Category Archives: New World Planning

The odds and ends that I am putting together with which we can begin to build a truly resilient community.

Solid Planning in Portland

Lexington is so small that we can begin thinking about 10 minute neighborhoods….Do we have them already?  If so, why dont we talk more about how important that is?

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Innovative Mayor Sam Adams Builds a Cleaner Portland

Portland Mayor Sam Adams

In honor of our Fast Cities Breakfast [1] coming up on June 22, we spoke with Portland mayor Sam Adams, who, in his first State of City address last February, vowed to make Portland “the most sustainable city in the world.”

And this wasn’t some populist politician’s empty promise. In his first year in office, Adams implemented the Climate Action Plan [2], a roadmap to cutting Carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050; he’s merged the Office of Sustainable Development with the Bureau of Planning to infuse all city plans with sustainability; he’s worked toward allocating $20 million for new “bicycle boulevards [3]“; and he’s started a pilot program for clean energy retrofitting.

Adams has proven that even in slow economic times, he’s still moving Portland forward as a Fast City [4].

Fast Company: In your first year in office, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment in Portland?

Mayor Sam Adams: I would say Clean Energy Works [5], which is the nation’s only consortium that offers on-bill financing for clean energy upgrades and retrofits. It addresses the hidden roadblock for sustainability, which is the lack of financing for clean technology upgrades for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and facilities. This kind of financial tool is now needed more than ever. We’ve also embarked upon a 25-year strategic plan for the city. Called the Portland Plan [6], it better aligns the $9.7 billion in government spending that happens in Portland, and over time, make it more accountable to the public. I’m the mayor, but I’m only one of about 45 public decision makers on issues within the city.

FC: As just one decision maker, you must deal with many city officials, as well as the public. How do you keep Portland innovative in a system that tends to grind slowly?

SA: By being strategic, having a pull on the community, and taking risks. I’m always willing to put an idea out there, and in a friendly way, challenge others to come up with something better. I have a point of view, and I want to challenge others in an energetic and open way to come up with better ideas–and they often do.

FC: Especially in this tough economic climate though, how as mayor can you keep putting out bold ideas for Portland?

SA: With the federal stimulus, for example, we took our $2.4 million from HUD and the Department of Energy, and used it as venture capital to get Clean Energy Works going. We could have doled it out to individual facilities and buildings, which would have been more direct and politically expedient. But instead, we wanted to create a return on investments in a new industry. In this era of very tight revenues and budget cuts, it’s a lot about rethinking: About better aligning what you do have, and about paying attention to the quality and the effectiveness of what you’re doing.

FC: What Portland initiatives would you suggest for other big cities?

SA: Our open source and open data initiatives. We have CivicApps [7], where we’re turning over our information to the public and making government services more accountable.

Portland CivicApps

We’re also working to make every section of Portland a complete 20-minute neighborhood to strengthen our local economy. Two-thirds of all trips in Portland and in most American cities are not about getting to and from work. So if I can offer quality, affordable goods and services, eliminate food deserts, have neighborhoods with schools and parks and amenities–if I can create these 20-minute complete neighborhoods all over Portland–it strengthens our local economy. We drive 20% less than cities of comparable size, and because we don’t manufacture cars, produce oil, or have car insurance companies, every dollar that we don’t spend elsewhere, will stay in Portland’s economy. There’s about $850 million that stays in Portlanders’s pockets because we drive less. With a 20-minute neighborhood, also reduce congestion and meet our climate action plan goals.

FC: You’ve promised to make Portland the most sustainable city in the world. Do you think it’s a necessity today to view Portland with a global mindset?

SA: Yes. You have to be a city of the world. I spend a lot more time traveling than the previous mayor because part of my job is to sell the Portland brand. Otherwise, companies in China or Japan might say, Why would I hire an architecture or engineering firm from Portland, Oregon? Portland what? Part of my job is being a salesman. We have a natural strength in Portland around sustainability and clean technology, and it’s my job to help commercialize our local laboratory and export it around the world.

As for sustainability, there’s still vestiges of the old days when people thought of sustainably as an economic caricature. Here in Portland, we’ve shown that it isn’t a stark choice between prosperity or sustainability. We’re a city that tries to live our values: the triple-bottom line of social, economic, environmental justice.

FC: If you could only accomplish one more thing before leaving office, what would that be?

SA: It would be to grow Portland’s economy into the most sustainable and equitable in the world. I think we have it in our capacity, but we have a long way to go. We were just named the most sustainable city in the United States. We are often ranked top 10 most sustainable cities in the rarefied air of Copenhagen and Stockholm. But as I like to tell people, that should inspire us to do more because it really is high-praise for Portland, on a relatively low standard for the United States.

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Bikes as economic development

We’re still chasing auto suppliers and pimping eds and meds….bikes are the part of our real economic future….

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The attraction of cycling as a green, healthy, and cost-saving form of transport is huge for consumers, especially so at a time when the environment and world financial woes dominate the zeitgeist. Businesses doing something a little different for cyclists are a strong bet for success. Here’s five we recently spotted:

1. GREEN GOOSE — As part of their package of web services allowing users to track healthy lifestyle achievements, Green Goose’s bike-mounted sensors record cycling activity and upload the data over wifi. The company also provides services to help employers encourage cycling to work.

