Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thirsty Thursday Linkages

Lee Corso says the weekly article linkages "shot their wad," on Monday, so it's a little sparse around here today.

First, economists are finally getting around to reading some Jane Jacobs and discover, gasp!, that she had a more intuitive sense for economies that work than their neo-classical, world without limits, training instilled in them:
"Jacobs pointed out that to boost an area's economy, the normal plan is to bring in a branch of some big business. But then you have an industry without roots. They're not using local accountants and local printers," says Susan Witt, executive director of the E.F. Schumacher Society in Great Barrington, Mass., which, since its inception in 1980, maintained a close working relationship with Jane Jacobs. "It's through those roots that you get the economic multiplier effect of small businesses. And a branch or factory based elsewhere can leave as easily as it arrived."
I do believe that I've mentioned similar things around these here parts. What they need to understand, is that Cities, once established for safety, then continued to grow and agglomerate because they are the ultimate construct of wealth creation, via trade of ideas, goods, yadda yadda...Point being, ignoring the term organic city, that gets thrown around too often, that fully mature neighborhoods are like a turbo-charged race car engine for economies. The world built since the advent of the car is nothing but barriers to trade and commerce by way of distance, cost of excess infrastructure, lack of connections, exertion/cost of energy traversing said distances b/w connections, etc.
A list of the safest cities in the country and clearly safety prefers hot cocoa on chilly days. (spoiler: 1. Minneapolis 2. Milwaukee 3. Portland 4. Boston 4(tie) Seattle)
Stackable housing. Remiscent of ideas spitballed for the disasterous Re:Vision Dallas Competition, if you squeeze your brain really, really hard.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

See, I'm Not the Only One

This article is a bit old, but I just came across it. From Wick Allison at FrontBurner on the failings of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel:
Make a site unfriendly to humans, and no humans will come. If you have to start big, as a convention hotel necessarily has to do, make sure the smaller, more intimate, more human-friendly buildings are there at the start to give your hotel some cover and context. Otherwise, we’re going to end up with another beached Dallas behemoth.
Truer words never written. Beached Whale. I like it. That may have to join the bad building CataBlog.

My takes on the Convention Center Hotel, here and here.

A sampling:
The purpose (ed: should have been) of carving the site up into three smaller blocks is simple. This is an urban site, constrain the design as much as possible even though there are vast amounts of undeveloped blocks around it, b/c there will be development.

Second, it allows for that two-sided retail I mentioned above; necessary in the creation of a destination. Plus, it creates a greater amount of residential, thus providing 24/7 activity (ed: from day one).
But then what is the problem (ed: with the selected design), you ask? Well, to expand upon Cullen's metaphor, a building is just a building. It's like a postcard. You glance at it and toss it away. Maybe, if it is of unique brilliance, you slap it on the fridge with a corny touristy magnet.
And cut and pasted, directly out of our design team's submission to the City (I wrote every word). The plan was good, our tower was bad, I admit. With that said, someday people in this City will realize that the Urban Genotype (the underlying dynamics) is a far better prescription for success than the "Phenotype" (the actual architecture):
Dallas Convention Center Hotel
"It's Place within the City"


The primary goal in the urban planning and development of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel is to understand and overcome the challenges of the site chosen by the City as well as the site’s place within the city. The site, we believe, is the best possible to engage and interact with the Convention Center physically and architecturally, while being ideal for setting the stage for the next generation of development in the evolution of Downtown Dallas into a world class city.

In order to accomplish that goal, the development of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel parcel must first create an attractive destination immediately to stir excitement and entice people to an area of downtown long neglected and ignored by locals and visitors alike.

Next, it must lay the groundwork for a grander vision as the first phase of a new district that begins to connect back into existing and on-going successes in the city with the ultimate goal of creating a downtown that is a series of successful, interconnected, yet distinct in character, neighborhood sub-districts rather than merely a handful of disparate and isolated parcels of success.

The truly great cities of the world, Rome, Paris, New York, Copenhagen, and Barcelona feed off the created synergies by seamlessly stitching together various pieces of the puzzle, that are unique and therefore cooperative rather than cannibalistic, to create a sum greater than its parts and ensure continued success and positive incremental steps throughout the city.

What makes these cities great is not the individual buildings, but the experience of the spaces and a number of special neighborhoods. This vision proposes to help Dallas create a series of great neighborhoods with the Dallas Convention Center Hotel being the start of one of them.


Urban Analysis

Q: The primary issue facing not only the hotel site, but the convention center as well is that the area is entirely disconnected from its surroundings. Positive redevelopment has found its way to the Main Street area of downtown and the Cedars because of DART, TIF, and other initiatives, but the Convention Center area remains a barrier between Main Street, the Cedars, and the West End. Overly scaled streets, highways, in some cases buildings, and an abundance of surface parking lots have made the area hostile to pedestrians, the vital ingredient towards urban vitality.

A: We are of the opinion that the Convention Center Hotel development must be part of a larger vision that bridges these gaps between successful areas of the city and believe that with this holistic vision, the hotel as a piece of urban acupuncture stimulating the development of a new neighborhood in downtown Dallas with the Convention Center as its anchor reaching out and blending into its neighbors while lessening the impact of all barriers adjacent.

Q: The second major issue to overcome is the lack of intuitive wayfinding or sense of arrival in the current layout of the Convention Center. The new primary entrance is often overlooked for a below-grade entry that is lacking experientially. One can not confidently point to a single place and declare it as the “front door.”

A: The solution to this issue must orchestrate the seemingly opposite intentions of creating a new “address” or front door for the Convention Center while improving the connection to the redesigned main entrance. As the architectural solution will show, we believe that our team has found this solution.

Q: The third and somewhat related issue is the scale and feel of the roads adjacent to and approaching the Convention Center Hotel. These roads are simply about moving traffic and must become “complete streets” that provide for the equality of mode of transportation whether it is by foot, bike, car, bus, or even in some cases mass transit. They should be aesthetically designed and detailed to be pleasing and a hierarchy created to help define their role and character within the city.

A: The design team believes that while it is important to access the site, once there the street grid within and adjacent to the site should immediately take on a more pedestrian-friendly urban character, that character or experience then becomes the defining point for the start of the city. A transition and hierarchy in scale of roads allows a decompression and that sense of arrival.

In particular, one potential idea within a grander, more holistic vision for the Convention Center neighborhood, is that each of the streets takes on a distinct character within this scheme. For example, the Market Street entrance into downtown will gain in significance as the Trinity River and its frontage in Oak Cliff redevelop. As it transitions from Jefferson into its Market Street incarnation downtown, it should hit a gateway point and immediately take on an urban character. It is suggested that it should become a two-way street with the Houston Street viaduct become pedestrian only, potentially with a trolley connection to Oak Cliff long-term.


