New Urbanism News 8/1/10

USA Today view on gas tax: Price holds key to ending nation’s addiction to oil http://bit.ly/91s26N

Environmentalists, Transportation Reformers Brace for Scaled-Back Energy Bill http://bit.ly/a9ZQFE

Los Angeles leading the charge on public transit? Leveraging federal $ w/ local $ http://bit.ly/cORB4D

Land use and real estate bubbles http://bit.ly/cNmhyH

Congress’ failure to enact climate legislation makes transportation reform more important than ever http://bit.ly/9Mk1gp

Taking mass transit as a workout http://bit.ly/bjrSvE

Funding transit – recommendations for US policy  http://bit.ly/bfTzlC

Who needs a car in LA?  http://bit.ly/aY58W3

Apt rentals surge in US on foreclosures & jobs http://bit.ly/aa4NeN

Locating homeless housing difficult http://bit.ly/aKXzce

Poorest 1/5th spends 31% of income on transit, versus 21% for second-poorest 1/5; 10% for richest 1/5th.

Target will open a store in downtown Seattle  http://cot.ag/bvGKrx

Los Angeles Pushing To Become Nation’s Mass Transit Leader http://bit.ly/aXZoK8

Beyond Cars: A Global Perspective on Rail & Public Space http://cli.gs/dyypmR

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5 Simple Steps to Make Dallas More Livable

Downtown Dallas has incredible momentum [Click on Pictures for a Larger Image]:

* Largest urban arts district in the US (68 acres, 19 blocks)

* The Spire Project adjacent to the Arts District

* Museum Tower in the Arts District

* Calatrava bridge

* Woodall Rodgers deck park under construction

* 1,000 room convention center hotel under construction

* 130 million First Baptist Church redevelopment underway

* Main Street Park opened this year

* Continental pedestrian bridge is being planned

* Dallas Museum of Natural History under construction.

I could go on and on ….. Dallas has always been a place for iconic projects.  Big is just big in Big D. And all of these efforts have helped renew a focus on what a great place Dallas is — but more importantly has engendered visions of an even-greater place Downtown Dallas can be.

Our challenge now is not in making more “statements” at the multi-million dollar level, but focusing on the little things that can make Dallas more livable and therefore more vibrant.  24/7/365 vibrancy does not arise from the suburban trek to major arts or sporting events in the city, or from visitors to conventions. What we need are more livable or complete streets, that make downtown the kind of outdoor place you want to enjoy whether walking from one office building to another, jogging or riding a bike, sitting outside to eat or read, coming downtown to eat, shop and walk around, etc.

In a word, Downtown Dallas streets need to be more inviting — less about awe-inspiring buildings and moving cars, and more about being great places to interact with people.  Here is a list of small changes Dallas should consider:

– Reduce Street Size & Speed: In the urban core (all of the streets between Ross and Commerce and between Pearl and Griffin), reduce the number of car lanes from 4 to 2 and reduce the speed limit to 15 miles per hour (one big “school zone” for downtown workers & residents).  In the 2 lanes outside lanes, allow parallel parking between large islands — put landscaping and benches or tables in the islands.

– Recreate Sidewalks: Remove all of the concrete sidewalks and make them brick.  Create a visible separation between places for cars and places for people.

– More Trees: Plant 1,000 more trees in downtown. In the hotter months in particular, pedestrians are forced to “chase shade” to walk 2 or 3 blocks.  This would also soften the hard surfaces of buildings and roads with a green canopy and create more of a boulevard effect view down the streets.

– Connecting the Arts District: The arts district buildings lack connectedness.  The arts patrons should hire a landscape architect / land planner to take this area beyond a collection of buildings and more of destination where people want to hang out and enjoy the arts in all its forms.  An outdoor performance/exhibition area with events both during the week (“Friday Lunch with the Arts”) and on Saturdays would help make this area (and the adjoining deck park once it is completed) the “Central Park” of Dallas.