2. E-WERK — The energy generated pushing those pedals has long been tapped to power lights using a dynamo. But why stop there? German manufacturer Busch & Müller sells a dynamo-powered power supply allowing users to charge phones, MP3 players and other mobile devices. E-Werk comes with a selection of connectors including USB.

3. VELOCOMPUTER — Some cyclists may prefer not to fit an assortment of paraphernalia to their bikes, be it for security, aerodynamic or purely aesthetic reasons. VeloComputer is a mobile phone-based alternative to traditional bike computers and uses the accelerometer built in to many modern smartphones.

4. THE HUMBLE VINTAGE — If a cyclist is away from home and hasn’t got their bike with them, they may want to rent something with a bit of personality that doesn’t clearly signpost them as a tourist. Melbourne-based The Humble Vintage refurbishes classic and vintage cycles as a rental alternative to the ubiquitous MTB.

5. BICYKLO — Aiming to make it easier to find the perfect cycle tour, Bicyklo aggregates thousands of tour offers from hundreds of operators worldwide into a single database, allowing cyclists to search by area, duration and type rather than have to seek out individual operators and investigate what they have on offer.

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Planning for the future in SoCal – applies to us too

A video created for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) presents a serious look at what infill development would look like in Ventura and Fullerton.

Planners, ex-mayors and architects are interviewed about how the region has changed, and how infill is the solution. (And the very same issues apply to us here.)

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Turning a parking lot into a community garden

Pomegranate Center is the great firm that we’ve partnered with to help us plan and build the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. They do community improving work all over – here is one great example.  We are fortunate to have this group working in our city – we can learn from them, and then keep it going ourselves!  This is from their website.

Crossroads Community Garden gateway

Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, WA, is an extraordinary gathering place for many reasons: a superb international food court, free live music, a farmer’s market, and fierce chess tournaments.  So it was no surprise to us when Ron Sher, Crossroad’s developer, told us about his vision to turn part of a parking lot into a community garden. Pomegranate Center worked with gardeners and volunteers over three days to transform this lot into a beautiful, memorable community space.

On June 12, 2009, the sound of power tools bounced off of pavement and across the mall parking lot calling the attention of shoppers and movie-goers passing by. Over the next three days, we worked together to build a garden fence, gateway, kiosk, benches and a picnic shelter. Over 30 volunteers – including every community gardener with a plot on the site – gave their time to this project. “I knew we were getting a fence,” said Alex, a new gardener at the site and avid volunteer at the workshops. “But I had no idea it would be this beautiful!”

Crossroads is now home to yet another unique community space – a parking lot p-patch!

Crossroads P-Patch Painting

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Lexington 2030 – A Vision

What will we be like in 20 years?  20 years ago this summer, the first Bush war for oil began its intial stages.  Tim Berners-Lee was formulating his idea for the world-wide web – yeah the web as we know it hadn’t been born.  The world’s population was 5.2 billion humans.  (Today, it’s 6.8 billion. When I was born in 1964, it was 3.2 billion)

This vision acknowledges the imminent threats of energy descent, and climate change, and the end of globalization.  It accepts the fact that “local” is the path to independence.

This is based on Portland’s climate action plan primarily, as well as other peak oil plans such as Bloomington’s.

I’ve been thinking about what Lexington should be doing to prepare for its next comprehensive plan.  I’m betting on business as usual – denial is very strong here – but I’m also beginning now to sound the alarm:  business as usual will not improve or even maintain our quality of life.  And that’s really all we have, isn’t it?

This is not about my values.  This isn’t a choice between values.  The world is changing rapidly to the negative. We must act now to protect ourselves and our place.

Here’s the goal:  An 80% reduction in carbon usage by 2030.   

An 80 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030 will entail re-imagining the entire community— transitioning away from fossil fuels and strengthening the local economy while shifting fundamental patterns of urban form, transportation, buildings and consumption.

A vision:

■ In 2030, Lexington and Fayette County are at the heart of a vibrant region with a thriving economy, rich cultural community and diverse, ecologically sustainable neighborhoods.

■ Personal mobility and access to services has never been better. Every resident lives in a walkable and bikeable neighborhood that includes retail businesses, schools, parks and jobs. Most people rely on walking, bicycling and transit rather than driving. Pedestrians and bicyclists are prominent in the region’s commercial centers, corridors and neighborhoods.

Public transportation, bikeways, sidewalks and greenways connect neighborhoods. When people do need to drive, vehicles are highly efficient and run on low-carbon electricity and renewable fuels.

■ Green jobs are a key component of the regional economy. Products and services related to clean energy, green building, sustainable food, green infrastructure, and waste reuse and recovery providing living-wage jobs throughout the community, and Lexington is one of North America’s  hubs for sustainable industry and clean technology.

■ Homes, offices and other buildings deliver superb performance. They are durable and highly efficient, healthy, comfortable and powered primarily by solar, wind and other renewable resources.

■ The urban forest and green roofs cover the community, reducing the urban heat island effect, sequestering carbon, providing habitat, and cleaning the air and water.

