 52 foot clearance is designed to clear river traffic that the Providence River does not have. It’s S-curve is pretty sexy though.

Henderson Waves Singapore

Photo (cc) chooyutshing

Wikipedia describes the Henderson Waves Bridge in Singapore:

Henderson Waves 900 foot long pedestrian bridge. At 120 feet above Henderson Road, it is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. It connects Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. It was designed by IJP Corporation, London, and RSP Architects Planners and Engineers (PTE) ltd Singapore.

The bridge has a wave-form made up of seven undulating curved steel ribs that alternately rise over and under its deck. The curved ribs form alcoves that function as shelters with seats within. Slats of yellow balau wood, an all-weather timber found in Southeast Asia, are used in the decking. The wave-forms are lit with LED lamps at night from 7pm to 2am daily.

Passerelle Paul Couturier Lyon, France

Photo (cc) Basilio

Lyon, France’s Passerelle Paul Couturier originally built in 1853 and rebuilt after being destroyed in 1944 is an 87 meter span across the River Saône.

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