My big fat New Urbanism conference rundown

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) – probably the most significant urban design movement in North America since Levittown and the rise of suburbia – turned 20 in West Palm Beach last week. CNU20 was my first congress, and it was by turns amazing, amusing and a bit dull, and overall it’s probably the most important conference I’ve attended since this convergence-of-climate-change-and-energy-scarcity thing I went to in 2006. Let me explain why.

First Suburbs Coalition

The First Suburbs Coalition has formed a partnership with KC Communities for All Ages, a regional initiative to help communities prepare for the large increase in older adults that will occur over the next two decades achat 10 viagra. The partnership hosted a kickoff for the regional initiative with a focus on what local governments can do to start preparing for the aging boom. News media around town has been reporting on the initiative:
Mission preparing for surge of aging citizens
Gladstone, other suburbs examine what’s needed to be a community for all ages

Gated Communities, Civility and Crime

Among Florida cities, Sanford has a remarkable amount of green space. As WMFE reporter Matthew Peddie noted for WNYC’s Transportation Nation blog, Sanford has spent more than $20 million in the last two decades creating more than 30 parks and green spaces. However, Sanford is also notable for being home to numerous gated communities — like The Retreat at Twin Lakes, the neighborhood where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked back from 7-Eleven.
One of the questions that Trayvon’s death has raised is the issue of who or what makes a community or a neighborhood seem “safe” or “unsafe.” Elijah Anderson, professor of sociology at Yale and the author of “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life” writes about the kind of spaces where civil, harmonious interactions between people can emerge. Galina Tachieva, an expert in sustainable planning and community development, is the author of the “Sprawl Repair Manual.”

If you care about cities, return that new iPad

If you care about cities, about walkable communities, about healing the crappy environment thrust upon us for the last four decades in the form of suburban sprawl, then get a refund on that new iPad 3. Take your iPhone back, too. Because its manufacturer, oh-so-hip Apple, Inc., is betting that the company is cool enough to get away with violating even the most basic tenets of smart growth and walkability in the sprawling, car-dependent design of its new headquarters. Don’t let them collect on that bet.

Fixing suburbs with green streets that accommodate everyone

We’ve made such a mess of the suburbs we constructed in the last fifty or so years that one wonders whether they can ever be made into something more sustainable. Strip malls, traffic jams, cookie-cutter subdivisions, diminished nature, almost no sense of outdoor community. We all know the drill: there are nice places to be in America’s recently built suburbs, but we have to know where they are and drive to them through a visual and environmental mess to get there.
One of the most challenging aspects of suburbs, and of the prescriptions for improving them, is the character of their roadways. Most of us take the poor design of our streets – the most visible part of most suburban communities, if you think about it – so much for granted that it never occurs to us that they actually could be made better for the community and for the environment. Consider, for example, main “arterial” streets so wide that pedestrians can’t cross them, even if there is a reason to; little if any greenery to absorb water, heat, or provide a calming influence; or residential streets with no sidewalks.

The Unbearable Cost of Sprawl – How planners can correct some of the worst excesses of the exurbs

It’s no secret that America’s sprawling, car-dependent exurbs were Ground Zero for the economic meltdown. These “drive ’til you qualify” communities were built on risky decisions and over-leveraged debt—buyers betting that the price of gasoline for commuting wouldn’t go up too much, or that they’d be able to sell their pricey McMansions before their artificially low mortgages reset. Millions of homeowners lost that bet, and the entire world paid the economic price.
But we haven’t gotten rid of the danger. In fact, the worst might be yet to come. Energy costs continue to skyrocket, making travel and heating exorbitant. New research suggests sprawl is hurting our health. For example, rates of obesity in unwalkable suburbs are near epidemic levels. And local municipalities that tried to grow their tax base through sprawl may soon be overwhelmed by the extra costs of maintenance.

A Suburban Pilgrimage, Part II: Retrofitting Levittown!