■ Food and agriculture are central to the economic and cultural vitality of the community, with backyard gardens, farmers’ markets and community gardens productive and thriving. A large share of food comes from farms within the region, and residents eat a healthy diet, consuming more locally grown grains, vegetables and fruits.

■ The benefits of green infrastructure, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, quality housing, and convenient, affordable transportation options and public health services are shared equitably throughout the community.

■ Residents and businesses use resources extremely efficiently, minimizing and reusing solid waste, water, stormwater and energy.

■ The Bluegrass region has prepared for a changed climate, making infrastructure more resilient, developing reliable supplies of water, food and energy and improving public health services. Policies, investments and programs are in place to protect the residents most vulnerable to climate change and rising energy prices.

What do you think?

If you care about these issues at all, the City of Portland and Multnomah County Climate Action Plan is a must read:  http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=49989&a=268612

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Buffalo Ditches Zoning

Maybe a city has to hit rock bottom before it actually practices “innovation” rather than just preaching it.  If so, we’re not ready to be innovative….and that’s a shame because we could really use it.
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Buffalo Green Code: Mayor Brown announces zoning code overhaul

Buffalo Green Code: Mayor Brown announces zoning code overhaul EB_Blue April 23, 2010 9:12 AM Comments: 7 Mayor Byron Brown announced today his administration is moving forward on implementing a green, form-based code in Buffalo.

Mayor Brown chose the Larkin District as the backdrop to announce his Earth Day plans for what he’s dubbing the “Buffalo Green Code,” a replacement code that will completely scrap Buffalo’s existing zoning ordinance, an unwieldy document last updated in 1951.

Listen to the podcast from today’s event here.

“Our zoning reform effort will act as the foundation for the new place-based economic development strategy for Buffalo’s neighborhoods in every section of the city,” the Mayor said. “The new Buffalo zoning ordinance will be known as the Buffalo Green Code. It will embody 21st century values about economic development, sustainability, and walkable, green urbanism.”

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The announcement sets the stage for Buffalo to join a progressive vanguard of cities – including Denver and Miami – that are replacing conventional, use-based codes with streamlined, form-based regulations built to encourage mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods. Buffalo’s new Green Code is also intended to support economic development by simplifying and shortening the development review process.

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“The new Buffalo Green Code will be the first opportunity Buffalonians have had in nearly sixty years to establish a new regulatory framework for the development of our neighborhoods,” said Brown. “Zoning is the tool by which we build our communities. It determines what gets built and where. It’s essentially Buffalo’s DNA. The process to re-imagine the city’s future and write a code that matches the community’s vision will be an exciting opportunity for the people of Buffalo. As this process gets rolled out, over a period we expect to take three years of serious work, I invite all citizens in every section of the city to participate and take an active role. We need your help and we need your input.”

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The Mayor was joined by a cadre of planning staff and citizen supporters, including Howard Zemsky of the Larkin Development Group and Rev. Darius Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church. On hand to describe how the process will unfold was Jacques Gourguechon, the principal of the renowned Chicago planning firm, Camiros,which is partnering with Boston-based Goody Clancy to write Buffalo’s new code. “I love the term the ‘Green Code’ that the Mayor is using,” said Gourguechon. “I think that this is exactly our philosophy in how we’re going to look at this.”

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The Larkin District, now undergoing millions of dollars in mixed-use redevelopment, was described by Zemsky as one of the acute examples in the city of the disparity between the outmoded mandates of the 1951 zoning code and the community’s vision. “It’s great we’re going to have a new zoning code that puts people and sustainability and livability and quality of life ahead of the automobile,” said Zemsky. “We couldn’t be happier. We hoped when we started this project that we would have a Mayor that would embrace a visionary rewrite of the 1951 code and I think we should all be very grateful that we clearly do.”

Special thanks to David Torke for these images and for recording the podcast. Check out Torke’s slideshow for more images from today’s event.

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Alternative Transportation in Fort Collins

This is from a report I did for Bluegrass Tomorrow – Bluegrass Innovision 2018:  Lessons in Innovation – I’ll post more later…..read the whole thing here:

http://www.bluegrasstomorrow.org/pdf%20files/BluegrassInnovationsFinal.pdf

“IMAGINE… a modern, world-class community, continuing to transform from a small city to a progressive metropolitan center, successfully channeling “growth” into positive “community development”.  (from the city website…)

Wouldnt that be nice to have here?

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Building on a 20 year old concept (and thus proving that a good idea never dies), community leaders are planning the creation of a central transportation and development spine in the heart of the city. The Mason Corridor is a five mile Bus Rapid Transit and pedestrian/bike path that will, over time, take on a regional aspect as it connects with other communities in the region as well as Denver, 63 miles to the south.

Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, combines many of the features of rail transit with the flexibility of busses. BRT is a very cost-effective technology, at a fraction of the cost of light rail; the entire corridor will be implemented for less than the cost of one mile of conventional rail. The bike and pedestrian path within the corridor will connect with others throughout the region. Community leaders are planning for this corridor to provide the framework for future economic development and serve as “the foundation to encourage community partnerships, private investment, active living, and attractive, urban lifestyles.”

