Four ways to reform a commuter campus

Commuter campus before repair. Graphic by DPZ
Commuter campus after repair. The proposed repair reconstructs the fabric in the tradition of the classical American university campus. Rendering by DPZ/Sprawl Repair Manual.

Robert Steuteville of Build a Better Burb starts a new series of articles based on the Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva, Managing Partner at DPZ CoDesign. Building placement, block structure/connectivity, parking and open space are examined:

“Thousands of college campuses in the suburbs—whether they be full universities or community colleges—are poorly designed with buildings, parking lots, and open space scattered throughout their sites. Many of these campuses were designed in the late 20th Century with low-density, automobile-oriented land-use plans. The good news is that these campuses have plenty of room for redevelopment into academic villages, as shown in these two images.”

How a mall-turned-public park saved downtown Columbus

Columbus Commons hosts more than 200 events a year, including a Harvest Fair on September 30, 2017. Marielle Segarra, Marketplace

When mall repair is not economically or structurally feasible, sometimes re-greening a dead mall site in the form of a park or urban agriculture is the best option. The City Center mall in Columbus, Ohio has been reincarnated as a downtown park called Columbus Commons, and it’s driving the resurgence of activity and property value.

“Capitol South, a nonprofit development corporation created by the city, took over the property and started looking at redevelopment plans. The group considered turning the mall into an office building or a medical-research center. “Each one of the plans that we looked at either financially didn’t pencil out, or from a constructability point of view, it simply couldn’t be done,” said Guy Worley, CEO of Capitol South.

Instead, Capitol South decided to knock down the mall and build a park. The group was inspired by similar projects, like Bryant Park in New York City.

A big lesson, said Worley, is that on its own, creating a green space isn’t enough. You needed to bring people there. So Columbus Commons has an outdoor stage and a café, and it hosts more than 200 events a year — many of them free — like yoga classes and concerts.

Obesity Thrives in the Suburbs

Houses in the still relatively dense London suburb of Willesden. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

It is not rocket science that walkability reduces obesity – it is a health argument for Sprawl Repair. Feargus O’Sullivan writes: 

“A U.K. study finds a clear connection between density and obesity—and even rural areas fare better than suburban ones.

The study, carried out by specialists at the universities of Oxford and Hong Kong, found that obesity rates were markedly lower in areas where homes were more tightly clustered.

This might not come as a shock, given the long touted health benefits of walkable neighborhoods.”

“…they make one thing clear: Residents’ health is highly likely to improve when sprawling suburbs are made more dense. …it also breaks ground by matching obesity levels with specific rates of housing density.”

 “… the lack of walkability for British people living in sparsely populated areas was compensated for by a relatively active lifestyle, … Even people who live in very sparsely populated areas still had considerably higher levels of obesity than people who live in densely built cities.”

“In other words, being at the heart of things, being able to get around easily, and having more opportunities to build wider social networks might actually boost wellbeing in itself by making life easier, as well as encouraging people to leave their homes more.”

Sprawl repair that clusters homes and inserts mixed uses creates walkable, healthier communities. Heres how it can be done.

Now that Amazon’s a thing, malls have to get creative to survive

A Gold’s gym at a mall in West Covina, California. Source: Mashable

The malls that will survive into the future will be the ones that offer more than just retail. It will be crucial for mall operators to provide a variety of experiences and places that foster socialization. These malls, or lifestyle centers, can be achieved by reintegrating living, working, learning, playing – not only within the mall structures – but also through activation of the underutilized parking. Patrick Kulp of Mashable writes:

“Desperate to plug empty retail holes, mall owners are turning to less traditional businesses like gyms, grocery stores, and high-end restaurants to keep foot traffic flowing.

Some have even transformed parts of the buildings into office parks, medical facilities, or homes.

The new trend raises the question: What even is a mall anymore?

According to CBL & Associates, modern malls need to be “vibrant town centers,” replete with lifestyle and entertainment options beyond simple retail. The property group announced a rebrand of its own 113 spaces to this effect on Thursday.

The idea is to preserve the function that malls once served as a suburban social institution for a generation that may not even know what a “mall rat” is.”