Yesterday I posted the story of my dream urban pilgrimage—a journey I recently made to the first post–World War II American sprawl suburb, Levittown.
I wrote that I was caught off guard by how benevolent the residential sections of Levittown seemed when compared with the modern sprawling suburban neighborhoods that were modeled after it.
It cannot be ignored, however, that the commercial strips within and surrounding Levittown nonetheless suffer from the same problem that sprawling suburban outposts do—the hollow lifelessness of a car-oriented landscape.
Levittown was the first town built entirely upon the assumption of individual automobile use, and the main thoroughfare leading into it presents a harsh, impossible landscape of vast parking lots, distant megastores, and four, six, eight-lane ropes of traffic.

A Suburban Pilgrimage, Part I: Learning to Like Levittown

Almost everyone has a secret pilgrimage destination tucked somewhere in their own personal book of dreams. For many these are, as Ryszard Kapuściński once wrote, “certain magical names with seductive, colorful associations—Timbuktu, Lalibela, Casablanca.”
They are places to which we attach wonder, mystique, and fascination; places that we dream of one day exploring, with the subliminal hope of finding an exotic understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place within it.
My secret place is Levittown. I have always wanted to go to Levittown.

Galina Tachieva: Occupy Wall Street? Occupy the Unoccupied . . . Occupy Sprawl!

As thousands cram into the winding streets and public spaces of lower Manhattan in a revolt against the “corporate forces of the world,” Galina Tachieva would really prefer protesters take over an abandoned Walmart parking lot instead.
She’d really prefer we occupy sprawl viagra paypal.
One of my personal heroes, Tachieva is a partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Architects and Town Planners (DPZ), Miami, and author of the Sprawl Repair Manual. She specializes in suburban retrofits—revamping automobile-oriented, sprawling regions into more lively, sustainable, and compact communities.

Sprawl Repair – From Sprawl to Complete Communities

Sprawl is a pattern of growth characterized by an abundance of congested highways, strip shopping centers, big boxes, office parks, and gated cul-de-sac subdivisions—all separated from each other in isolated, single-use pods. This land-use pattern is typically found in suburban areas, but also affects our cities, and is central to our wasteful use of water, energy, land, and time spent in traffic. Sprawl has been linked to increased air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of open space and natural habitat, and the exponential increase in new infrastructure costs. Social problems related to the lack of diversity have been attributed to sprawl, and health problems such as obesity to its auto-dependence.
In contrast, complete communities have a mix of uses and are walkable, with many of a person’s daily need—shops, offices, transit, civic and recreational places—within a short distance of home. They are compact, so they consume less open space and enable multiple modes of transportation, including bicycles, cars, and mass transit. A wide variety of building types provides options to residents and businesses, encouraging diversity in population. This mix of uses, public spaces, transportation, and population makes complete communities economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.

Incremental Sprawl Repair Working Group

Why is it important to study single story traditional commercial buildings? Because most of the commercial buildings built out in suburbia are single story structures; it’s like the inverse of the denser neighborhoods. There are a few commercial buildings with upper floors, but all the big boxes, the small chain pharmacies, the fast food outlets, the gas stations, the strip shopping centers, the car dealerships and the automobile maintenance shops are all single story structures.

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Sprawl Repair: From Auto-Scale to Human-Scale

Sprawl repair transforms failing or potentially failing single-use and car-dominated developments into complete communities that have better economic, social, and environmental performance.
The objective of the sprawl repair strategy is to build communities based on the neighborhood unit, similar to the traditional fabric that was established in cities and suburbs prior to World War II. The primary tactic of sprawl repair is to insert needed elements — buildings, density, public space, additional connections — to complete and diversify the mono-cultural agglomerations of sprawl: residential subdivisions, strip shopping centers, office parks, suburban campuses, malls, and edge cities. By systematically modifying the reparable areas (turning subdivisions into walkable neighborhoods and shopping centers and malls into town centers) and leaving to devolution those that are irreparable (abandonment or conversion to park, agricultural, or natural land), portions of sprawl can be reorganized into complete communities.
To identify the proper targets for repair, it is essential to understand the form and structure of sprawl in the American built environment. Sprawl and suburbia are not synonymous. There are three generations of suburbia that vary in form as related to urbanity and walkability: pre-war suburbs, post-war suburbs, and late 20th-century exurbs. Pre-war suburbs are often complete communities developed along railroad and streetcar corridors; they are compact, walkable, and have a mix of uses. The latter two types abandoned the pedestrian-centered neighborhood structure in favor of auto-centric dispersion and can be considered sprawl. Sprawl repair concentrates on these two tiers of suburbs.