Urban Design

The Urban Vision proposed herein is one of contrasts and compliments. The detailed architectural design solution for the Hotel is a microcosm of the theme chosen for the larger vision. The Convention Center should ultimately be the anchor of a district that bridges Downtown, the West End, and the Cedars and to do so, it must have two faces reaching outward. Similarly, the specific architecture and site planning of the Hotel should accomplish two tasks.

First, it should be iconic to take advantage of its location. It should be a highlight of the “postcard view” of the skyline over the Trinity River Corridor. Secondly, it should contrast the grandiosity of the top of the building with subtle urban fabric of a pedestrian-scale and neighborhood character.

The success of the Southwest portion of downtown Dallas is contingent upon a masterplanned vision. The vision proposed here is one of 7 phases, the development of the Convention Center Hotel is the first step.

Stage 1

It is fundamental to this plan that the hotel succeed on day 1. In order to ensure that success, it must generate excitement and be a destination. The plan accomplishes that goal by dissecting the roughly 700 foot long by 550 foot wide parcel into three more pedestrian- and urban-scaled blocks. The hotel would sit on the largest and southernmost block, as a new face for the Convention Center, and the first step in its “reaching out.”

The northern portion of the site would then be subdivided into two mixed-use blocks in a scheme that we are calling “Barcelona Blocks.” This scheme accomplishes three things. By creating two outparcels for development, it creates a source of revenue for the City.

Second, the mix of uses combined with the design of essentially a hard four corner site, on-site, terminating in a public urban plaza immediately creates a “there” there; a destination. The vision for the vitality and mix of uses is similar to the RTKL design for LA Live in Los Angeles, but appropriately designed within the existing Dallas Context.

Third, the blocks created are similar in size and scale to the blocks moving northward towards El Centro Community College. This allows the design to be transferrable, implementable, and repetitive into a coherent district which is Stage 2.

Stage 2

As the previous paragraph states, stage 2 creates a direct connection between the central plaza of Stage 1 and the green space of El Centro’s recent expansion. It extends the destination created by Stage 1 to the north creating a new neighborhood for the city of Dallas. Austin Street should be amenitized, streetscaped and extended to the parcel to take on the character of a linear plaza, directly linking the Hotel site with El Centro and portions of the West End, amplifying and expanding the destination quality of the Hotel.

The “Barcelona Blocks” infill the undeveloped parcels in each of the blocks bound by Main and Young Streets to the North and South, and Market and Lamar Streets to the West and East. This allows Lubben Plaza to feel like a space; and urban square as it is intended, with active uses facing it on each side.

While the blocks are not intended to mimic the detail of Barcelona architecture, they are intended to reference the principles within the subtlety and genius of the scale and spacing found in the repetitive blocks of Barcelona neighborhoods.

Stage 3

Stage 3 creates a coordinated streetscape for Lamar Street. Lamar is the one singular linkage between the future Convention Center District, the Historic West End, and the present day Victory. The intent is that the West End would be the beneficiary of the energy and movement created between the Convention Center and Victory and that lifeblood would ultimately play a part in rejuvenating it.

Stage 4

Stage 4 is the ultimate creation of the second parallel DART line through downtown. We are aware that the final alignment and construction has not yet been determined, it will play a part in the revitalization of the Southern portion of Downtown. Young Street seems ideal because of its dimension, distance from the original downtown line, and proximity to both the public services along Young and the underdeveloped parcels near these buildings.

Stage 5

The revitalization around a stop at City Hall Plaza and a stop in front of the Convention Center hotel would go a long way towards blending the Convention Center neighborhood with the Main Street area via the activation of the Civic District centered on City Hall.

Stage 6

Cities throughout the world are working to minimize the affect of highways on their downtowns and the civic life within. The Woodall Rogers Deck Park has already had an effect on development to its North in uptown. Stage 6 proposes to create a similar deck park over the sunken portion of RL Thornton Expressway to the South of the Convention Center. Immediately the parcels between the Convention Center and the highway become valuable for Convention Center Expansion, new office, and perhaps residential. The feasibility of this idea would require more study.

Stage 7

The RL Thornton deck park begins to create the Southern-face for the Convention Center. No longer would it be parking lots, service, and largely unsuitable land for development. The park and the buildings fronting it become the seam between downtown and the Cedars and at this point in the grand vision for Southern downtown, Dallas is a long way down the road towards being one of the world class cities.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chutes n Ladder in Candy Land
Going for a walk.

So last week, I decided to make a leisurely stroll across the River Styx and check out the Arts District myself after all the hubbub of the grand opening had passed and I could be in it, when it actually is (sic). Urban Existentialist-style.

In general, I should provide some background. I was out there about 5 pm on Friday. Perhaps, the entire City was at happy hour, but I must tell you that I counted never more than 13 people outside on or near Flora at one time (in the area of the Meyerson, Winspear, and Wyly). Three of which appeared to be workers on a smoke break, four of whom were valet guys, there were two or three random solos curiously checking out the place (including) myself, and one tour coming out of the Wyly.

In other words, a bit dreary, although the weather didn't help (neither did any of the design work). I'm not going to rant much about the meta-issues of why there is so much FAIL built into the place, but rather the "on-the-ground" details of WTF? that I could touch, feel, and photograph whilst on site. (apologies for the Iphones crappy pics)

Out in front of the Winspear. I was always under the impression that the shading device and the siting of the building towards the back was intended to shade and frame a plaza in front. This plaza has since been carpeted with sod and bizarrely place planters(?). More on that in a bit.

There is no denying that it is a pretty slick structure, with high quality fabrication and material selection.

But, this plaza (not a plaza) is anti-urban. I don't even begin to fathom the purpose of these planters, perhaps besides the screening of the ventilation pipes from the underground heating and cooling of the building. This is hardly an appropriate design solution for what is intended to be "a vibrant, urban destination."

The lone dining/outdoor seating area (not at One Arts Plaza) has been removed from Flora and place back in a nook on the North side of the Winspear (the opposite side of where the outdoor "Artist's Square" will be located. Outdoor dining should have something to look at, the outdoor performance area would have been it...(sigh).