This corridor is a fundamental connection between the city, Colorado State University, and local business and neighborhoods. It is quite simply an example of “growth without sprawl.” Station areas along the BRT system will include entertainment, housing, workplaces, retail, dining and parks. This type of development around station areas is often called Transit Oriented Development or TOD. TOD’s foster attractive and sustainable communities that appeal to a variety of lifestyles and are seen as a way to bring life to the community and foster the vision of Fort Collins as a regionally and nationally renowned destination. The project’s total estimated price tag is $74 million with an estimated 96 percent, coming from federal and state funding grants. A Congressional earmark for $11.2 million to begin the first phase is pending.

for more info: http://www.fcgov.com/mason/

WATCH THIS VIDEO:

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What Makes A Great City?

This is from Worldchanging:  Building A Bright Green Future….interesting discussion about the future of Seattle.  What about us here?
Deep Walkability
Alex Steffen, 10 Jan 10

Several pieces of Net flotsam today (local columnist Danny Westneat’s clueless call for more parking lots around Seattle’s new light rail stations; a NYT article on findings that walkable density appears to increase property values and buffer against real estate crashes), got me pondering again the nature of “walkability.”

Walkability is clearly critical to bright green cities. You can’t advocate for car-free or car-sharing lives if people need cars to get around, and the enticement to walk is key to making density wonderful, to providing realistic transit options, to making smaller greener homes compelling and to growing the kind of digitally-suffused walksheds that post-ownership ideas seem to demand. So knowing how to define “walkable” is important.

That said, I’m skeptical of most measurements of walkability. Though I’m a fan of efforts like WalkScore, I think it’s important to acknowledge their very real limitations. WalkScore, for instance, is a measurement not of walkability but proximity. If we’re going to make decisions based on algorithms, we’d better make sure we’re using the right formula.

The big thing I think falls out of most walkability formulas is a quality critical to the actual experience of walkability, and that’s the extent to which the place in which you live is connected (by walking routes and easy transit) to other places worth walking to.

Unfortunately, in North America many great neighborhoods are islands of comparative pedestrian friendliness in seas of sprawl and pedestrian hostility. They may offer a lot of services close by — you may be able to walk to buy a quart of milk or drink a cup of coffee in the cafe — but going anywhere else involves a choice of long walks through forbidding surroundings and along dangerous streets or unhappy waits for inconvenient and underfunded transit.

To live in such a neighborhood is to understand the full impact of a half century of planning and public investment that treated a person walking as at best an afterthought, and very often as an inconvenience to cars that ought to be discouraged. No matter how great the cafes, sidewalks and street trees are in these ‘hoods, they are not actually truly walkable because unless you want to feel like a prisoner trapped within their boundaries, you still must own a car.

The true test of walkability I think is this: Can you spend a pleasant half hour walking or on transit and end up at a variety of great places? The quality of having a feast of options available when you walk out your front door is what I’m starting to think of as “deep walkability.”

It’s this deep walkability that ought to be the top priority driving urban design and development in our communities. We ought to be looking at how to knit our walkable communities together and how to make friendlier the unwalkable streets between them.

In most cities, serious walkers (and bikers) share stories about the routes they’ve taken, hidden paths through the fractured landscape that let you walk safely and happily from one people-centered place to another. A killer urban ap would be one that revealed these urban songlines. A smart urban policy would be one that aimed to weave new walking routes through the whole urban fabric, until places walkers feared to tread were the exception rather than the expectation.

Basically, that would mean redevelopment and curative street design, which in turn often means making a conscious choice to slow down car traffic, to convert road lanes to train rails or bike trails, and to disincentivize parking and auto-oriented development in favor of sidewalk-focused density and transit-oriented development.

I think we need to recognize that the idea we can “balance” cars and sidewalk life is a dangerous illusion. The only way to make pedestrians and bikers safe and welcome is to slow cars down, to make it clear that the place through which they’re driving is one in which they need to pay attention, and, whenever possible, to get those cars off the streets and out of way of trains, bus, bikes and strollers.

Assert the primacy of people enjoying the act of walking, and density begins to become community, transit begins to become an essential amenity rather than a safety net, and life begins to orient around experiences and access rather than accumulation and convenience. The act of walking is, I think more and more, at the very foundation of every other bright green possibility.

A place that embraces deep walkability could almost be considered the very definition of a great city.

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Experimental Gardens…..

This garden is evocative of the coal-mined wastelands of west Kentucky.  Hot, isolated, mean, destroyed by surface mining.

Yet there is an asymmetrical, stark beauty to these places, seen mainly in the roadsides of the Western Kentucky Parkway.  Perhaps we can use this beauty to begin the reparations.

Here we have an artificially flat piece of ground.   We have a “fence” of recycled corrugated metal panels, to focus in the heat and remind us of the damage we are doing to our larger environment.  A formal “pond” has three “stumps” as its focus – these remind us of the death amongst our waste.    Other vegetative life has to struggle.  But it will survive.

We all will. But by making destruction beautiful, what do we risk?