Read more about reenergizing malls through Sprawl Repair. 

Urban Americans Want to Age in Their Neighborhoods

As our population ages, it is more important than ever to adapt our communities to make them more livable and supportive for those who wish to remain independent in their own homes. A Supportive Living Module is a sprawl repair technique that can be inserted into a traditional cul-de-sac to facilitate aging in place within one’s home community.

Mimi Kirk’s story highlights the need for complete, supportive communities:

“Welltower, a company that owns health-care real estate, from retirement communities to outpatient medical office buildings, recently surveyed 3,000 people to find out more about this desire among urbanites to age in place. Respondents were of various ages—Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials—and lived in 10 cities across the country, from Seattle to Houston to Boston. One Canadian city—Toronto—was also included.

The survey showed that 7 out of 10 urbanites still want to live in their city after the age of 80. For Boomers, the share was higher, at 8 out of 10. The result was fairly uniform across the cities. The survey also revealed that all generations are thinking of their 80-plus lives as active ones.”

“Across the country, people are getting older, living longer, and staying in their communities.”

When Lincoln Square was iconic

In 1964, when nine square blocks of historic homes and businesses were demolished for the construction of the shopping center and accompanying parking lot, Urbana was optimistic about the shopping center, hoping that it would revitalize its downtown area.

The Champaign-Urbana community is facing many challenges while seeking an elusive solution for the “dead” Lincoln Square Mall in Downtown Urbana. Designed in 1964 by Victor Gruen, and now designated historic and protected from demolition, few options are available. The solution lies in adaptive reuse that should aim for a variety of uses designed to spur innovation, excitement and foot traffic.

“In 2004, a plan to reintegrate Lincoln Square back into the downtown and redevelop the building with apartments, open space, and offices fell through. That same year it and the adjoining hotel were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, preventing its demolition and forcing Urbana to work around it when trying to revitalize its downtown. Thirteen years later, its future is still up in the air as Carle and Health Alliance recently announce that they are leaving the complex. Various plans to introduce apartments and modern retail space to the area have been proposed, but none have come close to fruition.”

Sears Was the Amazon of Its Time—Until It Made Preventable Mistakes

A customer enters the closing down Sears store is shown in downtown Vancouver.

Derek Thompson’s article for CITYLAB describes the rise and fall of Sears, and a cautionary tale for Amazon.  As the retail climate continues to shift, Sears’ properties, along with real estate holdings liberated by Macy’s and others during  the retail meltdown, offer prime opportunities for sprawl repair that can lead to complete and walkable communities.

 

“There are four broad lessons that Amazon can glean from the story of Sears’s decline.

 

  • First, retail is in a state of perpetual metamorphosis.
  • Second, even large technological advantages for retailers are fleeting.
  • Third, there is no strategic replacement for being obsessed with people and their behavior.
  • Finally, adding more businesses is not the same as building a better business.

But it’s important for Amazon to stay aggressive about experimenting with new platforms, in case one of today’s underdeveloped technologies—like ordering through AI assistants, delivery-by-drone, or virtual and augmented reality—turns out to be the next big thing that transforms retail, all over again.”

Like retail, it is important to be agile and creative in designing new communities and repairing suburban sprawl to meet the changing needs of Millennials and Baby Boomers.

 

Discount Grocers Aldi And Lidl Give U.S. Stores A Run For Their Money

German grocers Aldi and Lidl are aggressively growing their U.S. footprint. Aldi, which aims to have 2,500 stores by 2022, has recently renovated this store (left) in Alexandria, Va. And Lidl’s new location in Manassas, Va., was its 30th in the country.

NPR’s Alina Selyukh describes how German grocers Aldi and Lidl are changing the way Americans shop in both urban and suburban markets. Their compact foot prints and stream-lined service and merchandise fit well in compact, walkable communities, and offer lessons for American retailers in the changing retail climate:

“Both [Aldi and Lidl] stores are known particularly for private-brand, or store-label, products. Jim Hertel, senior vice president at food retail consultancy Inmar Willard Bishop Analytics, says that allows these grocers to offer customers savings of about 35-40 percent compared with other supermarkets. A limited stock goes into these discount stores, which are very compact and value efficiency above frills.