Another look at the ridiculously out of place native grass planting in sterile, placeless, and pointless geometric patterns, non-sequitur planting if you will. Meaning that it was zero relationship to its context. Kind of like each and every one of the building's in the Arts District.
Even the official website is designed with that urban malapropism (if I'm to keep the grammatic narrative metaphor running) in mind:

(The website header: Little toy-scaled model buildings, indiscriminantly placed near each other)

But this isn't a model, it's our city and here we have them, as individual objects, accessed by the far flung via highways, ramps, and garages, just as if one were in Plano, one in FArlington, one in DeSoto (oh, wait - South Dallas wouldn't get that kind of attention), and they have been designed and organized with as much relationship and synergy as if they had been. This does not a City make.

The buildings at this point are what they are, only a coherent and tightly drawn concept for the landscape and streetscape could hold it all together. As of now, we've got some sod and square plantings of native grass, like elbow patches on a tweed jacket.
Warning: Coincidental Anecdote. Relatedly, I was recently touring with a potential client (and a very well-traveled one at that) and the dialogue turned to Fountainplace, the iconic green-glass tower of Downtown Dallas, as it came into view. When I suggested that it was intended to have a mirrored twin, he rightly snapped, "no. It should never have a second one," because it would dilute what is special about the first one.

(Five(!) Calatrava Bridges anyone? I know that number has dwindled considerably but not for 'want to', but for 'can do'. If we can't beat'em, we'll just build more of 'em, I suppose).
Speaking of watering things down, that brings me to the Wyly.

First, I'll get my one compliment out of the way. The idea of the transforming stage/audience platforms is a pretty incredible one, not terribly creative, but one that is a bear to pull off. The Can Do/Should Do question is appropriate here.

As for the rest of it, ie the form and skin, I'm not sure how anybody can possibly like it unless you happen to be starchitectural sycophant, knowing no better or perhaps a masochist that enjoys being laughed out by outside intelligentsia (or maybe even that we are all merely hypnotized by the existential, decontrunctivist gobblety-gook spewed at the presentations, "you descend down the plaza to disorient the audience, and prepare them for what is to come.")

And here we have that plaza. Disorienting only to the conception (or my misconception as Prince-Ramus would probably have me believe) of what a plaza actually is.

"Plaza." For all intents and purposes, language is a symbol. Like the formation of religion, sciences, statistics, etc. it was a tool for explanation. In the wrong hands however, all of these tools (in this case, words) can be twisted, and an audience's understanding of those words and conception of the ideas behind them are used against the audience at the will of the manipulator.

Here, plaza = not a plaza, but some sporadically placed small trees on a ramp lined by barren concrete retaining walls. At this point, I think most words in urban planning have been compromised and ultimately mean nothing more than, "shutup, lemme do what I want. And quite frankly, I don't give a damn about you or your city, beyond using you to express my engrained ideology through objects."

The front door on Ross. More grass. As if it were back in its rightful home of Plano, or FArlington, or you get my point.

Place for people, this ain't. No one will be taking prideful ownership of it. But, rather a lame museum exhibition worthy of visiting once for the shock value as if a Ripley's Freak Show were in town.

Constructing an Innovation District

In Barcelona, 22@Barcelona, as covered on Citiwire by the indispensable Neil Pearce. And here is an excellent presentation covering the intellectual exercise that brought it into fruition:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Links

A lot of stuff to get thru, so right to it. First, some Dallas content:

DMN editorial: Urgent blitz Needed for Southwest Center Mall:

But so far, no long-term plan has emerged. No public investment has been made. No vision for the property has been sketched.

The Urban Land Institute wisely suggested creating a tax-increment-financing district to spur redevelopment and offered ideas for transforming the mall into a mixed-use village that would draw people to shop, eat, work and live.

A couple of problems here. First, is the fact that we're dealing with a dead mall. There are three variant directions to go with Dead Malls: 1) Infill the surface parking lots with garages and density while sparing/renovating the mall in roughly its current form. 2) Break down parts of the mall to create an outdoor complement to the indoor component, or 3) scrape it entirely and reposition/reenvision what the site should be within its larger context.

I'm afraid the ULI went with the most generic solution possible; one that I don't believe is a reality given its location (not so much being in South Dallas, as being disconnected from real transit opportunities). Conventional planner's reflexive answer for all sites: "Mixed-Use!"

A better solution would be one that follows a larger vision and gives the site a purpose. If we were real about transforming our City into a world class City, we would be systematically removing all the freeways entering the City from the outer 635/20 loop and converting them to more location specific and redevelopment friendly boulevards.

This location at 20 and 67, with an airport and freight rail w/in a mile, would be at the ideal spot for a distribution center for inter-metro shipping for intra-DFW/Dallas delivery with 67 inside of the loop being repositioned as a context-sensitive "complete street."

The fundamental problem w/ highways within Cities is that they are like drain pipes that gather rain from a storm into a single point and release all of that water into streams that can't handle it, eroding the ecosystem. Freeways (for macro-connections) entering Cities (micro-destinations) unloads too many cars at single exits, thus "eroding" the urban fabric.
Dallas fashion at the Sartorialist. Sadly, compare the cities providing the backdrops.
Similar look in the mirror provided by others, first a tweet from Urbanophile:

"Dallas is the epicenter of the generic," quoting Rem Koolhaas. Then, his (Aaron Renn) take on Dallas from a 2007 visit:

Given the size and affluence of the metro area, and the good things I know from talking to others that it has, I was very surprised to see the poor face it presents to people attending conventions there. This is the only time many people will ever see the city. It’s the first and last impression many folks will ever have of Dallas.

On the plus side, the road geek in me loves the freeways in Texas. They’ve got very wide highways and impressive interchanges. As I flew under a four level stack heading back to the airport, it really drove home to me how unambitious the plans of INDOT and other midwestern transportation agencies are. They’d be well served to hire some people from Texas who have actual experience in big city road building to design and run their major urban projects.

No offense to this dude, but jumpin jeezus on a dino, if he doesn't get the direct correlation b/w highways and "cities that suck" then anybody that pays for his consultation is doing themselves a disservice. I expand in a tweet, as limited by 140 characters:
Methinks baby boomers have inherent bias to freeways bc growing up in 50s 60s highways were billed w all things progress
Excellent article by Richard Florida at What Matters on innovation and density that parallels many points I've made in the past:
There is a deeper, more fundamental reason, rooted in economics. Increasingly, the most talented and ambitious people need to live in the means metros in order to realize their full economic value. The physical proximity of talented, highly educated people has a powerful effect on innovation and economic growth. Places that bring together diverse talent accelerate the local rate of economic evolution. When large numbers of entrepreneurs, financiers, engineers, designers, and other smart, creative people are constantly bumping into one another inside and outside of work, business ideas are formed, sharpened, executed, and—if successful—expanded. The more smart people, and the denser the connections between them, the faster it all goes. It is the multiplier effect of the clustering force at work.
Point, distilled to 120 proof: Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum.
Other brief links:

Cohousing catching on in the PacNW. I discuss some ideas about high/mid-rise cohousing here.