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Creative Cities Summit….I’m there

I’m moderating a great panel and a great topic – the only problem is that there isn’t more time :-) (I’ll save my critique of the whole creative city concept until after the event….I have an open mind

and I’m proud to say that the Legacy Center at Blue Grass Community Foundation (where I work) was able to grant 25 scholarships to East End residents as well as north of main folks generally – we’re trying in a small way to keep breaking down the walls….. )

Taming the Car: Reclaiming Our Cities from the Tyranny of the Transportation Department

Who is the city for? Is it for the car or is it for the citizen? If you look at most North American cities you would think that cities existed in service of our cars and not our people. Bold cities all over the world are rethinking the design and use of public space so that the needs of people are prioritized over the car. This session will illuminate how communities all over the world are becoming more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and with astounding results.

Featuring:
Charles Landry, COMEDIA & author of The Art of City Making
Chris Miller, Illuminomics, Savannah, GA
Mike Lydon, Street Plans Collaborative & co-author, The Smart Growth Manual
Moderator, Steve Austin, Director of Legacy Center at Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, KY

see all the CCS goodness here: http://creativecitieslexington.com/

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Legacy Trail Public Art Examples…from Chattanooga’s Trails

This video was made by city engineer Keith Lovan after we took a trip to see how public art fits on trails…..over time, the legacy trail will be similar.

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Legacy Trail public art plan announced

3-layered approach provides direction for growth, sets attainable goals

By Amber Scott North of Center

The Legacy Trail, a nine-mile multi-use path connecting the east side of downtown Lexington to the Kentucky Horse Park, received final approval on March 11, which is good news considering the whole thing is supposed to be finished and decorated by September’s World Equestrian Games. Yes, finished and decorated. By September.

It’s the decorated part that’s most interesting to me. Sure, a winding path through Kentucky’s greenspace usually only accessible via drive-by sounds delicious—and will make a bike ride in this town way less life threatening—but the thing that makes this better than just a sidewalk through a prairie is all the decoration.

The Legacy Center at Blue Grass Community Foundation (BGCF) is spearheading the trail effort, which involves:

  • a Public Art Consortium (made up of citizen volunteers, LexArts, Lexington Art League, UK’s Museum Studies Class, LFUCG and BGCF),
  • a Narrative Committee charged with creating the story of Lexington’s history, culture and environment that will be told along the trail,
  • and the actual builders of the trail, led by engineer Keith Lovan.

Construction of a six-mile stretch connecting Northside YMCA to the Horse Park started last week, and as that work progresses, so will the decorating.

On Feb. 23, Stacy Levy and Todd Bressi, consultants hired to create the Legacy Trail Public Art Master Plan, presented a three-layered approach to getting public art along the trail, showing particular sensitivity to time constraints, uncertain future funding, and sustainable artist involvement.

“The folks who are organizing the trail are very interested in having the artwork align with the narratives along the trail to make it a museum without walls and to provide ways of working with artists from the region,” said Bressi. “There are types of artists in the Bluegrass who don’t necessarily have experience creating public art, and we wanted to figure out ways for artists who aren’t public artists to create things that go along the trail. There is also the reality that there’s not a lot of money to start with, so how do you create a lot of splash without a lot of money?”

Layer 1: Art signs

The first phase, or layer as Levy and Bressi call it, is at first glance a bit underwhelming—and for good reasons that aren’t necessarily obvious at first glance. The primary purpose of Layer 1 is to integrate functional artwork into the trail. Rather than posting a sign here or an arrow there, art will be used to indicate the direction and location of the trail.

Blazes, which are 25-foot tall poles visible even at great distances, will line the trail in clusters of 3-5. Each blaze will have a “flag” designed by an individual artist, and these flags can be updated or exchanged in the future.

The blazes are a good example of the subtle genius Bressi and Levy are employing in Layer 1 and beyond. By installing 25-foot poles as permanent fixtures along the trail but making their art component exchangeable, they are providing an opportunity for artists to have an on-going involvement in the trail and opening the door for more artists to participate. Public art tends to favor installation artists or sculptors, but these flags invite 2-D artists like printmakers, painters, graphic designers and even quilters to participate.

For the people on the trail, the flags provide a point of interest that won’t become stagnant in the way a fixed sculpture may. What you see on your first visit may not be what is mounted on your second, and the experience you have along the trail will change as new art replaces old.

In addition to blazes, Levy and Bressi identified crossings and pavement tapis as affordable and executable forms of public art that can be completed by September. Crossings will identify the trail’s direction at points of intersection or disconnect. For example, when the trail crosses Newtown Pike, a crosswalk at the intersection will be more than the crosswalks you see downtown. It will be a functional piece of pavement art that signifies the continuation of the trail.

Pavement tapis are sort of rugs painted on the trail itself. The plan is for them to be elliptically shaped and to tie in to the narratives at certain points along the trail. Pavement tapis could last as long as 8 years, but because they aren’t permanent, they allow an opportunity for future engagement with additional artists also.

Layer 1 is scheduled to be completed in September, and because of the short time from conception to installation, Austin said there will be a rolling call for artists who want to be involved likely being issued next week.

“With the roster call, we want to build a good base of people who are interested in art on the Legacy Trail,” said Steve Austin, director of the Legacy Center. “Some of them will work on the first phase for the opening, and others will be held in reserve until later phases.”

A selection committee will choose local, regional and national artists for the roster based on a sample portfolio as opposed to a specific proposal. Once selected, artists will be “on-call” to complete their projects as sections of the trail are constructed.