“Typically, in a grocery store you’d often find 25, 26, 27 aisles. In Lidl, what we do here is just six aisles,” says Lidl spokesman Will Harwood. “By the time a customer reaches the end of the first aisle, they’re going to typically be able to do about 80 percent of their shop.”

Hertel says there’s a common misconception that Aldi stores are geared toward low-income shoppers on very limited food budgets. “It’s really a combination,” he says. “Certainly, the extreme value does … appeal to the lower end of the economic scale, but actually the bulk of their sales come from mid- to maybe just above middle-class households.”

How Grocery Giant Aldi Plans to Conquer America: Limit Choice

Zeke Turner of The Wall Street Journal describes Aldi’s “unlikely proposition” to win over “spoiled American shoppers”. Their strategy of offering a very limited selection of high quality products, combined with rigid overhead cost control and a no-frills atmosphere, is attracting people from all socioeconomic levels. It offers a lesson for struggling American grocers and retailers as they combat dying malls and competition from online retailers:

“It offers a deliberately pared-down selection, sometimes a tiny fraction of the number of items sold by rivals, which helps Aldi cut costs to levels U.S. grocers can only dream of. Among other benefits, fewer items means faster turnover, smaller stores, less rent, lower energy costs and fewer staff to stock the shelves. That parsimony enabled Aldi to establish itself in Europe and then launch into the U.S.”

“By keeping costs low, the Spartan assortment allowed the founders to sell their inventory for less and turn it over at lightning speed, boosting profit margins, according to former executives.”

One of Aldi’s strengths that has eluded many discounters is its ability to draw middle-class shoppers–those with more money to spend–despite its limited array of goods. It did this by cultivating the image of a company focused on quality rather than pinching pennies.

“Poor people need us, rich people love us,” Theo Albrecht used to tell executives, according to Mr. Brandes, the former board member.

Read the original WSJ article here.

Genuine change or lipstick on a pig?

Santana Row, Silicon Valley – Source: Wikipedia

A well-known new urban project has begun to reshape the relentless sprawl around it, but communities shouldn’t wait for that to happen.

Robert Steuteville wonders if Santana Row, “represents real progress—or is it merely dressing up a mess of disconnected development?”

To what extent is Santana Row an improvement [over conventional suburban development (CSD)]? And is it causing a positive impact beyond its borders?

Unlike the strip mall it replaced, Santana Row includes more than 800 housing units on the 42-acre site, in a region that is severely short of housing.

“In addition to seeding changes in its immediate context, Santana Row also proved the market for mixed-use, walkable development in the area—and this may have contributed to the revitalization of the city’s downtown several miles away”, according to Ellen Dunham-Jones.

Santana Row’s impact has really taken off now that the community itself has taken the initiative to do more. It has taken San Jose a decade and a half to leverage the impact of Santana Row, and therein is a lesson for municipalities.

Expecting a developer to solve a thoroughfare or context problem that exists at a far larger scale than the development site is unrealistic. The developer has no leverage to change the culture of an institution like the local, state, or federal Department of Transportation. Even if DOTs would be willing to change, politics are involved. By taking the lead in transforming a major thoroughfare, the developer risks additional opposition to their project. There might be good reasons for a developer to attempt that—and I hope they do—but the developer would be crazy to try it without strong support from local leaders.

Local leaders and citizens can learn more about Sprawl Repair and find tools for transforming their own communities from Galina Tachieva, Managing Partner at DPZ CoDesign.

The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here

Sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.

Alan M. Berger of The New York Times writes:

“Millennials want a different kind of suburban development that is smart, efficient and sustainable.

The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.

Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.

They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.

Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries.

Planners need to view cities, suburbs and exurbs not as discrete units but as regions, with one integrated environmental and technological system.”

The most environmentally responsible approach is almost always reusing and reconfiguring what already exists, rather than discarding and creating something new.  It is critical to employ sprawl repair techniques to make our communities more socially and environmentally responsive, not just build new to suit the millennials. Read more from Galina Tachieva.