From Commercial Strips to Transit Boulevards

Which automobile-dependent landscapes in the U.S. are the most forsaken? Where would the pedestrian-oriented European strategies seem most out of place and yet potentially have the greatest impact on increasing affordability, health and livability while reducing greenhouse gases and re-using existing infrastructure? Commercial strip corridors.

Top of the list of unloved, underperforming and ubiquitous places, they were engineered for the single purpose of swiftly moving cars. But overzoned for commercial uses, they are now clogged with cars on both local and through trips. They provide access to cheaper land and “drive till you qualify” affordable housing – but then eat up the savings as transportation costs have risen to 20 to 40 percent of household budgets. They are aging with little prospect of funding for maintenance. And their high vacancy rates just add to the dispiritedness of a failed public realm.

If baby boomers stay in suburbia, analysts predict cultural shift

The nation’s suburbs are home to a rapidly growing number of older people who are changing the image and priorities of a suburbia formed around the needs of young families with children, an analysis of census data shows.

Although the entire United States is graying, the 2010 Census showed how much faster the suburbs are growing older when compared with the cities. Thanks largely to the baby-boom generation, four in 10 suburban residents are 45 or older, up from 34 percent just a decade ago. Thirty-five percent of city residents are in that age group, an increase from 31 percent in the last census.

National Association of Real Estate Editors Announces Bruss Book Award Winners

SAN ANTONIO, TX (June 17, 2011) – The National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) has named the 2011 winners of the Robert Bruss Real Estate Book Awards, recognizing excellence in recently published works.
Winning the first place Gold Award in the competition is: Sheri Koones for “Prefabulous + Sustainable,” published by Abrams. NAREE Book Competition Head Judge Allen Norwood commented: “Authoritative and beautiful. Once again, Koones builds her case for pre-fab thoroughly, and presents it in a compelling, well organized package.”
Winning the Silver Award was Galina Tachieva for “The Sprawl Repair Manual” published by Island Press. NAREE Book Competition Head Judge Allen Norwood commented: “Filled with interesting and innovative case studies.”
Winning the Bronze Award is Ben Kinney with Jay Papasan for “Soci@l” published by Rellek Publishing Partners, Ltd. NAREE Book Competition Head Judge Allen Norwood commented: “One of the most timely — and helpful — examinations of the media transforming real estate. Belongs on every agent’s desk.”
NAREE’s First-Time Author Award winner is Gregory Zuckerman for “The Greatest Trade Ever” published by Crown Business. NAREE Book Competition Head Judge Allen Norwood commented: “Detailed account – from perspective of one of the most important periods in the nation’s financial history and reads like a compelling novel.”
Allen Norwood, a freelance editor of HGTV online, retired Homes Editor, Charlotte Observer, and past NAREE vice president judged the competition along with Judith Stark, freelance editor and writer, retired real estate and homes editor for the St. Petersburg Times and NAREE past president; and Byron Koste, executive director emeritus for the University of Colorado Real Estate Center.

Sprawl repair

The business of retrofitting suburban environments is steadily maturing, but with progress come questions – does rehabilitating strip malls along arterials require, by definition, the muscle of a regional planning approach? Or are incremental steps the more realistic intervention? Two cases studies were highlighted in the panel “Sprawl Retrofit at the Micro Scale: Repairing in All Dimensions” at the 19th Congress for the New Urbanism in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month: the ongoing transformation of State Road 7 in the Fort Lauderale-Hollywood area in south Florida, part of the Lincoln Institute’s Redesigning the Edgeless City program, and the Long Island Index initiative and Places to Grow report prepared by partner the Regional Plan Association.

