Don’t Get Mixed Up on Mixed-Use

Taking a break from Geoff Dyer’s series on town centers this week with a refresher course on the simple elements of mixed-use development.

Citizens, politicians, and planning officials have embraced the need to allow for walkable neighborhoods across North America and mixed-use is an essential component for achieving walkability. However, the term mixed-use has held different meanings in different places over the past 40 years or so.

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Tools for Trickle Up Economics

Several years ago I had the fortune of collaborating with architect Teddy Cruz, artist Joyce Cutler-Shaw, and landscape architect Michael Sears on a study of San Diego’s rich history of creating Visionary Planning documents. Our documents included John Nolen’s 1907 and 1926 City Plans, Kevin Lynch and Donald Appleyard’s seminal 1974 shot-across-our-bow “Temporary Paradise?“, and Adel Santos’ 1993 “Urban Futures” plan to re-urbanize downtown’s East Village. During a work session, Michael was thinking aloud when he said, “… building towards cultural and social value always equates to economic value, while the converse is not as true.

Spot on.

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Res Civitas non-Gratis: 21st century public realm

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ‘em down for your consideration.

The rise of 21st century social technology, in combination with the loss of our 20th century economy, has contributed to the closing of many neighborhood civic buildings — libraries and post offices — and to the private development that inevitably replaces them.

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Infrastructure Deficit Disorder: The doctor is in

This past week, Chuck Marohn and Justin Burslie of Strong Towns gave their Curbside Chat in the beloved San Diego neighborhood of Hillcrest. Chuck’s visit was possible through a fun collaboration between Walt Chambers of Great Streets San Diego, Ben Nicholls, Executive Director of the Hillcrest Business Association, and myself. Forty of San Diego’s most engaged built environment professionals filled the room with a happy-hour sense of electricity in the air.

Chuck then proceeded to ground that spark.

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Eisenhower Memorial Controversy Puts Focus on Urban Design

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ‘em down for your consideration.

How do we honor our heroes?

The current dust-up over Frank Gehry’s proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial has brought the issue, and the conversation, to the forefront. Within it has been some well-articulated opposition from prominent urbanists, including this from Léon Krier, this from Dhiru Thadani and this from Christine Franck.

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(Public) Space: The final frontier

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ‘em down for your consideration.

Today I offer a quick study relating cities of the US West to Leon Krier’s decidedly European Public Space Quantity Ratio.

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Urbanists Know TED

While TED launched its City 2.0 prize last week to crowd-source tools for the next version of the city, I’ve been enjoying TED talks of several fellow urbanists who have been putting forth tools and ideas for making better places. The City 2.0 wish is stated as:

THE WISH

I am the crucible of the future.
I am where humanity will either flourish or fade.
I am being built and rebuilt every day.
I am inevitable. But I am not yet determined.
I wish to be inclusive, innovative, healthy, soulful, thriving. But my potential can only be reached through you.

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The Social Network: Community Edition

Likes. Friends. Followers. We’ve got hundreds of ‘em. Plus, LinkedIN for professionals and Google+ for, uhhhh, well, for someone and then all kinds of iPhone texting, FaceTime, email, and Skype-ing. Who has time to make a phone call anymore?

In trying to understanding and leverage the power of our wired social networks, I’ve been thinking about how our new handheld technology will reshape our built environment in the 21st century. The obvious technological advances of the past (trains/trolleys/cars) led us to connect and build the places we now live in. Are we responding correctly to the contemporary human condition with the mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods we design and code for today?

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Money, It’s a Gas: New Economy development financing

In startling alignment with James Howard Kunstler’s stark predictions, ULI’s 2012 Report, ”What’s Next: Real Estate in the New Economy,” bubbly concludes: “The real estate world is hurtling into a different place and time. Change is coming at a faster pace with more uncertain consequences. Success will take on different forms and risks will increase. Standing pat or ignoring new realities is not possible. Notably, investment will gravitate to places that welcome business and view public investments — in education, infrastructure, and innovation — as prerequisites for progress and economic sustainability.”

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