CNET on the prob of plug-in cars. Answer: 1) they still take energy AND 2) they still require extensive infrastructure that rips apart economic and social bonds. Any attempts at maintaining a car industry at its current bloat is a waste of time and money. Worthless Endeavor.

NYT on the rise in going CarFree.

Vancouver plans on being greenest city by 2020. What happens when we no longer have catchy dates to peg our plans to like 20/20?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free Beer Friday Happy Hour

First person to get it right here in the comments then find me at Liar's Den, gets a beer on the CarFree Guy.

Ur Doin It Wrongz

I appreciate the attempt. I do. There is nothing wrong with bricking up some streets (in this case Elm), but there is the issue of spending money but not changing what is fundamentally wrong with Elm Street in the first place. More lipstick on a pig, I suppose.

But the point of the photograph is to show the 1' wide curb at the nexus of the two crosswalks. To keep people from walking diagonally, I'm sure. Apparently, we have a problem with that in Dallas and if we could only just walk diagonally across this intersection, we could get to the bar that much sooner. But, DRAT! if this curb directing us down the yellow brick road weren't in the way.

I could ignore both crosswalk paving pattern, little blinky white walk-signal man, and the on-rushing traffic of one-way streets driving entirely too fast through a downtown environment, if it weren't for you little curb, tripping hazard, appearance: ridiculous getting in my way.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thirsty Thursday Links

Esta noche, I'll be riding a bicycle to happy town on Fat Tires, if ya catch my drift, replete with baseball cards in the spoke, penant flapping in the breaze and an a-wooooo-ga horn to warn of impending disaster.

Onto the news:

David Brussat, Architectural Critic for the Providence, RI Journal, discusses the public's preference in architecture without patronizing, just polling:
Last May, Le Figaro asked Parisians which buildings they’d like to have demolished. Tops with 33.4 percent was the Montparnasse Tower (1972), the only tall slab in central Paris; next was the Beaugrenelle Towers, a set of modernist skyscrapers outside Paris, with 31.4 percent; third (and to me the most gratifying), 22.7 percent wanted to raze the Centre Pompidou. Parisians clearly have good taste.
CarFree In Big D guy is stylistically agnostic. He just hates obnoxia and any attempts to "disorient" the public (ahem, burp, excuse me), so they can "get" your masterpiece or whatever the hell you call your self-indulgence. Styles are fleeting, just as Classicism could define any hundreds of different "phenotypes," to the point that any dialogue is ultimately meaningless. As long as buildings are contributive to the public realm, I could give a shit.

From the article:

For example, 1, 2, and 3, are all perfectly acceptable (the narrow sidewalks not withstanding). 4 deserves a full body massage by the wrecking ball wreaking havoc to the parking garage outside of my building. "New" does not always mean good and "can" doesn't mean you "should."

Green Metropolis is reviewed by hippies, and I mean that pejoratively in the Eric Cartman sense, not the tone my girlfriend uses when she calls me a hippy. I hope. And not the good kind that might point out some of the circular arguments made throughout the book when it came to, "well, this would keep traffic out, so it makes driving more palatable, so it would then induce more driving, and then there would be traffic, but not the kind that produces CO2, but maybe the moving kind, or not..." What? The rest of it is worth the read, though.

But, actually the stupid kind of hippy, that really is just bubbling over with anger that their coonskin cap and moccasin fantasies are just that:
For one, New Yorkers generate a lot of garbage -- some of which is shipped as far as 300 miles away (although Owen doesn't figure this into his calculations of New Yorkers' carbon footprints, nor does he even mention garbage).
Maybe because there are 15 million people producing that waste, which by the way has nothing to do with the people inherently being New Yorkers or urbanites (because suburbanites produce more waste), but rather the packaging and material composition of American commerce. Recycling has the same problem, but people like to tout it as being "green" even though the process is incredibly dirty and the materials to be recycled are constantly in a state of devolution.

Portland saved its natural and agrarian surroundings by urbanizing. The "call" towards nature means if everyone follows, which they have, nature disappears under surface parking lots, drive-thrus, and the metaphorical big gulp of the "American Dream." More bullshit, like your plastic picket fence.

Going "local" is the new "going green" for the corporate world. Actually, this is more important and more likely to have a positive impact if it is followed through (if it's not more corporate bullshit, which marketing typically is, and why Millennials distrust you), meaning real changes to supply chains, transport, source material and locations, and the like:
This new variation on corporate greenwashing—localwashing—is, like the buy-local movement itself, most advanced in the context of food. Hellmann’s, the mayonnaise brand owned by the processed-food giant Unilever, is test-driving a new “Eat Real, Eat Local” initiative in Canada. Frito-Lay’s television commercials use farmers as pitchmen to position the company’s potato chips as local food, while the poultry giant Foster Farms is labeling its packages of chicken “locally grown.”
City of Odense, Denmark sets in its masterplan a goal of carbon-neutrality by 2025. Ha! Don't those peasants know their King is hoodwinking them? Oh, it's a freely elected republic now? Don't those commies know it's bad for business? Oh, Denmark is a capitalist country with the most free and fairest marketplace? Shit. I'm out of excuses. DEY TOOK AR JOBBBSSSS! Stupid, well-educated Danes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He's Apparently Electrified. Is He Magnetic?

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how many principles of the natural sciences apply to urban studies and settlement patterns, particularly spurred on by the article Math of Cities. The obvious correlations that have been made already are biology (the Transect), Sociology (anything William Whyte related), Psychology (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), Ecology (natural preservation via density), etc.

The introduction of Math on a level beyond the "dismal science", however got me thinking about the idea of Fractals, which are infinitely complex yet typically defined by very simple rules. For example, water wants to find its own level, yet the manner in which it does provides us with stunning waterfalls, lakes, rivers, puddles that have soaked the bottom three inches of my pant legs, yada yada.

I always liked my old Physics classes and have been captivated by the boundless applications of the principles of attraction and repulsion.

Attractive public space vs. Repellent public space as personified by my models here.

Without getting into the fine-grained detail of it all, in sum I've discovered that all places (streets, parks, plazas, cities (macro), or even businesses (good food, good company to work for, etc) are either attractors or repellents. They are magnetic. Of course, there are always barriers to magnetism such as distance, access or lack thereof, awareness, etc. A street for example, can either be a barrier (too wide, traffic to fast moving, etc.) or a conduit (something that facilitates access) or a seam, becoming an attractor itself (many of the great streets of the world could be defined in this manner).