Faded Malls Leave Cities in the Lurch

American cities, long reliant on sales-tax revenue from retailers to support municipal budgets, are facing a harsh reckoning as the era of the shopping center as municipal cash cow appears to be at an end.

Interview with GalinaTachieva

Host Steve Mouzon (The Original Green) interviews Galina Tachieva (The Sprawl Repair Manual) at CNU 19 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Sponsored by Notre Dame School of Architecture and Produced by First+Main Media, creators of the American Makeover series.

When overabundance becomes a liability

Dan argues for more supporting data. Yes, such data and research may help win arguments for better connectivity, better urbanism, and even finding investment and financing. However, the current economic condition is so dire, unpredictable, and very different from other times’ that even if we have the research in hand, it may not be relevant. Today’s predicament of our sprawling suburbs requires fast, even risky response, not necessarily rooted in proven data — more of the type of small-scale actions with limited scope that June discusses, since by their very nature these actions often have much quicker and more telling outcomes than do more ambitious approaches and timelines.

Showing how, through history, urbanism has supported economic recovery (or did it?) can be helpful, but many of the techniques and tools we need to employ today to repair and retrofit sprawl will be brave and new, and may have no data to support their use. New Urbanism was built on the basis of past evidence – but evidence clearly available to anyone who looked for it, through their experiences – not through an abstract analysis.

We will be inventing ways to do things and even new markets, similarly to the first steps that New Urbanism took. Our innovations will include: how to deal with failing residential subdivisions with multiple foreclosures and deserted properties; how to implement micro-repairs by introducing small but effective amenity packages; and how to create downtowns of modest proportions without financial backing and big investors.

June asks, can suburban retrofitting be taken seriously, as architecture? I would say that suburban retrofitting will not be about architecture at all; it will be about economic survival. Entering a post-recession decade, obviously without fanfare, we will need not only to repair the physical fabric of sprawl but also to generate a new economic framework.

This will require new types of creativity, discovering niche markets and banking more on uniqueness than on omnipresence. Suburbia is already people-diverse, a collection of “ethno-burbs,” and it can support a new “artisan” economy that already is burgeoning in distressed cities and their inner-ring neighborhoods. This phenomenon of economic uncertainty and transition is similar to Eastern Europe in the early ‘90’s, when scarcity inspired a new informal grassroots economy.

Today’s American suburbs have an overabundance of everything — infrastructure, national chains, big boxes, fast-food drive-throughs — but when overabundance starts to fail, high quantity becomes a liability. Re-using and adapting the existing suburban types to incubate new possibilities will help gradually complete the rest of sprawl’s incomplete fabric and make it more livable and sustainable in the long run.

Retrofitting suburbia: the state of the art

In today’s difficulty economy, three published new urbanist practitioners look at how to get projects going — in the suburbs or elsewhere.

On June 1, at CNU 19 in Madison, Wisconsin, an in-depth “202” session will feature a discussion of innovative sprawl retrofit solutions by Dan Slone, June Williamson, and Galina Tachieva. The published works of these three include Retrofitting Suburbia, the Sprawl Repair Manual, and A Legal Guide to Urban and Sustainable Development.

Suburbia: What a Concept

There is no more iconic suburb than Levittown, the postwar planned community built by the developer William Levitt in the late 1940s, so it is understandable that in launching Open House, a collaborative project to imagine a “future suburbia,” the Dutch design collective Droog in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro architects would make it the focus of their inquiry.

Adapting Suburbs in the 21st Century

With city and state budgets shrinking, American architects are faced with a star-spangled nightmare of inefficient infrastructure: suburban sprawl. Communities built around car transportation and perpetual growth must suddenly adapt to the collapse of the housing market and automobile industry, while competing for an increasingly limited pool of resources india viagra online.