Free Wireless Internet: Starbucks & McDonalds are now doing it.  Why not make Downtown Dallas one big “hotspot” (in more ways than one)?

The idea is simple – activate and enliven each block, while softening the street and creating a sense of place for people and not just a place for structures (buildings) and function (moving cars efficiently).  A small expense and effort could make a huge difference in the look and fell of downtown, enhancing downtown residential living, and creating a desirable business, recreational, restaurant and entertainment destination.

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Large Downtown Dallas Mixed Use Project

Spire Realty is working on an exciting new development in Downtown Dallas, to be built on almost 12 acres bounded by Ross, North Central Expressway and Leonard Street.

“We are going to try and be an extension of the Arts District and provide a new neighborhood,” said Spire senior vice president Jon Ruff.

The real estate firm has decided to start marketing a five-building mixed-use development on the property. The complex will be called the Spire.

You can download the development plans here.

Dallas Morning News Story // Globe Street Story

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New Urbanism News 7/19/10

The Fourth Place — For those who choose to downsize their homes (for economic, environmental or “new urbanism” reasons), places like Starbucks, now with free internet service, become an extension of home and work (and besides, the coffee is real good).  “For many in the growing legions of the self-employed, the neighborhood café is the closest thing they have to a formal place of business. People who have regular jobs work remotely at least some of the time as well. Tens of millions more could and almost certainly will forsake their offices at least some of the time in the not distant future. It’s ironic but true: It’s hard to get any real work done in an office. And working at home can get awfully lonely.”

Mixed-Use Wal-Mart — Washington DC is going to get the nation’s first mixed-use Wal-Mart.  Actually using that huge parking lot for night-time use, and using the “air space” above the store for residences?  New urbanism is really coming of age!

Houses/Condos Shrink — the new small in condos may be 500 square feet, and houses are right-sizing too.  Now if we could just right size our waistlines.  But then — if you take transit, you actually shed pounds.

NIMBYism is Killing Chance for Better Cities — but while we try to make these important and necessary changes, the persistent attitudes toward not rocking the status quo, building homogenous real estate and — let it not be so — density (even high end condos and townhomes, much less rental apartments — are threatening to $400,000 and up single family homes), make building more sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented, better-sense-of-place communities very difficult.  Layer on top of this the changes wrought by the current economy, which will (in many cases for the better) move more young singles and families of all characters to affordable housing alternatives and over time there will be brewing local battles on the zoning front.  All sustainability is local — as is NIMBYism.

Century of the City — as dubbed by the United Nations, will also be the century of  rail and other forms of mass transit. Over 1/2 of the world’s population now live in cities, and we simply can’t move that many people around in cars.

Innovation to Make the Housing-Transportation Connection Work — this is true in the US.  As we re-densify in the urban core, gas prices rise, pollution/global warming intensifies, we arise from the global recession, real estate and transportation intersect and create fertile grounds for innovation.

Driving & The Built Environment — A recent Transportation Research Board study indicates that one way to address all of these concerns is to drive less because we live in more compact development.

Creating More Walkable Cities — a great Washington Post piece indicates the changes needed to facilitate a better walking environment.

Changing the Built Environment Won’t Be Easy — With our vast investment over decades in roads, reversing the pattern of development will be difficult, as we will need “to re-engineer the physical form of the nation in an economy drained of public funds, private credit, and, soon, cheap fossil fuel.”

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The Perfect Platform for Affordable Housing

My article in UNITS Magazine on mixed-income mixed use transit-oriented development.

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Historic Preservation & Affordable Housing

Does New York City’s vast historic preservation campaign (for even unremarkable old buildings) result in the city being only affordable to higher income residents?

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The Impact on Society as Gas Prices Rise

Read the article for the full impact, but a synopsis:

$6/gallon – demise of the SUV and rise of living closer to where you work

$8/gallon – airlines die, high speed rail?

$10/gallon – electric cars

$12/gallon – cities rebound, manufacturing returns to US

Interesting — would we actually be better off with higher gas prices?

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