This is my point about sociopetal and sociofugal. All places and all details within those places contribute in some degree to whether a place attracts people or repels them. Agglomerate enough of a certain "polarity" in a specific location and the magnetic pull is multiplied. Writ large, these become the great cities of the world.

This background brings me back to my most recent walk through AT&T's plaza and my last post about Golden Boy extending the success of Main Street as an attractor.
If I was to have one criticism of AT&T and the plaza improvements, I would have put Golden Boy outside in the center planter, at its most prominent point. Frankly, it's a pretty cool and unique statue. AT&T occupies all of the buildings surrounding the plaza, so why not use it to tie all the pieces together.
Yes, I'm saying it again. Who's got two thumbs up and is a broken record? This guy.
/remembering his Frederick Douglass, "Agitate, agitate, agitate."

**side note. Kudos to AT&T for showing the Red River Rivalry on their new LED boards in the plaza. I was in the plaza pre-game and only noticed a few people who had lugged out fold out chairs to watch the game. Two things: I don't believe this was advertised in any way. Those that found out, most likely just heard the game from the loud speakers resinating throughout downtown. Second, there needed to be some concessions. Hopefully, my theory that this plaza will be an asset to the Main Street area will prove right and this will become a more successful plaza then Victory (other AT&T plaza), as it is a convergence point rather then at the end of a virtual cul-de-sac (Victory).
Golden Boy's previous home. Sad, isn't it. He's so lonely. And jumpin' jeezus is that a hideous building. See, architecture can be sociofugal as well.

Now, he's only available during "regular business hours" but who cares about it him if he's indoors? Why take him out of the suburbs, bring him into the City (for which AT&T is admittedly doing boatloads for), and then lock him up? He's obviously weather-proof and they have twenty-four hour security in and around the plaza to protect him (not to mention the increased activity he would generate would help protect him as well). If he was outside once, he can be outside again.

If he was outside in the middle of this plaza, he would become an instant attraction for what is otherwise mostly just a well-landscaped and fountained cut-through. People would take pictures of him, they would sit around him and have lunch, etc. Furthermore, he would show how committed AT&T is to the City and how intricately tied together in mutual vision the two entities are, while tying together their own campus as its central feature.

See, look. He brightens up the plaza already!!!

Lastly, and this gets to the point of attraction as well, is that he would terminate Akard St. from the South. Providing a dramatic, visual terminus and make a nod towards South Dallas as well as all of that vacant land near City Hall and the Convention Center (too great big repellents themselves - although they don't have to be) that "you are part of the city too." It's just a shame we're asking a private enterprise to do the City's work.

Privatized urban planning. Hooray!

Best View in the City?

The views from downtown are overrated. All you see is highways and flat, punctuated intermittently by high-rises at the various interchanges of North Dallas. At least this way, we've got some foreground (McKinney Ave - Uptown's Main Street), middle ground (State Thomas - fully built out after being bombed out via office speculation in the '80s), and background (Downtown).

Taken from a friend's balcony during the Red River Rivalry. In the full panorama (via auto-stitch - heart you Iphone), you can see the scoreboard during the game.

Gracias, Mi Amigos

Be sure to make you daily trip over to Streetsblog for your daily info fix on issues related to the public realm. Their info comes at you raw and straight. Mainlined, just as I like it. No elaborate contraptions for intellectual inhalation, necessary.

Oh, and they picked up my Jaywalking Post to put on their page. Daily traffic is already up over 800% from normal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Livability Indicator #15 - Jaywalking

Making my way thru Green Metropolis, I've realized two things. The first is that the author David Owen has reached similar conclusions as to some of my previous Livability Indicators, from a similar freakanomics "you wouldn't expect it" sort of way. The other is ones that I've been planning on writing for sometime have also been covered in his book. Boohoo for me and my imagined originality.

So, I'll let him take the start, and I'll add from my own experience:
New Yorkers don't necessarily appreciate the real reasons that walking is such an important element of their daily life. In the late 1990s, Rudolph Giuliani, then the mayor, undertook a campaign to eradicate jaywalking - a major issue for him. Pedestrian barriers were erected near a number of midtown corners, stoplights and pedestrian crosswalks were shifted away from some intersections, and the police were instructed to issue summonses to pedestrians who crossed streets mid-block or against a light. The policy was almost universally ignored, by cops as well as pedestrians, and it was widely ridiculed.

The policy was also thoroughly misguided. In Manhattan, creative jaywalking is an environmental positive, because it makes traveling on foot easier: it enables pedestrians to maintain their forward progress when traffic lights are against them, and to gain small navigational advantages by weaving between cars on clogged side streets - and it also keeps drivers on their guard, forcing them to slow down.
This is a key point in general. Make drivers worry about dinging their car or having to spray annoying pedestrian brain matter off the grill of their hummer will make them slow down a bit. When they are channelized and the driver can zone out b/c of engineering for dumb drivers rather than forcing us to be smart and aware is when accidents actually DO happen, in the places where street space is designed for peds/cars to have the least amount of interaction.
The real purpose of anti-jaywalking laws is not to protect pedestrians but to make life easier for drivers. That's why anti-jaywalking rules are enforced (and observed) in Los Angeles, where the cars are entirely in charge.
On what planet does it make any sense whatsoever to put in place policies in order to protect a 4,000 lb piece of death-wheeling machinery vs. a human armed with nothing but a pair of tennis shoes, and perhaps a leashed puppy or two?
Rather than banning jaywalking, cities should take steps to enhance and enforce the rights of pedestrians, and to impede cars in areas where traveling on foot is feasible. (One useful step would be to follow New York City's good example and make it illegal for drivers to turn right on red lights).
Have you ever noticed how much safer and more polite Dallas drivers are when traffic lights are out, operating as blinking reds and the drivers are left to their own devices, responsible for their own safety. Interesting how they begin to cooperate with other drivers, no? Well, I have noticed.

Similarly, four-way stops are drastically much safer than any other form of regulated intersection. One reason is b/c of reduced speed in areas where stop signs are utilized rather than signals. The other primary contributive factor, is that (although not necessary due to literally written protocol for who goes first at 4-way stops) there is a necessary communication to some extent between the drivers: eye contact, a slow roll to indicate that "I'm moving. Hold back buddy," maybe even a honk or two...or this.

