New Urbanism News 7-3-10

Talk about sustainable options to one business owner you might not have this week. Get their feedback. It could be your local grocer or your mechanic. Talk to someone who you might not think would traditionally “get it.” I bet you’d be surprised how ready people are for sustainable options. [From – Build2Sustain]

Richard Florida Videos:  The Metabolism of Cities; The Failure of Materialism; What Will the World Look Like in 2050; Unleashing the Creative Economic Revolution.  And his views on Resetting a Creative Economy.

Energy, Transportation and Land Use Patterns: Vehicle efficiency is just one piece of the puzzle that leads to an efficient transportation system, as better transportation hubs leads to building density and less miles traveled.

Changing the World One Block at a Time: The neighborhood is the basic building block of human society, and successful efforts to make the world a better place often start right there. When you get together with the neighbors to solve a problem or seize an opportunity, almost anything is possible.

Giving to the Street:  Our streets are our most important public spaces, and creating better streetscapes encourages walking.

Requiem for the Suburbs: Indicators of the cultural shift from suburb to city: share of residential construction in central cities more than doubled; ULI/Price Waterhouse warn not to invest in real estate in exurbs with long commutes; homes in denser walkable communities command a premium (see also Walkability Generates Real Value); new construction of apartments leads real estate development; easy development in the suburbs during go-go years (2000-2005 is most troubled, etc.  Suburban sprawl may have lost its sizzle even in Houston!!!

Terms, Mindset Must Change to Encourage More Walking in Cities: The term “transit-oriented development” (TOD) paints an incomplete picture of state-of-the-art planning and urban design. The terminology should change, along with our mind-set. We should talk about and advocate multi-modal-transportation-oriented development. How can we encourage and enable more walking? What will motivate people to change long-standing perceptions and deeply engrained behavior? We must plan and develop — or redevelop — metropolitan environments so walking becomes safe, comfortable, enjoyable and stimulating.

Making Streets Slim Down: is good for pedestrians, businesses and, even, traffic. Part of the problem may be the planning process — traffic professionals want to move traffic efficiently based on standardized codes, which may kill neighborhoods and the street as a place for people, not just cars.

TOD Enhances Bottom Line: Apartment seekers willing to spend more to be near light rail.

New Urbanism, Sustainability, Placemaking Not Enough: we may also need the economy to take a new form.

Wake-Up Time for the American Homeownership Dream: Sheila Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on homeownership — “Sustainable homeownership is a worthy national goal. But it should not be pursued to excess when there are other, equally worthy solutions that help meet the needs of people for whom homeownership may not be the right answer.”  As the linked article points out — why have as a culture invested so much political and psychological capital in the idea of owning a home.

Anti-Urban Bias: and this ties into another story on why we seem to have an anti-urban bias, in a painful policy trifecta: subsidization of highways, subsidization of homeownership, and a school system that creates strong incentives for many parents to leave city borders.

CNT Study on Housing + Transporation Affordability:  Aptly named Penny Wise & Pound Foolish.

Designing Street Intersections:  Fellow Dallasite and ultimate urbanist Patrick Kennedy writes incredible thought provoking (but sometimes tough) pieces on urban design at Walkable DFW.  In this bit, he points out that development always goes hand in hand with transportation design. Bad transportation design, in this case car-oriented concrete deserts (arterials) begets bad development. With the shift from car-only transportation, to one that allows and designs for choice, arterials have the opportunity to be redesigned as multi-modal corridors that attract people rather than repel them.

Riders Who Take Mass Transit Lose Weight, Live Longer: Using light rail regularly can actually make you lighter. Not the sitting and riding from home to work and back again, but all the walking in between. A year after a light rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina, began running, commuters who took light rail to work regularly were 6.45 pounds lighter than the folks who drove, researchers found.  And riding mass transit may make you live longer!!

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About Bob Voelker

Head of the Munsch Hardt (Dallas law firm) Hospitality & Mixed Use Development Group, and former developer of affordable housing. I'm i
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