The short timeline from acceptance to installation shows another bit of brilliance in Bressi and Levy’s plan. Artists could have just a few weeks to a couple months to design and create the work for the trail, and if Layer 1 involved more complicated pieces they probably wouldn’t be finished by opening day.

Building long term: Layers 2 and 3

Layer 2, which is slated for 2011, has time for observation and experimentation built into it.

“Once the trail opens and before it can be populated with art that is relevant, we need to see how the trail is being used, where people are naturally stopping, what points are attracting the most interest. We also need a year of traction just to see what the different seasons bring,” noted Bressi.

“It’s very hard to understand what it’s going to be like to be on this trail since it’s not there yet. You have to come up with a plan that can evolve as you learn more about the trail, and that’s what Layers 2 and 3 do.”

Temporary installations, the focus of Layer 2, provide a bridge between the functional art of Layer 1 and the permanent art of Layer 3. The installations will engage more artists and generate renewed interest for the public. They allow for experimentation without commitment and satisfy the public’s desire for more robust works of art along the trail.

With insight gained from a year of temporary installations, placing permanent art fixtures along the trail will be a more organic process.

Because Layer 3 brings in lasting pieces, it is the most significant legacy we’ll be leaving aside from the actual trail itself. Expected to begin in 2012 at the earliest, Layer 3 gives us time to raise funds and understand the way the trail is being used before putting in anything that will be here for, hopefully, generations to come.

Examples of Layer 3 features include what Levy and Bressi call garden rooms, gathering places, infrastructure and trailheads. Garden rooms are areas where art and landscape come together – not actual rooms. They’ll be installed where people tend to stop and explore narratives along the trail, provide shade or seating and channel attention toward the environment along the trail. Gathering places will use public art to create seating, play areas or vista points and will be placed where people tend to gather along the trail during Layers 1 and 2.

Infrastructure, such as tunnels going under roads, retaining walls, medians and the sides of buildings, also gets attention in Layer 3. By adding public art to these necessary features, they become more pedestrian friendly and overall more interesting. Trailheads are the grand finale of the Legacy Trail Public Art Master Plan. There are only a few designated trailheads, and because these are such critical spots along the trail, they have to create a sense of welcome and discovery.

“One of the goals is to get people to use the trail, so having artwork along the trail is a good way to pull people in,” said Bressi. “Instead of having something right at the trailhead, have it a mile away so that people come in and experience the trail. After you get people using the trail, then you can install beautifully designed trailheads.”

To date, $13 million has been raised for the trail, and that total doesn’t include grants and right of way values. An additional $150,000 has been raised for Layer 1’s public art through foundations, public grants and private donations, and Austin said the goal is to raise another $50,000. Estimates for Layers 2 and 3 will be revealed during the unveiling of the final Legacy Trail Public Art Master Plan on April 13 at 7 P.M. at the Downtown Arts Center.

“The trail was a project chosen by the community, and it says something great about us that we chose this project when we could’ve chosen any other,” said Austin. “It says a lot about where we as a city want to go. There’s a lot of good stuff coming.”

For more information about the progress of the Legacy Trail or to view the first draft of the trail’s Public Art Master Plan, visit http://www.legacycenter.ning.com.

read the original here: http://noclexington.com/?p=287

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Planners and Landscape Architects Don’t Get It

I am a member of both the American Planning Association and the American Society of Landscape Architects.  As such, I get to read the publications of both organizations.  With each new one I see, my astonishment at the lack of understanding of the new reality grows.   The new reality is simply this:  peak oil has changed our economy.  We will endure what I call a perma-recession, as complexities are wrung from the current economic system.  The new level, whenever we reach it, will be one of much less economic activity.   Simply put:  economic growth is no longer possible due to this reality, and trying to maintain it somehow will put our survival as a society, perhaps even as a species, at risk.

This isn’t my wish, nor is it a personal “value”.  This is simply my reaction to the understanding that has been created by some very smart people:  nature has limits and we have crossed them.

Planners and landscape architects should be the leaders in helping us adapt to the new reality.  Instead nearly everything I read mentions “recovery” in some fashion.  There seems to be a collective intellectual paralysis among these groups.  They tout plans that have “economic growth” and “environmental sustainability” as twin goals, yet no one has the courage, or perhaps the intelligence, to say that those two things are mutually exclusive.  They quote practitioners – people that are trying to shape our futures – as having faith in return to the status quo:  “We’re more poised for recovery than the last recession, with diverse, strategic plans,” says the director of San Diego’s planning department.  What a crock of shit. 

 We are in deep trouble as a society when the people who should be leading us forward instead are looking backward.  The next 20 years will not be like the last 60.  We are in a time of great transition. We don’t need people fine tuning “smart growth.”  We need smart people to help us figure out how a steady state economy can work in our city.  We need smart people to help us create a distributed energy grid.  We need smart people to help us plan for rainwater harvesting and treatment. We need smart people to create a local food economy.  We need smart people to help us create energy descent action plans.  We need smart people to help us retrofit our buildings.  We need smart people to help us adapt to a changing climate. We need smart people to devise alternation transportation plans.

 The one thing we absolutely don’t need is anyone planning for recovery.