That communication, whether verbal or nonverbal, makes something infinitely more intelligent because there are now feedback loops.
Tightly controlling pedestrians with a view to improving the flow of car traffic just results in more and faster driving, and that makes life even harder and more dangerous for people on foot or on bikes.
Not to mention it allows drivers to tune out by funneling them virtually (and sometimes literally) into cattle chutes.
In fact, studies have shown that pedestrians are safer in urban areas where jaywalking is common than they are in urban areas where it is forbidden.
Essentially, it's creating some measure of chaos in the streets. Ewwwww, engineers hate chaos. Their theocratic formulas can't dictate, their metrics can't measure. Can. Not. Compute. But, you can via safety statistics, measures of happiness, quality of place and real estate development on the street. For example - when the Champs Elysees went all travel lanes, all of the businesses died. When returned to parallel slip lanes w/ parking and wide sidewalks, it has become some of the most valuable floor space in the world.

To some extent, it is pushing the idea behind the Woonerf, or shared living space. The name comes from the fact that this is more residential in nature, the street as front yard for the residents, where children can play safely in the middle of the street w/ mother's watchful eye peering out the kitchen window. And they can, because the business (visually) of the street, the narrowness of the travel lanes, the lack of definition of the travel lanes (ie there are no 12' wide rights-of-way dictating direction), slows traffic. In sum, it's a free for all. See some pictures here (bottom of the post).

But, that is strictly for less busy streets, what about for the traffic flow worthy of New York streets? Rome has busy streets, with absolutely batshit insane cab drivers. Having lived there long enough to emerse one's self into the culture at some level deeper than tourist, you find out funny idiosyncracies only possible thru thousands of years of evolved urbanism.

One such custom is that it is commonly accepted that if a car were to strike and injure a pedestrian in Italy, the driver is at fault no matter the circumstance and fully responsible for all care necessary. Whether this is real or imaginary (it isn't written anywhere), it is clearly taken root as an effective deterrent. No matter the road, cars will stop for you if you start crossing the road. Be it at a crosswalk without the proper signalled permission or at mid-block.

Corso Vittorio Emanuelle is the actual road, where I would often test the custom, and do the proverbial test of trust: falling blindfolded and seeing if the Roman Customs would catch me in a shielded coccoon of safe pedestrian passage. Why? Well, b/c I crossed it every day and it was probably the busiest road I saw the majority of my days.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele - This road feels so much smaller, revisiting in Google Earth. Seven years in Texas plays tricks on perception and memory, I suppose.

What's the moral of this story? Power to the people, that's what...and away from the honking machines and you'll see positive returns for your city by way of renewed vitality, caramelized and cooked to a tender medium rare with a side dish of nicely seasoned safety.

Monday, October 19, 2009

End of Weekend Sausage Links

NYC is thinking about Light Rail. Something it really doesn't have yet.

StLou is rolling out a "sustainable street" prototype that does all the right things and gets funded by the stimulus for doing so:

The new design reduces four traffic lanes to three, changes the timing of traffic lights, adds curb “bulb-outs” to reduce the amount of yardage pedestrians need to cross from 56 to 40 feet, and increases lighting and landscaping. About $2.7 million in federal stimulus funds have been awarded for the work.

“The goal is to have 50 percent of the new sections porous surfacing or plantings,” Culbertson said. “If we do that, then the majority of the water that falls will actually percolate into the ground.” St. Louis has a combined sewage-stormwater system, which can be overwhelmed during downpours. The landscaping and permeable pavements are seen as key to improved drainage. New trees will get bigger rootbeds to soak up more water. Rain gardens will be built into the sidewalks. Downspouts will empty into landscaped areas.

CNU has approved LEED-ND. I need to see how the project or two I worked on in the pilot phase faired.

NYT is burning up the frequent flyer miles reviewing Dallas's latest and greatest, this time, what lelse? The Arts District. On the Raccoon Trap:

"The walls and ceiling of an upper-level terrace are covered in artificial turf, a superficial flourish that is out of character with the rest of the design." And: "The building's unevenly striated aluminum surface, meanwhile, feels dull and its facades surprisingly tame."

Denver has doubled its transit ridership:

Instead, Blueprint Denver took the radical tact of not projecting how many vehicles would be needed to get people around the growing city, but instead projected the number of "person trips": driving, transit, walking and riding bikes.

Another strategy was the Living Streets program, created by the public works department in collaboration with a range of civic and commercial organizations, including Kaiser Permanente. "The idea was that roads are for cars: streets are for people," said Park

I'll give credit where it's due, the same group did Denver's plan as is doing Downtown Dallas's plan even though they weren't ranked first after any of the rounds of interviews.

Lastly, an op-blog(?) at DMN, can Dallas duplicate Zurich?

It really is exciting to see the transformation of the Arts District with the new opera house and new performing arts center. But sooner or later, the newness will wear off. When it does, I'm worried that we'll be left with knock-your-socks-off Arts District that is detached from the rest of downtown. Which is why we have to get busy and support efforts to get streetcars up and running in downtown Dallas.

Livability Indicator #14 - Homeless

"May society be judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable."


Well sort of. Perhaps, it might be better stated, as "homeless" by choice rather than by force. I've been contemplating this post for some time but couldnt find the right tone until it was inspired by a quote at Dallas Progress's downtown post:
A good friend of mine in real estate made an interesting statement about the homeless, which was "if you had more people downtown, you wouldn't notice the homeless because they would blend in with everyone else." When you compare Dallas to other cities, there are not a lot of homeless people. I have seen cities with a much higher population of homeless revitalize their downtown. What city lets 10-15 people walking around during the day asking for change affect what is going to happen in a given part of town? See how much sense that makes? The people that don't travel downtown because of the homeless folks probably will never come downtown anyway.
It is very true. Of all the places that I've lived in, studied in, or spent any significant amount of time, every single one still had homeless, except for one - the suburbs of my upbringing. However, the fundamental problem with that is when you talk to someone who has bought a house in PHX, or DFW, or ATL in the nether reaches of the metropolitan area replete with brand new shiny roads (sometimes with stars on them, high five!), these people will tell you they love their homes, their two car garage, their yard, their 2.5 baths, then you ask them what they don't like? Well, there is nothing to do. Or, what they spend most of their time doing? Watching TV.

These are people who have, for the most part, unwittingly withdrawn from society. How is this any different than the homeless who have done similarly either consciously or have been thrown out for any number of reasons and are castigated, ridiculed, or spit upon?

