Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thirsty Thursday Links

Institutions are some of the few available "kings" still able to transform their communities almost single handedly. Here is Campbell's Soup's attempt to do so in Camden, NJ:

In 2007 the company was designated by the State of New Jersey as a sort of overseer of redevelopment in Gateway. Their goal is essentially to lure companies to Camden from the suburbs and nearby Philadelphia. To accomplish this, Campbell has announced an approximately $90 million plan for an ambitious 100-acre office park within the neighborhood. The plan calls for the acquisition of adjacent vacant land and blighted buildings for new construction as well as the renovation of older buildings the company already owns. Campbell expects to use some of the new office space, but hopes that other businesses will take the rest.

Yikes. I take back any positive hopes I might have had pre-article. I can think of at least five things wrong listed in this short paragraph already:
  1. attempt at luring other companies. We already know how well this works out.
  2. 100-acre office park - large suburban single-use office districts - always the way to revitalize cities - or just tearing down buildings to build an insular and "secure" business setting.
  3. "within the neighborhood" - sounds like instead of the neighborhood.
  4. they are building/renovating new space with no new or expanding economies (of which they are the primary driver) - to wish upon a star.
  5. the state putting an institution in charge of redevelopment - I know what I just said, but do you trust them? The only ones that I've seen positive momentum from are Universities and a few hospitals (despite being profit-oriented) recognize it is good business to have a safe and vibrant community for attracting and retention of talent, as well as customers (students/sick people).
San Jose Mercury-News confirming what we already knew: Seniors are moving to Cities and Town Centers. Imagine how many soon to be retiring baby boomers with their retirement bet all-in in their houses would be flocking towards cities and away from yardwork and generica if the housing market itself wasn't an asploded (sic) fallacy itself. While it's fun to watch the inevitable implosion of suburbia and tract housing, it has its implications on the 21st C. urban renaissance as well.

A blogging ode to John Norquist, former mayor of Milwuakee (and now CEO of the Congress of New Urbanism) for his efforts to revitalize that City. You can also read his own words on how he transformed the bureacracy he found into a streamlined bullet train with a one-way ticket to urbanity, in his book The Wealth of Cities.

Money quote from the blog:

While the downtown area serves as the crown jewel for central Milwaukee’s resurgence, there are several communities on the periphery that hold bragging rights of their own. With a swanky public market, the Historic Third Ward district continues its upward trajectory of revitalization; the Brady Street district, a former ‘60s hippie outpost, now attracts an eclectic mix of creatives, bohemians, and early retirees to its retail and housing amenities.

As for the future of downtown Milwaukee, all indicators point upward. While the city has its shortcomings — Milwaukee has the second-coldest average temperature in the nation, behind Minneapolis — it has done well by focusing on the distinct qualities it does possess.
Is there any doubt why San Diego is one of the few warm weather cities that is still a post-economalocalyptical (once again sic) mega-magnet for college grads?

Oh, and ya know what kick started Milwaukee's redevelopment? Tearing down a downtown overpass to restitch a bifurcated neighborhood.

Sandra James discusses Vancouver's Green Streets, and how they're a little different from the common perception of "green" streets where the gizmo green takes over:
James explains how Vancouver defines a green street: “For the city of Vancouver, a green street is really a street where walking and biking is prioritized ahead of cars. In 1992, we were a bit ahead of the curve — a group of landscape architects and people who were genuinely interested in the walking environment formed an Urban Landscape Taskforce and looked at designing a system of streets that went border to border, called “greenways.” These streets have sidewalks, pedestrian ramps at each corner of the sidewalk, pedestrian activated intersection controls where needed, infiltration bulges, way finding, public plantings, benches, water fountains and public art.
DC Planner Jeff Speck gives sage advise to a Massachusetts town, the highlights:
"If you are looking to transform your city, the most obvious way to turn your historic canal network into an urban network," he said, suggesting that the city try to purchase the canals from the various entities that own them and use them as a centerpiece of the downtown the way they are used on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas or in Providence, R.I.
We've talked about his bad ass house before. Oh, and Mr. Speck also lives sans auto.