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Local Energy Independence

Read about a community based group in New England that is building local energy independence.  This is just one more tool that we need in the box here in Lexington.  Food, transport, job skills, energy….see what I’m doing here?  Helping to try to put those tools in the box.

Read this and think about us here:

CO-OP Power

Greenberg_m2m_group_shot_smiling

Co-op Power is a regional network of local communities creating a multi-class, multi-racial movement for a sustainable and just energy future. We are a consumer-owned energy cooperative serving New England and New York. Co-op Power’s Local Organizing Councils include Co-op Power Metro East (greater Boston), Co-op Power Franklin County, Co-op Power Hampshire County, Co-op Power Hampden County, and Co-op Power of Southern VT.

There is an urgent need today to find innovative ways to respond to the energy crisis and to root capital in the communities of the Northeast. The US is at war to secure access to dwindling fossil fuel supplies. Air quality has been and is being compromised. Respiratory illness is on the rise. Greenhouse gasses are significantly changing earth’s atmosphere. The US consumes a disproportionate share of the world’s energy resources (24% in 2002 according to DOE). Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions represent 82 percent of total U.S. human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, capital has been uprooted. It can move anywhere in the world in milliseconds. The Northeast has suffered significant job loss. The gulf between rich and poor is widening. We are unaware of simple economic principles as a people. We have bought the concept that workers and consumers are different groups. We no longer understand that we make things and do things for each other, trading our labor with each other for the things we need. We somehow believe that people somewhere else in the world are the workers making us cheap stuff and that our good jobs are going to come from somewhere else. Good jobs have left and are continuing to leave our communities. Labor unions, the most valuable resource for supporting the rights and interests of working people, are loosing ground. Public assets are being privatized. We continue to hold onto the American Dream – a dream that says we can become wealthy overnight, all on our own … using up natural resources, polluting if we need to, using the labor of others, using the good will and resources of the communities we profess to serve.

Co-op Power is a grassroots vehicle to counter political and social trends that compromise the environment and economy. Locally owned group-based businesses can anchor capital and build community in ways few other business structures can.

To address the energy needs of the Northeast, Co-op Power is building renewable energy resources. The first project is a biodiesel production facility that uses recycled vegetable oil to make a regionally produced, regionally owned renewable fuel for home heating and transportation. Co-op Power will also support the development of community-wind projects in the region to provide regionally produced, regionally owned renewable electricity.

Next, Co-op Power will build an online infrastructure where members can purchase energy products and services though bulk purchasing discounts negotiated by the cooperative. Products and services will include the biodiesel for home heating and transportation, diesel vehicle leases, green electricity certificates, solar energy installations, waste oil furnaces, and energy efficient doors and windows.

To anchor capital in the Northeast, Co-op Power is building renewable energy resources that are owned by a large group of people who live in this region. If one person or a small group of people owned these resources, they would be free to cash them in whenever they stood to make a profit.

By retaining majority ownership of these businesses, Co-op Power is more likely to ensure the jobs, capital and renewable energy resources continue to benefit the region. To develop and retain majority ownership of these businesses, Co-op Power must amass a significant amount of capital. To that end, the board and members have established that each member will pay $975 for a membership share.

Co-op Power plans to address the energy needs of this region, root capital in area towns and cities and build environmentally and economically sustainable communities.

To build environmentally and economically sustainable communities, Co-op Power must educate and organize people in the region to use less energy, to use renewable and regionally-produced energy, and to vote with their dollars for democratically-owned, group-based businesses that permanently anchor capital in our region.

Residents of the region are interested in building renewable energy products and services. A 2002 survey of consumer attitudes of 125 adults in western Massachusetts, conducted by Opinion Dynamics, found that 91% favored the increased use of renewable energy, 52% said they would pay more for renewable energy, 33% of these said they would pay $15 or more per month for 100% renewable electricity, and 76% favored the idea of consumer aggregation organizations to buy “green” or renewably generated power less expensively. Residents of other states in our region report similar sentiments.

Co-op Power will manage a significant ownership stake in Northeast Biodiesel, will foster investments in community-wind power and other clean energy resources, will provide consumer-members with sustainable energy resources, and will make available resources for a vibrant online community. This business plan describes how Co-op Power will become a successful and financially viable organization, launch sustainable energy projects and initiatives, secure membership access for renewable energy products & services, achieve environmental goals, educate the public, and support local communities in our region. Join us! 

There is an urgent need today to find innovative ways to respond to the energy crisis and to root capital in the communities of the Northeast. The US is at war to secure access to dwindling fossil fuel supplies. Air quality has been and is being compromised. Respiratory illness is on the rise. Greenhouse gasses are significantly changing earth’s atmosphere. The US consumes a disproportionate share of the world’s energy resources (24% in 2002 according to DOE). Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions represent 82 percent of total U.S. human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, capital has been uprooted. It can move anywhere in the world in milliseconds. The Northeast has suffered significant job loss. The gulf between rich and poor is widening. We are unaware of simple economic principles as a people. We have bought the concept that workers and consumers are different groups. We no longer understand that we make things and do things for each other, trading our labor with each other for the things we need. We somehow believe that people somewhere else in the world are the workers making us cheap stuff and that our good jobs are going to come from somewhere else. Good jobs have left and are continuing to leave our communities. Labor unions, the most valuable resource for supporting the rights and interests of working people, are loosing ground. Public assets are being privatized. We continue to hold onto the American Dream – a dream that says we can become wealthy overnight, all on our own … using up natural resources, polluting if we need to, using the labor of others, using the good will and resources of the communities we profess to serve.