Nordstrom Tries On a New Look: Stores Without Merchandise

Retail of the future may be more about experience than consumption.  According to Suzanne Kapner of The Wall Street Journal, some stores will not even carry clothing:

Millennials Are Driving the Suburban Resurgence

Bloomberg View columnists Justin Fox, Conor Sen and Noah Smith discuss evidence that suburbs are experiencing a resurgence, in spite of talk of reinventing our cities. Poor economics and limited options may be the cause. 

“More young adults are moving to the land of white picket fences. Is it by choice, or necessity?”

Fox writes:

“The fact that millennials weren’t buying homes or cars a few years ago was more the product of economic hard times than an expression of changing tastes.

The supply of walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods in the U.S. is limited, and it’s really hard for political reasons to add density to them or build more of them.

I can’t help but see this suburban resurgence as at least partly a policy failure wrought by not-in-my-backyard activists, messed-up zoning rules, freeway-besotted transportation officials and the like.”

Smith writes:

“I definitely think we see some new cities getting in on the “tech city” game… with strong pushes to attract more knowledge-based industries, using their universities as anchors…”

And something interesting about these smaller cities is that it’s not clear whether they’re urban or suburban. We think of “suburbs” as extensions of big metros, but a lot of these smaller, thriving places have a distinctly suburban feel — ranch houses, strip malls, etc., maybe with a few blocks of walkable restaurant/clothing shop areas. But they depend on the clustering of smart people for their productivity, and their populations keep growing. Is that kind of place a city, or a suburb?”

It will be important to grow these areas responsibly through initiatives like Sprawl Repair and Build a Better Burb.

How to Build Better Burbs to Ease the Housing Crunch

‘Missing middle’ forms of gentle density refer to the less-common housing types between the single-family house and the high-rise. Image by Opticos Design, Inc.

Christopher Cheung asks, 

“…does choosing the suburbs have to mean saying goodbye to the conveniences and lifestyle of the city?

Urbanists are saying no. “Sprawl repair” and “retrofitting suburbia” have become popular terms in the past two decades. Many municipalities that have embraced suburbia in the past are taking action to transform their sprawls into healthier, more convenient and more diverse communities.”

“The suburbs can change and get better without transforming every square foot of its built form,” said Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former chief planner, now a global consultant on city building.

At the very least, “you need to make the suburbs walkable,” said Toderian. “At minimum, you need sidewalks and street trees.”

Toderian also recommends mixed-use suburban centres that have higher density and are pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly. This evolution doesn’t mean doing away with cars; it means offering more choices so driving isn’t your only option if you need to get to work or grab a carton of milk.

“The conversation needs to be about true costs and consequences, as well as opportunities to do density well with great design,” he said. “Because if not, politicians could just suggest to their constituency that they’re protecting their city from density and change. That’s a dangerous, false narrative.”

Learn more about the Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva.

Suburbanism reversed in a generation?

According to Laurie Volk and Todd Zimmerman, “Since the turn of century, the demographic convergence of the two largest generations in the nation’s history, Baby Boomers and Millennials, both at life stages favoring community-oriented neighborhoods has formed the foundation for a nationwide urban resurgence.

The impact has been felt in neighborhoods at every scale, from the nation’s greatest cities to small, walkable 19th century downtowns that have become the de facto urban centers for surrounding auto-oriented subdivisions.”

However, there are other distinctions among households that can be more meaningful than age cohort, including preferences for urban scale and taste for new versus old.

In addition, Millennials’ life stage, financial circumstances and attitude toward ownership housing threatens to clog the whole system of ownership housing.

Millennial families’ continued embrace of walkable urbanism will depend on the success and quality of re-urbanization, particularly in smaller-scale urban centers, and whether a range of housing types can be developed, redeveloped, restored or maintained within these walkable neighborhoods. And, perhaps more importantly, it will depend on whether these dwellings, whether for-rent or for-sale, will be affordable to a wide spectrum of households.

Generation Us: Graying of the suburbs presents challenges for the community

David McNair wrote for The Daily Progress and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging:

While the suburbs evolved as places where people could escape to raise their families in peace and privacy, our communities now may need to reach out to those aging homeowners in suburban locations and provide them with the support and services they will need to age in place.