They're effectively saying, "I'm taking my ball and i'm going home. I don't want to deal with all the messiness and realities of cities and humanity itself." All take but no give. One could respond, "well, if cities are so dreadful, why would I want to live there?" Or, "that is why people left cities in the first place." The problem is that cities offer the only opportunity for real wealth creation, economic development, AND staving off of potential environmental catastrophe. Cities are the greatest engine of wealth generation ever devised in human history by the agglomeration of collective human capacity.

Instead, I would like to order one super highway to deliver me to the office twenty miles away. Yes, I would like a side of entertainment district and a stadium on top, where I can go once a year. Yes, I want a new arts district. More on that later, but back to the original quote.

The most powerful word from the oft-attributed quote at the top is "its" b/c whether we like it or not, they belong to us, in the extended family that is our city, that are our neighbors. We're all in this thing together. Investing in people is the greatest investment there is (with the greatest return)...or else we end up spending on ways to warehouse people in prisons or shelters.

In my personal experience around town as a downtown Dallas resident for over 18 months, never have I had anyone be anything but polite to the point of deference - although I have heard stories to the contrary. This, of course, is not surprising given the ever increasing amount of people who are being put on the streets or even entered life without opportunity or the ability to pursue happiness, as Jefferson decreed. I shudder to think as more and more get backed into a the corner of survival. Do they react like the animals we are? Does the veil of culture and civilization that has failed them (and keeps our animalistic heart at bay) get dropped for tools of violence and striking back?) Or are they suitably conditioned enough to accept their fate like puppies on electrified flooring?

Personally, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I very rarely give out anything to those that ask. One, because I rarely carry change or small bills. Two, b/c its illegal (although illegality rarely has anything to do with behavior). But lastly and most notably, b/c I can't offer them shelter, nor treatment, nor training or whatever else is needed to get them on their feet, perhaps justifying in my own mind that it's a lost generation that society has cast down its corporate toilet and that I'm better suited to build a city more capable of paying for itself, building wealth, and being more just. Offering the ability to pursue happiness to its newest and youngest members.

As for those already on the street, collectively however we can afford to do so and there are people who possess the skills capable of doing so. This was the original point of congregating together in packs, forming the original cities; caring for the most basic of human needs: common necessities such as food, protection, shelter, and safety. If we can't even support the most basic of human needs, what are we doing spending a billion dollars on cultural components, at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

In much of scandinavia (thinking mostly of Sweden and Denmark) the WORST problem their societies face is people taking advantage of the free education and staying in school too long. They too have homeless. Some are refugees from the middle east, others are squatters who chose to do so, b/c you know what, a society that provided free healthcare and education just wasn't for them. They willingly "opted out" choosing instead to make a life at the edges of the economy.

Take the hippy commune area Christiania, in Copenhagen, for example. People began camping out and set up essentially a squatters village. It's not a place I would like to spend more than ten minutes in again ever in my life, but they successfully defended what is now their home from eviction in favor of real estate development. It's essentially an "opt out" area and I'm ok with that.

The point is that homeless are everywhere and the issue comes down to that of fear. We certainly can't be fearful of those that are appropriately described as the weakest in our society. In actuality, what we are fearful of is directly addressing our societies inner problems; confronting the reality that our policies driven by whatever ideology are failing us. We'd prefer to spout off some spoon-fed dogma, because it's easier that way. Our conscience is clear when we redirect the blame.

A few weeks ago, I personified Dallas as a plastic surgerized divorcee. I'm starting to think that a better description might be that of Buffalo, not the buffalo bill of Dallas's fantasized cowboy mythology, but the Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs; a thoroughly corrupted individual that wants to dress himself in a literal epidermal veneer in order to feel 'pretty'.

So all of this brings me to the grand opening of the Arts District here in Downtown Dallas put on to much fanfare. And certainly it was quite the occasion, 30,000 people, fireworks, tours of the grand performing arts halls. Jewels each of them no doubt, of which Norman Foster has said about his own gem-shaped icon (of which I do think is a gorgeous individual building),

"This(winspear opera house) project is about the creation of a building that offers a truly democratic experience of opera for the 21st century,"

Is that so? Something bestowed by the kings of the city upon a people that turned down the bond package for the same project in an open election to be entirely privately financed? A gift to the people. Feels more like a gold plated, pre-reformation catholic church. Call me old fashioned, but I'd like to think that I would be able to come up with at least one hundred ways of better spending the hundreds upon hundred of millions of dollars that went into this rather hollow concoction.

Maybe with goals like, building wealth from the ground up or restoring the middle class, rather than one dependent upon the gifts of the gods - a middle class is democratic. Norman, generally admire your work, but i wonder if working in a singular crowd for so long has distorted your notion of what democratic is. Patronizing paternalism isn't it, but providing opportunity is. Maybe it takes Thomas Jefferson to say it:
"That liberty [is pure] which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone."
To my last breath I will argue that the Wyly is the uglier of the two buildings when accepted as a building of the cityscape, but perhaps it's prison cell like configuration is more fitting for the rats running in place, hoping to one day be that multi-billionaire on-stage cutting a ribbon. The unending nihilism of the twin-architects (who now despise each other, btw - perhaps their belief in themselves in fact trumps their nihilism?) doesn't make for attractive buildings, but it does make for the kind of deep objectivity necessary for critical analysis of its audience. In that way, the Wyly actually is a work of art.

Homeless, public school kids, to whom it may concern, et al. I have a message for you. "It puts the lotion in the basket or else it gets the hose again."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hand in Peter's Pocket/Paul's Back

American Way.

At least more of the same from the 20th century get rich quick/no real work/progress economy, State's upping ante in competition poaching businesses at BBC:
Development officials then give potential investors the full VIP treatment - free luxury hotel accommodation and slap up meals - and drive them around in a limousine while pitching to them about why they should switch state.
To some degree competition b/w states can be a good thing (like b/w any two entities), however when it leads to 1) the kind of rampant and wasteful spending that could be used doing more productive things, and 2) rapid change and dislocation of business/social networks for local economies and the workers displaced or REplaced.
Indiana officials also travel further afield to poach business, to Dallas, New York and Atlanta.
Oh, wait! That's not fair! Only WE are allowed to do that. That's not nice Indiana. /payback for College Football HoF. Dallas/ATL - Indiana is a vengeful sort. State motto: Don't Eff with us. Or something like that.
"You're wasting your energy on negatives when you should be concentrating on selling the positives of your own brand. You're alerting people across the whole country to the fact you are willing to play dirty and a lot of people will be put off by that."
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh.....Play in dirt and alls ya get is dirty.

Like Least Fat American?

World's greenest skyscraper*, kinda like the world's greenest highway**?

