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News & Notes

Christmas Tree & Ice Rink

Campus Martius in Detroit – Photo (cc) Per Verdonk

→ The New York Times: Small-Scale Developers, Big Dreams

These activist microdevelopers are different from the slumlords and absentee owners who buy properties in bulk, rent them to vulnerable communities and spend nothing on refurbishment or services, compounding Buffalo’s woes.

Recently, Mr. Abell, who grew up in Buffalo but left after high school, recalled what brought him home a few years ago and has kept him enthralled. “What’s drawn me in deeper,” he said, “is the D.I.Y., roll-up-your-sleeves community-building ethos that has taken over the entire city. Everyone has three charities they’re working on. I’ve never seen a group of people who give more of themselves.”


→ Project for Public Spaces: Detroiters Work: The Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Regeneration of a Great American City

Detroiters aren’t taking their city’s decline lying down—and a determinedly “can-do” attitude is driving everyone from individual activists to the community development groups, private investors, and philanthropic organizations that are reshaping the city. “Detroit is the type of city where you have to jump in and roll up your sleeves and do work,” says Community Development Advocates of Detroit Director Sarida Scott-Montgomery, a lifelong resident who will proudly tell you that she and her family chose to stay. “This is not an ‘easy’ city. But that, to me, has almost become an inherent part of being a Detroiter. Detroiters work. We are resilient.”


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City Plan Commission Meeting – November 20, 2012

Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from October 16th 2012 meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

Minor Subdivision

View Brown Streets in a larger map

1. Case No. 12-047MI – Preliminary Plan Approval for creation of new lots from the abandoned portions of Brown and Benevolent Street The applicant, Brown University, received approval for abandonment of the portion of Benevolent Street between Brown Street and Magee Street and abandonment of Brown Street between Charlesfield and George Streets. The applicant is requesting that new lots be created for both abandonment areas – for action (College Hill)

2. Case No. 12–048MI – Preliminary Plan Approval for creation of new lot from the abandoned portion of Olive Street The applicant, Brown University, received approval for abandonment of the portion of Olive Street between Brown and Thayer Street. The applicant is requesting that a new lot be created for the abandonment area – for action (College Hill)

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News & Notes

→ UrbanTimes: 10 Ways to Improve Your City through Public Space

Public spaces are increasingly being recognized as a crucial ingredient for successful cities, and for their ability to revitalize and create economic and social development opportunities. But actually finding ways to build and maintain healthy public space remains elusive to many municipal governments, especially in the developing world. The vast web of streets, parks, plazas, and courtyards that define the public realm is often lacking, too poorly planned, or without adequate citizen participation in the design process.

Recognizing these challenges, the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released earlier this month a draft of their handbook Placemaking and the Future of Cities. It’s intended to serve as a best practices guide for those wishing to improve the economic, environmental and social health of their communities through the power of successful public space.


→ VolumeOne: Successful Riverfront 101

Must-Have Items For A Great Waterfront Destination By Project For Public Spaces


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Video

Video: “The Porch” at 30th Street Station Welcomes You to Philadelphia

For nine months now, Philadelphia’s awesome new public space “The Porch” has been flying under the nation’s livable streets radar.

Installed next to 30th Street Station as part of a larger PennDOT undertaking, the project reclaimed asphalt from cars and devoted it to people. The Porch provides a great place to meet up, and it shows what American cities can achieve at major transit hubs when they strive to create great public spaces.

The planners of The Porch looked to New York City’s Times Square for inspiration, and there might be something for NYC to learn in return as the city considers transforming parts of Vanderbilt Avenue outside Grand Central Terminal into pedestrian spaces.

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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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If we’re going to redesign Providence Station, let’s do it right

Providence Station

Recently, RIDOT received $3 million dollars in Federal high speed rail funds for renovations at Providence Station. Among the items that money is set to be spent on is renovations and repairs to the exterior of the station.

We’ve received plans for those renovations and were less than thrilled.

Providence Station

Click image to enlarge

Providence Station is 26-years-old. Lack of routine maintenance aside, when buildings are approaching their 30th birthday, it often is time for renovations, and those renovations offer a chance to reassess the building, to make changes to bring it into line with conditions that weren’t present when the building was constructed.

In 1986, when Providence Station opened, rail travel was on the wane. Gas cost 93¢ per gallon, the MBTA did not serve Providence, there was no Amtrak Acela service, Capital Center was still on the drawing board, and no one was talking about streetcars in Providence. Basically it was built because cities are supposed to have train stations.

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News & Notes

500 days of summer park bench

Photo (cc) jaywei80

→ The Atlantic Cities: In Defense of Loitering

Not long after American inner cities started to empty of street life in the 1960s and 70s, government officials went for the benches. Benches encourage people to sit still. And sitting still is a quasi-crime in urban America commonly known as “loitering.” You may recognize its related anti-social behaviors: standing still, milling about and strolling a little too slowly.

It’s hard to remember how we got here, to criminalizing a leisurely pursuit that’s embraced on most European streets. But the cycle went something like this: Residents moved out of cities and stopped using their public spaces and streets. The only people still walking them were deemed riffraff: the homeless, jobless and, officials feared, gang members and prostitutes.