Peter Thompson, executive director of the Senior Center and chair of the newly created Charlottesville Area Alliance, a collective of regional partners whose objective is to lead the advancement of an age-friendly community, says one of the missions of the alliance is to work with area localities, business and nonprofits to study these needs and develop strategies to address the common and divergent needs our urban, suburban and rural areas  — from benches with backs on them to improved pedestrian and public transportation for people who do not or choose not to drive.

Through sprawl repair, it is possible to amenitize the suburbs and support the concept of aging in place. Learn more at Aging in Place on a Cul-de-Sac by Galina Tachieva, which discusses the use of the Supportive Living Module to create opportunities for senior living within a single-family subdivision. 

Six highlights of a walkable center

King of Prussia Town Center Source: Build a Better Burb

“King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, a major suburban “edge city” outside of Philadelphia, is building a walkable town center. Until recently, King of Prussia included nothing but massive parking lots and car-oriented shopping centers—including the second largest mall in the US—office buildings, and wide, busy thoroughfares.

King of Prussia still has all of that, but this suburban retrofit brings human-scale placemaking to the heart of this census-designated place in Upper Merion Township.

Key highlights of this suburban retrofit include: lots of outdoor dining; architecture that is eclectic and modern-looking—not traditional like many new town centers; a plaza with comfortable places to sit, programming such as live music and events, and a really fun fountain for the kids; and about 1,250 housing units will surround the shops and restaurants when the project is complete. Once fully occupied, this housing could bump up Upper Merion Township’s population 10 to 15 percent.

The project utilizes diverse sprawl repair techniques to create a livable community offering live, work and play options that broaden the tax base, and increase viability for the surrounding businesses.

Six reasons for the resurgence of car-free shopping streets

It’s all about the experience.
Source: Bethesda Magazine. Bethesda Lane. Bethesda, MD

Lee Sobel writes that car-free shopping streets are witnessing a resurgence with the return to traditional neighborhood design.

“Walkable places have become more desirable and people are looking for additional retail options in the places where they already live, work, and play. Car-free shopping streets offer just that.”

Sprawl repair techniques offer flexibility of design, scale and ownership options, allowing a range of stakeholders to partake in the success of car-free shopping streets.

 

 

The Geography of Innovation

Richard Florida writes:

recent study by economists Enrico Berkes of Northwestern University and Ruben Gaetani of the University of Toronto Rotman School cracks the proverbial code on the geography of innovation. They find that while there is actually a greater amount of innovation (as measured by patents) in suburbs, cities produce far more “unconventional innovations,” which require a greater diversity of contributors and have a more disruptive economic impact.

Unconventional patents are more likely to come from smaller companies, university labs, or independent inventors than large, publicly-traded companies. And they are often the harbingers of revolutionary new technologies.

In other words, density plays a much bigger and more important role in the type of innovation than in the rate of innovation.

Large cities not only have deep pools of talent and a critical mass of specialists, they also have the density to forge connections between people and firms with diverse bases of knowledge.

Ultimately, the better way to think about the geography of innovation is not city versus suburb but city and suburb. If cities are the centers for more cutting-edge innovation, the suburbs remain home to the big established companies that require large campuses to house their activities and people, and which tend to engage in a lot of patenting.

It will be interesting to track these trends in the coming years, as big companies seek to urbanize their suburban campuses.

Mall owners take a pay cut amid brick-and-mortar struggles

 discusses a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Grant on declining compensation for mall owners due to a correction to the over-built retail environment and a result of the shift to e-commerce.

The Great Recession helped accelerate a natural correction, experts say. Last year, retail analyst Jan Kniffen, CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises, said that while America at the time had about 1,100 enclosed malls, that number should be around 700 — meaning that roughly a third are destined to close.

Those remaining will likely be robust, according to Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks International. “In a strange twist, however, the smaller number of malls that remain operating when the dust settles will become virtually indestructible by offering only best-in-class higher end merchandise in exclusive collections.  We already know who the winners will be, and the vast majority are owned and operated by four REITs: Simon, Westfield, Macerich and GGP.”

Incremental mall retrofits and sprawl repair can be the key to which malls succed.

