Urbanists Soak Up Buffalo: PlaceMakers empty their notebooks

The 22nd annual gathering of the CNU wrapped up Saturday night, June 7, in Buffalo. We’re looking forward to the recordings at cnu.org over the next few weeks to fill the inevitable gaps, since the competing sessions and hallway conversations presented the usual embarrassment of riches.

Rather than go for a tidy narrative, let’s just share some random observations and sound bites from the four days.

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Housing Policy Repair for a New Era: Let’s review

Since the data keep rolling in, confirming changes we should have anticipated even before the Great Recession, maybe it’s time to revisit the tasks ahead for communities if they’re to avoid flunking the tests of livability and prosperity in the 21st century.

Consider:

Though a narrow sliver of the population seems to have emerged from the recent economic unpleasantness richer than they were going in, the rest of us have to come to terms with the idea we aren’t as smart or wealthy as we thought. What’s more, we sense we aren’t likely to improve our financial situation much without help from the lottery or late life adoption by Russian oligarchs.

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People Get Ready: Here come the Millennials

Cue up Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Last week’s release by the Pew Research Center of its “Millennials in Adulthood” analysis suggests there’s a train a-coming. And its steady progress is likely to force changes in community development over the next couple decades.

Here’s what the Pew report suggests and how it lines up with some other projections of demographic impacts:

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Q&A: Eric Brooks provides the New Urban lowdown on boutique hotels

Today, we borrow a time-tested technique to add another dimension to our community development explorations: the Q&A. Moving forward, we’ll periodically bug an expert we know to shed some light on topics our clients and colleagues care about.

As David Brooks suggested in a recent snarky opinion piece, boutique hotels are all the rage. Just about every downtown development group wants one to complete a perfect neighborhood. So we turn to Eric Brooks, a long-time pro in hotel development, to help us understand the niche. (Eric’s bio is at the bottom of the blog post, along with his contact info.)

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Reaching the Limits of Passionate Defense: Time to turn back

When House Speaker John Boehner, indulging his inner Howard Beale, launched a Republican counterattack against the party’s far right wing, it seemed to me the GOP was finally rubbing up against the same rough edges of reality that have become apparent in big-time sports. And the lessons apply as much to civic life in towns and regions as to Washington politics.

Here’s what the life lab of sports tells us: Stressing defensive disruption over offensive accountability is a losing proposition.

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One Chart to Explain Everything: You’re welcome

Welcome to what we all need: A single chart that explains everything. Okay, maybe not everything. But a lot of stuff, especially stuff related to making rules for growing businesses and communities.

It’s simple. And here’s what it illustrates: When you’re shaping rules to live by, the more you optimize flexibility, the more you sacrifice predictability. The higher you prioritize predictability, the lower your chances for flexibility.

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Here Comes Chaos: David Lynch sketches the landscape

If I’d been paying better attention (which is how I start a lot of sentences these days), I could have begun my reeducation in the ways things work in 1986. That’s when film director David Lynch gave us Blue Velvet.

Back then, the way Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini embraced Lynch’s sex and violence mash-ups distracted me from much in the way of Big Idea exploration. But, like a lot of others, even though I couldn’t explain the effect they had on me, I never forgot the film’s opening two minutes.

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