→ San Francisco Chronicle: Privately owned public spaces: Guidance needed

The Roof Terrace at One Kearny shows why we’re lucky that San Francisco requires downtown developers to provide space in their projects that is accessible to the public at large.

It also is a case study in why the generation-old guidelines must be improved.

Privately managed “public” spaces are one of the things being discussed for 195 land development. The spaces would offset the large footprints of lab buildings, and provide open space that the City would not have to pay to maintain. However, there are obviously lots of questions of accessiblity to answer.


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News & Notes

→ The Transport Politic: Time to Fight – With a House like this, what advances can American transportation policy make?

Actions by members of the U.S. House over the past week suggest that Republican opposition to the funding of alternative transportation has developed into an all-out ideological battle. Though their efforts are unlikely to advance much past the doors of their chamber, the policy recklessness they have displayed speaks truly poorly of the future of the nation’s mobility systems.


→ The New York Times: How About Gardening or Golfing at the Mall?

Malls, over the last 50 years, have gone from the community center in some cities to a relic of the way people once wanted to shop. While malls have faced problems in the past, the Internet is now pulling even more sales away from them. And as retailers crawl out of the worst recession since the advent of malls, many are realizing they are overbuilt and are closing locations at a fast clip


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News & Notes

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

News & Notes→ Brian Williams Doesn’t Get How Streets Work. Will His Four Million Viewers? [Streetsblog]

Here’s the profile of New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan that aired on “Rock Center with Brian Williams” last night. The show reaches more than four million people, which isn’t enough to win its time slot but adds up to a lot more eyeballs than the print circulation of any NYC daily paper. In all likelihood, it reached a bigger American audience than any other piece of media content about reclaiming city streets for public space and more efficient modes of transportation. So how did NBC’s Harry Smith and his producers do with the assignment?


→ Treasuring Urban Oases [The New York Times]

Writing in The New York Times last week, Christopher B. Leinberger, a professor of urban planning, took note of “a profound structural shift” in America during the last decade or so, “a reversal of what took place in the 1950s.” Back then drivable suburbs boomed while center cities decayed. Now more and more people want to settle in “a walkable urban downtown.” The most expensive housing in the country, and not just New York City, is in “high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods,” he said.

But what makes high-density neighborhoods pedestrian friendly?


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News & Notes

Traffic

Photo (cc) nicpic

News & Notes→ The True Cost of Commuting [Mr. Money Mustache]

I was talking to a couple I had just met, and the topic turned to the beauty of the neighborhood. [...] “We should really move here!”.

Then the discussion turned to the comparatively affordable housing, and the other benefits of living in my particular town. By the end of it, these people were verbally working out the details of a potential move within just a few months.

Except their plan was absurd.

Because these two full-time professional workers currently happen to live and work in “Broomfield”, a city that is about 19 miles and 40 minutes of mixed high-traffic driving away from here. They brushed off the potential commute, saying “Oh, 40 minutes, that’s not too bad.”

Yes, actually it IS too bad!

Turns out, this couple would end up spending $125,000 over 10 years for their “not so bad” 40 minute commutes. Visit the link to see the math.


→ The Importance of Comprehensive Planning in a Down Economy [Planetizen]

The slowing in the pace of development has given those planners who remain something precious: time. Especially in America’s fastest-growing places, the pace of development at the height of the housing boom often left planners with little time to engage in planning that was not focused on the here and now. As a result, in many jurisdictions important work to update archaic zoning ordinances or old comprehensive plans was left undone. Comprehensive plans in particular suffered, as fast-paced development changed the face of towns and cities in ways not anticipated by plans of an earlier age. Except in those states where comprehensive plans are binding, the first hints of irrelevance (real or perceived) are often the death knell for a comprehensive plan’s effectiveness.


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News & Notes

→ Could cities’ problems be solved by urban acupuncture? [The Guardian]

“Urban acupuncture is a surgical and selective intervention into the urban environment,” said Los Angeles architect and professor John Southern in an interview, “instead of large scale projects that involve not only thousands of acres, but investment and infrastructure that municipalities can no longer provide.”


→ Urban Green Space Key in Improving Air Quality [The City Fix]

Trees on a street in Seoul

Photo (cc) erasmusa

A new study out of the University of Kent in the UK found that a 10 percent increase in urban tree coverage in mid-size cities, like Leicester, can absorb about 12 percent of carbon emissions, contributing to cleaner air. The study is yet another addition to the argument that any sound urban planning or transit policy to improve air quality must be supplemented with green spaces.


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News & Notes

→ Five Things Every Mayor Should Know Before Starting a Bike-sharing Program [Shareable:Cities]

1) Be a bike-friendly community first.

→ Liberation Squares [UrbanOmnibus]

In the US, we tend to take public spaces and the activities they enable for granted. From the history of protests in Tompkins Square Park, to Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech on the Washington Mall, to the makeshift memorial built in Union Square after 9/11, it is deeply embedded in our psyche that civil discourse should have a stage on which to play out. While some moments of dissent occurred in contained surrounds like Rosa Parks’ bus, the majority of democracies worldwide will continue to see their hopes and pains played out in sweeping public spaces.

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