Fortunately, Unfortunately: A children’s primer on urban evolution

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.

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Filling in the ‘Missing Middle’: No new wheels, please

For lots of reasons, including the ones PlaceMakers’ Scott Doyon explains here, Seaside, on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast, makes a great place to talk about the appeal of small-scale dwellings in small-lot neighborhoods. Certainly, hanging out in a place where the real estate market has bid up the price for small wooden houses without lawns or garages to six and seven figures makes it harder to argue that nobody will pay for the privilege.

Location, then, partially explains why some 30 prospective developers — and Bandit, the dog — arrived over the weekend to drill down on how-to topics related to just such places.

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Traditional vs. Modern: More than just a pretty face

New Urbanism, by definition, is style neutral. Its focus is getting the form — the urbanism — right but then letting the architecture be what it may.

That’s not to suggest, of course, that many New Urbanists don’t have very strong feelings one way or the other. Many do. Particularly as it relates to traditional vs. modern.

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Thinking a Little Bigger About the Tiny House Thing

I’ve never been much of a fan of the Tiny House movement, which seemed to me to be a solution in search of a problem. Squeezing marginally comfortable living space into something you can haul around with a truck didn’t seem to be much of a design challenge. After all, there’s a whole industry that’s been addressing that demand for generations. You know, RVs.

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Walkable Winter Cities

Coming in from my slow run on this morning’s packed snow, I am grateful again for my old, walkable neighbourhood that tempts me out of doors, even in the cold weather. And that’s saying a lot, since I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, one of the three coldest cities on earth of a population of 600,000 or higher.

Walkability mitigates the most extreme climates by providing interesting places to warm up, linger, and connect. And plenty of options about how and where to turn around and circle back.

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Planning and Design: North Pole Edition

Left-Overs-XmasIt’s that time of year again, when we take a little holiday break by rerunning a seasonal staple. Until we cross paths again in the new year, best wishes to you for a warm and happy holiday season.

In the realm of supply chains and distribution logistics, Santa’s the guy. Even FedEx and UPS, the recognized leaders in the field, fail to measure up against the benchmarks he maintains, year after year, without fail.

So you’d presumably be safe in assuming that the planning and design of his village at the North Pole would reflect a similar insistence on best practices. That it would be a model worthy of emulation — not just in terms of efficiency and productivity, but in terms of the emotional, economic and spiritual fulfillment necessary to maintain a happy and motivated workforce.

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Fix Housing Supply, Save the City: Is it really that easy?

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.

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Walkability: Good money after bad

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.

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Rain: A great judge of neighbourhood character

Heading to the Wilmington, North Carolina region this week, I’m excited about seeing a city that’s one of my favourite running buddies. Last week, I was enjoying a run in Winnipeg as well, when someone pointed out, “But it’s raining.” I had barely noticed since this satisfyingly walkable neighbourhood dares people to live outdoors.

Facebook handily reminded me that this time last year, I was in Venice, where it was resolutely rainy. Perhaps Venice is not the best comparison for “mere mortal” cities, as the idyllic urbanism tends to romanticize the rain. The weather certainly didn’t stop the millions of tourists who had come just to walk the streets.

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