Richard Florida from CNU20

I thought I would share this interesting excerpt from a Better Cities & Towns! article recapping a talk by Richard Florida from his plenery talk at CNU20 in West Palm Beach:

The urban/suburban debate is likewise false, he said. “Great communities and great neighborhoods pretty much look the same,” he said. They are human-scale, include a mix of uses, and are close to transit. “These are the kind of things that people desire, and it is not just in the urban core that you find them,” he said.

This about sums it up to me.  I am a die hard new urbanist and I live in a suburban city which may sound like a paradox.  However, what most people don't realize is that New urbanism isn't about skyscrapers and Manhattan like density.  It's about creating places where people actually want to be.  

Check out the whole talk below.

Thought of the Week: On Car Ownership

The smarter companies are jumping feet-first into this brave new world where people don’t measure their worth by the amount of chrome they haul around. By 2026, a recent survey of global auto execs estimates that a quarter or more of urban inhabitants in some parts of the world will spurn personal cars in favor of “mobility services” such as car sharing. “The world is moving from car ownership to car usership,” the study says.

When I look at how much I pay each month for my car, I really start to wonder if this type of arrangement wouldn't be that bad.  Unfortunately, car sharing in the burbs would be a bit difficult and MARTA service keeps getting cut further.  

Check out the full article on Grist.


Thought of the Week: On Groveway Form Based Code

If the City is striving for Urban Ecology, then it should strive to create a human scaled streetscape and sense of place.  You can still be progressive without sacrificing the small town village vibe.  Call it nostalgia with an edge.  Great design cannot be distilled to a bucketful of rules and numbers only.  The City needs to think in terms of the contextual cohesiveness of Charleston or Annapolis, not Atlantic Station.  Well illustrated and designed guidelines as well as incentives to control utilities will assist the city of Roswell, stakeholders, and developers achieve a specific district or neighborhood feel that reflects the very wonderful essence of Roswell.

Couldn't have said it better myself.  This was excerpted from an independent Review of the Groveway code that has been presented to the City Council by Community Concepts of Marietta, Studio 4 Design of Knoxville and Chapman, Coyle, Chapman of Marietta.  They do feel that this is a good first step. The problems they outline are mostly of a design nature and the document not being detailed enough.  The document is 24 pages with several illustrations and images.  I believe, at this point, that the council will send the code back tomorrow night for some additional tinkering.

Quote of the Week: Strong Towns on Hidden Costs

When I bought my computer, it came with a printer costing me no more than $20. At the time I thought “Sweet, free printer!” But since using the printer, I’ve had to frequently purchase ink costing $60 a pop. Over the life-cycle of the printer, I’ve realized I’ve spent more in the printer and ink combined than had I purchased a laser printer costing $250. The upfront costs of a more expensive printer are significant, as is the toner, but I would end up paying less than the subsidized printer in the long run. In other words, I was seduced by the free machine that ended up costing me a lot of money.

Here is the connection to Strong Towns. Federal and State subsidized projects are like the $20 printer. Initially communities think “Sweet, free bridge.” But, once you figure the cost of keeping the bridge in working order, it turns out to be a major expense for communities. This is an expense that if a community couldn’t fund the bridge to begin with, likely wouldn’t have the wherewithal to maintain.

Solution: Purchase the bridge (printer) at full cost, without a subsidy. If you can do that, then you can likely afford the cost of maintenance (ink).

This is another great metaphor that the Strong Towns organization has passed along.  It reminds me of the Johns Creek roads dilemma that the AJC recently wrote about here.

Quote of the Week: Mixed-Use Logic


Cities haven't always been organized this way. In fact, for most of history, they mixed homes with factories, businesses and shops...  The term mixed-use is a product of the fact that for the past 50 years we've experimented with forbidding mixed-use...  Pioneering mixed-use in a completely car oriented environment is not a particularly wise move. Where it makes sense is where you already have significant foot traffic or critical mass - in downtowns or older suburban settings.

Rick Cole, Ventura, CA City Manager (link)

I love the fact that we as a society have to come up with terms to define things that historically are very normal.  Mixed-Use is now viewed as some sort of building pattern that is experimental but in reality it's hte primary building type that humans did for a few thousand years.  Another term that comes to mind is organic.  What is organic compared to?  Conventional. Conventional produce is grown with lots of man-made chemicals and fertizers while organic is grown the way humans have grown for 8,000+ years.  Hmmm....

Quote of the Week: Donovan on Ghost Towns

The ghost towns of the housing bust are places that lack transportation options, that aren't walkable. The average family spends 52 cents of every dollar they earn on housing and transportation combined, so the biggest opportunity in development is around transportation.  - Shawn Donovan, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

This is a telling quote taken from this recent Business Week article.  Just from an informal survey of my peers, people are looking for places where they can walk, bike or take transit but unfortunately not as many of those exist as the demand would like.  That makes the real estate in these locations a bit more expensive than others.   

Quote of the Week: Leinberger on the Exurbs

Many drivable-fringe house prices are now below replacement value, meaning the land under the house has no value and the sticks and bricks are worth less than they would cost to replace. This means there is no financial incentive to maintain the house; the next dollar invested will not be recouped upon resale. Many of these houses will be converted to rentals, which are rarely as well maintained as owner-occupied housing. Add the fact that the houses were built with cheap materials and methods to begin with, and you see why many fringe suburbs are turning into slums, with abandoned housing and rising crime. - Chris Leinberger

Anyone want to buy in a subdivision in Cherokee or Forsyth?

Read on... 

Quote of the Week: Speck on Urbanism

Urbanism is not an invention. It developed naturally over time in response to human needs. - Jeff Speck, Smart Growth Manual

There is a misconception that the New Urbanism is an invention or an architectural/planning idea that was invented from the minds of <Insert one: communists, socialists, planners>.  Actually, it's essentially a collection of evolved knowledge that was thrown away following WWII in favor of the drivable suburban experiment.  The new urbanists more than anything else can be thanked for digging that knowledge out of the trash can of history and putting it back in our toolbox.

ht: Todd Bonnett

Quote of the Week: Parking

Since I've been thinking about Parking lately, I thought this one would be good...

As more land is used for parking, less land is left for the things that really make a city great: a place to live, work, shop and socialize. Our data supports this concept. ...

The best use of the city’s land is making great places that attract people. The role of transportation policy should be to provide access to these places in the fairest, most efficient ways.

Christopher McCahill from Too Much Parking, Too Few Residents at New Urban Network

The article covers analysis of New Haven, CT and has an interesting image of New Haven's parking space in 1951 and the same area in 2008.  It looks like cancer.

Quote of the Week: Walkability

Walkability is a magnet that attracts and retains highly educated and skilled people and the innovative businesses that employ them. Much more than a faddish amenity, walkability is an ecological imperative, and to an increasing extent, as fuel and time costs continue to climb, a financial one as well.

All of this is leading to something of a convergence across America’s best neighborhoods, a morphing of what we used to think of as suburban versus city life. More and more of our most desirable suburban communities look more like cities, with bustling town centers alive with pedestrian life, while our best city neighborhoods have taken on many of the characteristics we used to see as the province of suburbs: good schools, green spaces, safe streets, and family life.

Richard Florida, excerpted from The Atlantic Cities