Jarvis: Mostly vacant Windsor plazas seen as an opportunity for ‘sprawl repair’

According to Anne Jarvis of the Windsor Star in Windsor, Ontario,

“Strip malls like Dorwin and Dougall plazas litter North America. They were built for cars, not people. They’re not inviting, and that’s why they’re dying. One of the biggest challenges for cities is how to fix them. It’s called “sprawl repair,” and it’s about retrofitting half-empty malls, strip malls and office parks.”

“I see opportunity for places like Dorwin,” said Shane Mitchell, a project manager at Glos Associates architectural and engineering consultants in Windsor.

“It’s about converting these monstrosities into neighbourhood hubs with a mix of uses. Monolithic buildings are carved into smaller buildings. Small streets and public squares are added. Parking is reduced. It’s creating a traditional city centre and main street. All of a sudden you … end up with an interesting place,” said Mitchell.

The first thing municipalities, including Windsor, have to do is change regulations that require buildings to be too far from the street and have too much parking. Cities can also stop offering tax rebates for some vacant properties, as Windsor is considering. But they also need to offer incentives for developers to do these types of developments, like Windsor already provides for other types of development.

According to Dorian Moore, a partner in Archive Design Studio in Detroit, “they have to encourage developers to “see the value in doing that kind of development. Show them what can be done,” he said, citing Mashpee Commons in Massachusetts, a 1960s strip mall with a huge parking lot converted into a renowned and award-winning mixed use town centre.

“You have to encourage the type of development you want to see,” said Mitchell.

Learn more about DPZ CoDesign’s Urbanism Code for Mashpee Commons here.

Grocery Stores Move In On Suburban Locations

The interior of Natick Mall, MA, the upcoming location of a new Wegmans store

Laura Hillen writes that grocery retailers are finding new homes as mall anchors in suburbia.

Due to declining foot traffic, many retailers are now preparing to close a large number of their stores. These closures are leaving empty mall spaces in their wake.

Food retail is one thing helping struggling malls survive,” June Williamson, an architecture professor at the City College of New York, and Co-Author of Retrofitting Suburbia.

Williamson also stated that losing an anchor store and its lease payment can make it difficult for a mall’s survival. However, malls are starting to focus on answering consumer needs apart from just clothing. As the consumer shopping experience continues to change, malls could prove a successful financial hub by offering food-related business.

Retrofits of existing malls can capitalize on proximity to infrastructure, housing, parking and public transportation. Grocers and other non-traditional mall uses, such as offices and health care, can benefit the entire region without the need to build from the ground up.

New Jersey Has a Millennials Problem

According to a report by CBRE, New Jersey’s struggling office market is facing another big challenge: the exodus of millennials. This is in addition to numerous hurdles over the past decade, resulting from the recession and vacant corporate campuses left behind after company consolidations. The latest is an “alarming” outflow of young workers from the state.

A number of landlords have been investing heavily to renovate older buildings, adding lobbies with Wi-Fi, baristas and wine bars, lounge seating and cafeterias offering a variety of food options. Others are subsidizing beefed-up transportation to and from train stations and hip downtowns using vans or ride-sharing apps.

Many millennials are coming from a few years of living on college campuses with recreational areas, academic buildings and collaborative spaces. Savvy corporate complexes, like the Warren Corporate Center in Warren, N.J., are being redeveloped with amenities designed to attract millennials, such as a stand-alone amenity building in the center of the 820,000 square-foot complex, featuring an indoor basketball court, conference-room facilities, a food court with a coffee bar, fitness center and a green roof with event space.

Sprawl repair techniques can revitalize suburban campuses and communities to make it more attractive for the millennials, and all residents of the Garden State.

Brainard wants to transform office building parking lots along U.S. 31 into ‘little villages’

Chris Sikich discusses plans to insert mixed uses, including, residential and retail development similar to Carmel’s downtown, into the state’s second largest commercial hub along US 31.

When Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard looks at the 5-mile stretch of highway, he doesn’t just see multistory corporate headquarters and health care complexes that have been so instrumental in building the city’s financial base. He says there are hundreds of acres of underused land, not just the few tracts of green space on the market, but also the seas of parking lots that serve the buildings.

