Year End Reflections: Gratitude for Livable Places

As the year draws to a close, reflection is an important rite of passage: celebrating, mourning, learning, and letting go. 2017 has not been the sort of year in which gratitude is the obvious emotion of choice on many levels. Yet the act of searching for what is beneficial, transformative, and noteworthy helps process through troubling challenges. Year end is a time of accounting for profits and losses, and making sense of what went right and what didn’t. In the city and town planning realm that we discuss here, that often comes down to comparing if our words line up with our actions. Continue Reading

Places that Pay: Benefits of placemaking v2

“Reconciliation is making peace with reality, our ideals, and the gap in between,” via Her Honour, Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba. Much of our work here at PlaceMakers is about redirecting the trajectory of where we are headed with the targets needed to ensure the wellness of our environment, equity, and economy, so that stopgap measures are kept to a minimum. The studies that quantify how the form of our cities, towns, villages, and hamlets effects this wellness is essential to building the political will to make change. Listed below are the 65 key works I’m most likely to quote, to make the case for developing the city and town planning tools we need to make a difference for the resilience of people, planet and profit. Continue Reading

When Coffee Came to London (Not a Starbuck’s story)

Around 1650, coffee came to London. The refreshing and slightly habit forming beverage was a big hit. A new kind of non-alcoholic public house — the coffee house — was quickly invented.

London was a walking city, only the wealthy and businesses had personal transportation. And the weather was famously chancey. So a smart entrepreneur came up with a way of scouting locations.

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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, Here the Day After That

They may not be new but I was recently introduced to a series of comics by English artist Grayson Perry taking on the world of creative arts, particularly one entitled “Gentrification.”

The tale is familiar. Old industry fades, artists take possession of the infrastructure, ragtag commerce blossoms and, ultimately, evolves into something only fleetingly reminiscent of what it once was. Laid out by Perry, it’s biting and funny stuff that deftly pushes all the cynical buttons we’ve adopted as self-defense mechanisms against a world in a constant state of flux.

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Comp Plan for Westeros? Same issues, more swordplay

Frustrated with efforts to pull your little kingdom together for long term strategizing? It could be worse. You could be caught up in the public outreach drama in Westeros. The battles renew on Sunday night, when HBO debuts season seven of “Game of Thrones.”

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Livability, Division, Exclusion and Other Naughty Words

This is what we’ve come to: An escalation in urban property values and cost of living so extreme in some quarters that there are now those who, with a straight face, argue against efforts to improve neighborhoods. Don’t bring those improvements goes the often implied but less frequently articulated point of view, as improvement increases quality of life, quality of life increases desirability, desirability increases demand, and demand brings newcomers and drives up cost.

That’s how the process goes, for sure. You’ll get no argument from me in that regard. But surely we’re capable of something better than leave suffering areas suffering so they can stay off the radar.

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Beuvron-en-Auge: 15th century town planning stands the test of time

Every month or so, we add to our collection of lessons from livable places. These are the neighbourhoods where walking the streets and looking carefully at the urban forms provide insights into what makes for lovability over time. Today, I’d like to consider Beuvron-en-Auge, deemed one of the most beautiful villages in France by Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. In the heart of cider country, the half-timber construction and picturesque Norman streets suggest a timeless beauty that belies the recent struggle for historic preservation and restoration. Continue Reading

CNU 25 Seattle: Highlights from the silver anniversary

Last week was the 25th annual Congress for the New Urbanism, where 1,400 city planners, architects, developers, economists, and mayors from around the world gathered to discuss the future of cities. Hosted in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, comprised of an additional 6,000 developers and builders, the two events brought significant inspiration and insight to those working in the city building trenches. Here are a few of the ideas that resonated the most with me, along with some of my favourite spots in downtown Seattle, where the “unboxed” conferences were held. All images are clickable for a larger view, and have CreativeCommons ShareAlike License with Attribution to Hazel Borys. Continue Reading