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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Meet Your ‘Makers: Where we’ll be at CNU 21 Salt Lake City

It’s that time of year again, fellow urbanists. The Congress for the New Urbanism, perhaps the country’s most comprehensive gathering of city planners, city builders and city lovers. This year, the 21st, is themed Living Community which, according to organizers, “balances the demands of physical, social, economic, and environmental values by connecting people to place. It awakens a stewardship for our land and each other. It is measured by how well we care for the people around us, the places we make, and the land that hosts us.”

As always, you’ll find us there. And to keep it easy, we’ve compiled this handy compendium of everything we’re up to. Come find us, and let’s get into something.

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Happy New Year

Another year down, another one rarin’ to go; another batch of worthy accomplishments matched in force by tasks yet undone. Today your friends at PlaceShakers take a moment to catch our breath, consider the miles left behind, and map out some plans for the road ahead. Join us Thursday, when we’ll lay out our Placemaking Wishes for 2013.

Until then, the very best to you and the places you call home.

200,000: What’s in a number?

Last October, I wrote a piece commemorating a PlaceShakers milestone — 100,000 reads — which took us 32 months to amass. Today, I write to mark our next one: 200,000. This time, it took less than 8 months.

Clearly something is up.

If reads are increasing, that means interest is increasing. If interest is increasing, then I want to know why. Specifically, exactly what are people interested in?

The answer’s in the traffic stats. And what you find there is not all that surprising.

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100,000: What’s in a number?

Sometime today or over the next few, Placeshakers and Newsmakers will cross a notable (for us) threshold: 100,000 reads. Not that 100,000 is altogether different from 90,000 or 80,000 but it does make for a nice round opportunity to reflect on what we’ve been doing here and how its evolution has surprised us.

As many readers know, Placeshakers is the online soapbox of PlaceMakers, a town planning and community development firm. By our own admission, a company blog is nothing particularly special — in fact, they’re often painfully tiresome — and that’s why we’ve taken great care to avoid the sin of talking all about ourselves and, instead, talk about what really matters: the big picture issues and ground-level challenges facing those who care as much about shaping community as we do.

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An App for That (And that and that…)

One of the greatest selling points of the SmartCode, the DPZ-created version of a form-based unified development ordinance, has always been its customize-ability. First of all, it’s Transect-based, which immediately separates it from conventional codes that stamp out the same rules for development everywhere in the landscape. And since DPZ made it a free, open-source code, practitioners from everywhere can correct, refine, and amend it as conditions demand.

The latest, still-evolving version of the SmartCode, v10, takes flexibility to a new level with add-on modules that address everything from storm-water management to sprawl repair to aging in place. Comparisons to Apple’s iPhone applications strategy are inevitable. In fact, Arizona State grad student Dan Bartman (email: dbartman(at)asu.edu) is already doing SmartCode explainers in PowerPoint using an iPhone face and modules as app icons.

Andres Duany, founding principal of DPZ and author of the SmartCode calls the latest version “the single biggest change since the beginning.” Here’s how he explains it:

SmartCode v10 is still a work in progress, directed by the non-profit Center for Applied Transect Studies. Sandy Sorlien, CATS’ director of technical research, says v10 will be ready for its debut at the SmartCode Intensive workshop on Wednesday, May 19, the opening day of the annual conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

You can find out more about the modules for v10 here. And read all about the 18th annual CNU Congress here and in our previous blogs here and here.

– Ben Brown