Monkey See, Monkey Don’t: Economic Development as a Whole New Animal

In the economic development world, we’re always trying to grow our economic base. And by that we mean goods and services that we export, not just what we use in our local markets bayer viagra. That might include university services, tourism, and any products that we pack and ship, or regional retail that we steal from our neighbors.

A talk with Galina Tachieva, author of ‘The Sprawl Repair Manual’

Driving the highways and byways of America’s endless exurbs and suburbs can be pretty depressing. Strip mall after megamall after subdivision after strip mall fans out from every city in the country — with much of that development sitting vacant or in foreclosure. Even the sprawl has sprawl these days.

It’s a problem even if you’re a dedicated suburbanite. Commutes are long and congested, office space sits vacant, and green space gets eaten up to build new malls and developments as the old ones become obsolete.

So, can this mess be fixed?

That’s the question Galina Tachieva tackles in her recent book, The Sprawl Repair Manual. Tachieva is partner and director of town planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company in Miami, Fla. — the firm of urbanist eminence Andrés Duany.

A Sprawl Fighting Fixit Guide

In Arcade Fire’s latest video, The Suburbs, the dystopic view of suburbia takes over as a militia moves in to transform a gated community in a police state. SWAT teams forcibly remove parents and their 2.2 kids from their homes while stunned adolescents, returning from an idyllic afternoon of bicycling around cul de sacs, and shooting BB guns from overpasses, watch in horror as their neighborhood is taken over.

Galina Tachieva, author of The Sprawl Repair Manual, would agree with the Canadian indie rockers that the suburbs are in dire straits. But her vision is less cinematic, more pragmatic. Tachieva’s timely guide proposes specific design solutions to retrofit existing conditions—not simple, not inexpensive, but imperative.

Add Multi-Housing to Malfunctioning Suburbs

Incorporate multifamily housing into the fabric of malfunctioning suburbs–or the Boomers and Echo Boomers will move out, says Galina Tachieva, partner and director of town planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ). Tachieva describes the ways in which the burden rests on multifamily developers to play a leading role this century in reclaiming the sprawl-marred suburbs. “It is no surprise that numerous sprawl developments, particularly those in the far-flung exurbs, have recently suffered some of the highest rates of foreclosure. Many homes, and even entire subdivisions, have been abandoned,” says Tachieva, in an interview with MHN.

“Almost all idiosyncratic sprawl types will benefit radically from introducing multifamily development,” according to Tachieva, and she outlines the ways in which multifamily developers can accomplish the goal of redesigning these communities. An expert on transforming sprawl developments into human-scale, sustainable communities, Tachieva is the author of the just-released Sprawl Repair Manual (Island Press).

The transit-oriented, high-density town center will be used by the surrounding communities.

How to fix sprawl: The manual

How to fix sprawl has been in the news a lot lately. An article on page 10, for example, examines how planners in California are grappling with how to reform that state’s massive problem of single-use, automobile-oriented development.

Ever since the housing meltdown and foreclosure crisis, which struck hardest in suburbs, the nation has begun to wake up to the notion that our built environment is a mess. There’s mounting evidence that sprawl is not resilient from a resource point of view (it is vulnerable to high oil prices) or environmentally sustainable (it contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions). The flaws of sprawl are becoming increasingly noticeable in a time when shifts in demographics and consumer preferences are pushing demand away from conventional suburbs.

Sprawl Repair: What It Is and Why We Need It

Sprawl is malfunctioning. It has underperformed for decades, but its collapse has become obvious with the recent mortgage meltdown and economic crisis, and its abundance magnifies the problems of its failure.

Let us be clear that sprawl and suburbia are not synonymous. There are many first-generation suburbs, most of them built before WWII, that function well, primarily because they are compact, walkable, and have a mix of uses. Sprawl, on the other hand, is characterized by auto-dependence and separation of uses. It is typically found in suburban areas, but it also affects the urban parts of our cities and towns.