“It’s such a waste of space, these big suburban parking lots, which don’t look very nice,” Brainard said. “I anticipate some day there will be little villages around those office towers.”

The mayor is proposing to provide millions in taxpayer incentives for property owners and developers to build restaurants, shops, apartments and condos with parking garages along U.S. 31

As Carmel has developed its urban core, several high-profile corporations have fled the U.S. 31 corridor for the more walkable environment being created in the city’s downtown area.

“The market is changing,” Brainard said. “People don’t want to get in their cars to drive to lunch anymore. They want to walk someplace close to their office.”

He thinks the highest quality development comes from public-private partnerships. He wants to guide development as he has in Carmel’s urban core. He hopes to offer incentives to encourage the development of shops, restaurants, homes and public spaces. That most likely means using TIF districts to pay back city bonds for parking garages, which in the past have cost from $10 million to $20 million each.

Busting 4 Common Myths About the Suburbs

Rachel Quednau busts four common myths about suburban sprawl, and makes the case for hard choices that can lead to sensible sprawl repair. 

Myth #1: The suburbs exist because that’s the way people want to live.

Busted: The suburbs exist because that’s the style of development that has been regulated into existence and funded by governments across the nation.

Myth #2: Sprawl is the biggest problem with the suburbs.

Busted: The problem is a development pattern that is financially insolvent.

Myth #3: Suburban residents are paying for the cost of their lifestyle.

Busted: Across the country, we see that urban areas subsidize suburban living to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Myth #4: We can turn the suburbs into financially productive places if we just try our hardest.

Busted: No. There’s too much suburban development for this to ever happen.

 

With the painfully limited amount of resources we all have right now, we must make the hard choices about where to focus our efforts. We can take small steps to help older neighborhoods with a solid foundation to be more successful, or we can take herculean steps to push a few suburban neighborhoods in a slightly better direction, in spite of aggressive cultural opposition.

The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva offers numerous techniques to determine the most promising locations where targeted, incremental investment is likely to be successful.

Historic Sprawl: A Future for Post-War Suburbia

Solitary drive-through retail site is retrofitted with liner buildings to incrementally begin the transition to walkable, livable communities.
Image Credit: Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva of DPZ CoDesign
Deficiency: Sprawl-type Solitary drive-through retail. Remedial Techniques: Step 1: liner building retrofit. Step 2: Dense redevelopment where viable. Image Credit: Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva of DPZ CoDesign

Jonathan Hopkins of Urbanismo makes a compelling case that the NPS’s evaluation criteria for nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places should be revised to address concerns that preservation funding will become increasingly available for use by sprawling Post-War suburban subdivisions like Levittown, New York as they reach their 50 year eligibility mark.

“It becomes necessary to make clear criteria-based distinctions between sprawl and other development patterns like neighborhoods and small towns in order to prevent the preservation of obesity, social dysfunction, and environmental degradation.”

“By taking a proactive approach sooner rather than later, the prevention of preserving sprawl in its current state can be realized. The preservation movement – in coordination with environmentalists, developers, medical physicians, and others – can encourage law-makers to pass legislation to amend the Secretary of the Interior’s standards to include suburban retrofitting guidelines that outline appropriate initiatives to be funded by tax credits and planning grants at both the State and Federal level. In coordination with land-use, zoning, tax, and development policy reforms that discourage new suburban sprawl developments, historic preservation funding sources can encourage the retrofitting of sprawl into a more sustainable, accessible, affordable, and attractive living arrangement.”

 

 

Millennials prefer revitalized historic areas not malls

Mission Brewery operates a 2,500 sq. ft. tasting room inside a 25,000 square foot brewing facility in downtown San Diego, breathing new life into the Historic Wonder Bread Building in the East Village. Image Credit: Mission Brewery.

Are millennials the key to preservation?

A new survey by  American Express, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Edge Research – Millennials and Historic Preservation: A Deep Dive Into Attitudes and Values – finds that millennials prefer to live, work and play in neighborhoods with historic buildings.

The survey finds millennials tend to value a mix of old and new buildings where they live, dine, shop and travel.

Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation states, “The revitalization of many urban communities is being driven in large part by the influx of young people seeking authentic experiences and places with character that are found in historic neighborhoods.”

By revitalizing cities and increasing the density of inner ring neighborhoods utilizing sprawl repair techniques, a great deal of detrimental sprawl can be averted. Learn more about Sprawl Repair on Galina Tachieva’s website.

Why the Death of Malls Is About More Than Shopping

Josh Sanburn offers an historic perspective on American malls, and a glimpse into the future for malls and communities willing to invest in sprawl repair and place-making. Learn more about Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva.

Local jobs are a major casualty of what analysts are calling, with only a hint of hyperbole, the retail apocalypse. By 2022, analysts estimate that 1 out of every 4 malls in the U.S. could be out of business, victims of changing tastes, a widening wealth gap and the embrace of online shopping for everything from socks to swing sets.

Local jobs are a major casualty of what analysts are calling, with only a hint of hyperbole, the retail apocalypse.

In the 61 years since the first enclosed one opened in suburban Minneapolis, the shopping mall has been where a huge swath of middle-class America went for far more than shopping. But for better or worse, the mall has been America’s public square for the last 60 years.

Some of the great mall die-off is what economists refer to as a market correction. “We are over-retailed,” says Ronald Friedman, a partner at Marcum LLP, which researches consumer trends. There is an estimated 26 sq. ft. of retail for every person in the U.S., compared with about 2.5 sq. ft. per capita in Europe. Roughly 60% of Macy’s stores slated to close are within 10 miles of another Macy’s.

Some ailing malls have already moved on to a second life. Austin Community College in Texas purchased Highland Mall in 2012 and converted part of it into a tech-driven learning lab and library. In Nashville, Vanderbilt University Medical Center moved into the second floor of the 100 Oaks Mall a few miles from downtown. The Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Ky., bought their nearby mall and transformed part of it into an auditorium.

It also turns out that not everyone wants to spend their leisure time inside. Many of the new, millennial-focused malls are indoor/outdoor complexes designed as one cog of a suburban town center that includes apartments and office space … a magnet for millennials who are leaving downtowns for the suburbs but still want to live in a dense, walkable community.

There are still about 1,100 malls in the U.S. today, but a quarter of them are at risk of closing over the next five years, according to estimates from Credit Suisse.

 

 

Wildfires are becoming more destructive. A new book says that’s not natural — and it’s not climate change

“Flame and Fortune in the American West,” a book by University of Colorado Denver professor Gregory Simon argues that increasing devastation by fire is a result of building homes and businesses in unwise places, rather than the easy scapegoat of ‘climate change’. An interview with the author discusses economics and development patterns that increase fire risk at the urban boundary:

“One objective of the book is to say, look, you can change land use planning in this way or that way, you can change the rules, you can change development to reduce fire risks and costs. But the other part of the book is concerned with how we talk about fire. I argue that when we suggest the problem is caused mainly by climate change and environmental factors we are actually exonerating — unfairly — the role of humans and city developers in creating these risks in the first place …  We keep spreading cities farther and farther out and I think that needs to be part of the discourse. Fires disasters aren’t natural, they’re very social.

I propose ways in which we can slow down this process of converting landscape, and adding risk to the landscapes and extracting profits from landscapes, by doing things like taking land out of availability through conservation easements or making development more costly, whether that means reducing fire protection services or reducing home ownership incentives.”

One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix

The new Apple headquarters under construction in Cupertino, Calif.
JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES

Alison Arieff spent the last year researching the future of the corporate campus through the lens of urbanism.

“The project has explored how the Bay Area’s workplaces might become more socially, economically and sustainably efficient, but also how applying new ways of thinking about the design, form and location of these buildings could help create a sense of place.

Solving this isn’t rocket science; it’s common sense. Don’t design buildings that function only as pristine objects with no relationship to their surroundings. Don’t put workplaces in locations inaccessible to transit. Do consider the broader context.”

Learn more about Sprawl and Sprawl Repair from Galina Tachieva, and check out the Sprawl Repair Manual.

Check out Galina’s Blog on Apple’s new campus: Not This Time – Why the new Apple campus doesn’t work