*Being in NYC helps for transportation sustainability, the usual to and fro, but of course there is no mention of how far the material has traveled to build it, or the processes to make the steel and glass and the harvesting of the sources of those structural components. As we linked here before, many LEED buildings aren't nearly as "green" as we think they are. But, that isn't the point. It's an attractive, responsible building that fits in NYC. Does it need to be more than that or is this more marketing drivel run amok? What are our goals?

**First mistake, anything "green" is gonna have to be affordable and secondly, I recommend it doesn't involve cars or anything other leftover residue from the wreckage of the planned obsolescence economy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Conventional Wisdom, Empiricism is Calling

The following is the playbook that the Conventional Wisdom follows, thinking what is necessary for the evitalization of Downtowns. The CW slowly moves down the checklist one after the other. When reality sets in that what they've been told (and led to believe) really isn't achieving what they hoped (not that Conventional Wisdom ever puts cause and effect together), on to the next magic bullet:
  • Access! A new Highway will deliver shoppers and commuters and tourists and sweetness and happiness and rainbows and lions and tigers and bears.
  • Convention Center HOTEL! Silly us, how could we have a convention center without a convention center hotel?!
  • Ummm, ANOTHER STADIUM!!!! Gotta give those billionaire owners their own stadium. They say so themselves. Just ask'em. It'll make for a super killer one-stop Entertainment District, like a Chuck-e-Cheez!
  • A museum. I don't care to or for what. It's the missing piece. Now sit down and shut up. I know what I want and I need it now!
  • Parking!!!! Duh. What were we thinking?!?!?! Where would all of those theoretical tourists park when they come to visit HappyTown???!!!11!
  • Recruiting new Corporations is the answer. If we only offer some more tax breaks they'll come and bring jobs and they'll eradicate the homeless via secret deathstar teleportation gamma ray thingamabob.
  • We clearly have to convert these streets to one-way. This grid is just so congested. It's the only way. How can we get people out of here as quickly as possible so they don't have to deal with all this messy urbanism?? They are holding us back as a City!!!
  • Pritzker Prize winners. Who is the latest architectural fad turned celebrity? Lib-a-skuh-what? Sounds foreign. I'll take one of those! He'll save us like the Spaghetti Monster himself patting us on our head as we flash back to our childhood helplessness, dependent upon a paternal figure to take us on a Summer Vacation to the Disney Land of urbanism.
  • Man, we sure are running out of ideas here. How 'bout an old-timey lookin' rubber tired trolley, and there ain't no trolley like a rubber tired trolley cuz a rubber tired trolley takes gas. It'll keep everybody reminiscing about the good ol' times like the 50's (when women were in the kitchen, minorities in the woodshed, and gays in the closet).
  • Homeless Shelter. No, not to feed, house, treat, or train. You're so naive. We gotta warehouse those leaches. Keep 'em outta site.
  • Retail. Oh fuck! We added all that parking and Gap, Chilis, and Planet Hollywood all say we need more. What are we gonna do?!??!! Might as well, adhere to their coersion. They're in the business. Free market knows best. Oh, they also say they need free rent.
  • I think we're almost there. One missing ingredient to HappyTown fulfilling our wildest fantasies and rainbows shining overhead and raining kittens daily. But, what is it? I can't think of it. Fukit. We're fine as is. I've got my three car garage, a boat, a hummer, couple a' kiddos parked in front of the big screen ("keep 'em entertained Tawmmy the Tank Engine! Man, I'm tired of dealing with their shit" /mumbles under breath.), some neighbors (that I don't know), and, hmmm, what's this in the mail? Divorce filing?
May I introduce you to HappyTown:


Mmm-mmm-mmmmmm. Sure does look pretty from over here ( - with better healthcare, education, no highways ripping apart neighborhoods or disconnecting from waterfronts).

Thirsty Thursday Links O' the Day

Before I go get my Southern Fried everything buffet on...even the buffet counter...fry it up! Drop that bad boy into sweet, scalding lard. What fair witches, dosth say you be on thine menu this day:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
Never had that before.
In the caldron boil and bake;
Is that the Soup du jour?
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Hmmm, think I'll pass on that.
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Best not be my dog.
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Is that this year's fair winner?
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing
Maybe deep-fried butter doesn't sound so bad after all.

Onto the links...woo boy! Interesting stuff today. For me, anyway:

Banks, once everybody's favorite dinner guest, no longer wipes his feet, belches loudly, and asks for ketchup for his Sweet Potato Gratin. Oh, and they're a barrier to walkable development, so says the Salt Lake Tribune. One reason I'll never go to Salt Lake City. The other? 3% beer. Fo' Sho:
The reason: Lenders operate from a tried-and-true principle that maintains more parking means less risk and a higher return on their investment. But ditching cars is the whole point of urban developers looking to create 24-hour live, work and play environments that hug light-rail hubs.
Lenders preventing better returns and economic development. Oh, institutions. Try to change them and face the angry smiting by heavenly lightning bolt. Remember, it's not the people inside, it is the machinary itself.

NRDC on how to keep/make Smart Growth affordable:
Smart growth is currently constrained not so much by the market as by policy distortions and conservative lending and building practices.
Benfield quoting Tod Litman here, but nonetheless a pimp slap at the banks mentioned above:
older urban neighborhoods and new transit-oriented communities, are often unaffordable. Inadequate supply drives up prices. The rational response is to significantly increase the supply of smart growth housing to bring smart growth benefits within the budget of more consumers, particularly economically and physically disadvantaged households."

both the housing industry and municipal planners created a self-perpetuating cycle of automobile dependence that has yet to be broken, even though conditions and
perceptions have changed.
Lastly, Don Shoup has successfully convinced the City of Santa Monica to give Supply and Demand a try w/ regards to parking:
Ideally, Shoup contends, a city would charge enough so that 85% of all parking spaces were occupied at any one time. If too many spaces are vacant, the price is too high. If no spaces are available, the price is too low.
Of course, a City has to have on-street parking in the first place. Ahem, rather than say... valet stands. For those suggesting we need parking (whether convenient, cheap, ubiquitous or anything of the sort that downtown already has), see this post on the vicious cycle that is parking:
A 2003 study... [showed] ...the smaller parking supply is a key element, as it allows for the existence of a much more coherent urban place than would have otherwise been possible.
And lastly, author David Owen of Green Metropolis writes in the WSJ, that traffic is a good thing. I couldn't have said it any better. But, I did say it: here and here.

**Side note: I'm using IE right now. So please accept my humblest apologies for the poor formatting. I'm hopelessly battling inferiority.