Last week, in the Congress for the New Urbanism’s “Public Square” blog, sociologist David Brain outlined strategies for a Lean charrette, which is a work-in-progress concept designed to match up with Lean Urbanism strategies. Opportunist that I am, I welcome that as an excuse to try Part 2 of the charrette discussion I offered here.
This weekend in Miami, the Congress for the New Urbanism is staging one of the periodic Councils it uses to focus perspectives and best practices on topics of growing concern to CNU members and fellow travelers. This one is all about building “a Better Burb.”
The idea, says CNU CEO Lynn Richards, is “to leverage the momentum from the revival of the city.”
Local and regional governments in outlying areas, says Richards, are beginning to recognize the advantages of reversing sprawl — and the risks of not acting. “And they’re asking for tools and strategies to start or accelerate their suburban transformation. That’s what we’ll be focusing on this weekend.”
Not so long ago I was reminded of a book my Mom used to read me as a child: “Fortunately,” by Remy Charlip (briefly renamed “What Good Luck! What Bad Luck!” for a few years as well). It tells the tale of a young boy invited to a party and the series of misfortunes he experiences on his way there.
Planning wonks might have felt all warm inside when they noticed zoning topics wedging their way into broader conversations about community affordability and equity. Bring it on. Finally.
Let’s talk about dollars spent. Millions of dollars. 7.2 million dollars specifically, of which 5.5 million came directly from the local economy. The goal? At least according to local leadership, it was to increase quality of life via improved walkability.
First, a caveat: This isn’t going to be one of those pieces denouncing government spending as inherently bad. But neither will it be one that suggests all is well when spending gets characterized as an investment rather than a mere expenditure.
First, let’s review:
Of all the sub-topics in urban planning and design, the ones likely to generate the most anxiety are those where land use planning intersects with economic development. Old-school economic developers signal their nervousness pretty quickly when they sense planning strategies are heading in directions that might keep them from promising infrastructure goodies or regulatory exemptions to firms they’re wooing.
No parking in front or drive-through capacities? Zoning that pulls buildings up to the street? Well, there goes business investment in our community. And you know what that means: Fewer JOBS for our people.
While on my way to a dental appointment last week — not my favorite activity, truth be told — I had the distinct pleasure of walking through Georgetown, Washington’s oldest neighborhood and one of its most lovely. As I ambled through the historic, tree-lined streets, I was reminded of how our older neighborhoods so often embody the characteristics that we now ascribe to “smart growth.”
In particular, Georgetown has a walkable urban density; well-connected streets and sidewalks that make it notably pedestrian-friendly; a central, convenient location just a mile or so from the heart of downtown; good transit service; many shops, restaurants and civic amenities mixed in with, or a ridiculously easy walk from, the neighborhood’s homes.
Maybe it’s a brief glimpse, inspired by Pope Francis’s visit, of a collective will to be better humans. Or maybe it’s just the math. But I’m feeling more hopeful about future traction for arguments — and for action — for more meaningfully connected, livable communities.
We are excited to see the high level of understanding in the Surgeon General’s Step It Up call to action last week, to promote walking and walkable communities. The Surgeon General noted, “Improving walkability means that communities are created or enhanced to make it safe and easy to walk and that pedestrian activity is encouraged for all people. The purpose of the Call to Action is to increase walking across the United States by calling for improved access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll and by creating a culture that supports these activities for people of all ages and abilities.”