Co-op Power is a grassroots vehicle to counter political and social trends that compromise the environment and economy. Locally owned group-based businesses can anchor capital and build community in ways few other business structures can.

To address the energy needs of the Northeast, Co-op Power is building renewable energy resources. The first project is a biodiesel production facility that uses recycled vegetable oil to make a regionally produced, regionally owned renewable fuel for home heating and transportation. Co-op Power will also support the development of community-wind projects in the region to provide regionally produced, regionally owned renewable electricity.

Next, Co-op Power will build an online infrastructure where members can purchase energy products and services though bulk purchasing discounts negotiated by the cooperative. Products and services will include the biodiesel for home heating and transportation, diesel vehicle leases, green electricity certificates, solar energy installations, waste oil furnaces, and energy efficient doors and windows.

To anchor capital in the Northeast, Co-op Power is building renewable energy resources that are owned by a large group of people who live in this region. If one person or a small group of people owned these resources, they would be free to cash them in whenever they stood to make a profit.

By retaining majority ownership of these businesses, Co-op Power is more likely to ensure the jobs, capital and renewable energy resources continue to benefit the region. To develop and retain majority ownership of these businesses, Co-op Power must amass a significant amount of capital. To that end, the board and members have established that each member will pay $975 for a membership share.

Co-op Power plans to address the energy needs of this region, root capital in area towns and cities and build environmentally and economically sustainable communities.

To build environmentally and economically sustainable communities, Co-op Power must educate and organize people in the region to use less energy, to use renewable and regionally-produced energy, and to vote with their dollars for democratically-owned, group-based businesses that permanently anchor capital in our region.

Residents of the region are interested in building renewable energy products and services. A 2002 survey of consumer attitudes of 125 adults in western Massachusetts, conducted by Opinion Dynamics, found that 91% favored the increased use of renewable energy, 52% said they would pay more for renewable energy, 33% of these said they would pay $15 or more per month for 100% renewable electricity, and 76% favored the idea of consumer aggregation organizations to buy “green” or renewably generated power less expensively. Residents of other states in our region report similar sentiments.

Co-op Power will manage a significant ownership stake in Northeast Biodiesel, will foster investments in community-wind power and other clean energy resources, will provide consumer-members with sustainable energy resources, and will make available resources for a vibrant online community. This business plan describes how Co-op Power will become a successful and financially viable organization, launch sustainable energy projects and initiatives, secure membership access for renewable energy products & services, achieve environmental goals, educate the public, and support local communities in our region. Join us!

—–

Naturally, there’s lots more:  http://www.cooppower.coop/

 

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Urban Resilience for Dummies: Failing the Milk Test

by Warren Karlenzig  10 Mar 10

lasvegasedge.jpg

Last post I covered some guiding principles for urban resilience planning in the face of climate change and diminishing resources (especially fresh water and oil). Considering these guidelines, what aspect of U.S. metro
development stands out as the most ill-advised and risky? Short answer: exurban sprawl.

If the “Great Recession” taught us anything, it is that allowing the unrestrained sprawl of energy-inefficient communities and infrastructure is a now-bankrupt economic development strategy and constitutes a recipe for continued disaster on every level.

“Shy away from fringe places in the exurbs and places with long car commutes or where getting a quart of milk takes a 15-minute drive,” was the warning the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers gave institutional and commercial real estate investors in their Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2010 report.

I make the further case that the exurban economic model is an outright anachronism in the Post Carbon Institute’s Post Carbon Reader, which comes out this summer from the University of California Press and Watershed Media.

Much of US “economic growth” in the 1990s and early 2000s was based on the roaring engine of exurban investment speculation with gas at historic record low prices. That bubble popped on the spike of $4 a gallon; we now are paying the piper with abandoned tract developments, foreclosed strip malls and countless miles of roads to nowhere. Gas prices are forecast to head over $3 this summer, and likely much higher when a forecast global “oil crunch” hits by 2014 or so. Continue reading

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Digital Equality in Lexington

Yall that know me know I’m very involved in two great Legacy projects – the Trail and the revitalization of the East End.   Well, today I started my involvement with another:  I am chair of the Broadband Coalition Community Engagement Committee.  This group is responsible to the Knight Foundation for a $550,000 grant to bridge the digital divide here in Lexington.

This is one of the best stories in Lexington in a long time. Wireless broadband is being provided in two of our most underserved neighborhoods – East End and Cardinal Valley FOR FREE.

Today, information is as vital to the healthy functioning of our city as clean air, safe streets and good schools.  Without access to information – digital information – you’re a second-class citizen. You’re second-class in access to information and second class economically and even socially. In a country where even entry-level job applications must be made online, denial of digital access equals denial of opportunity. 

We are better than that here in Lexington.   

And there are no better places to prove it than in the East End and Cardinal Valley.  Internet usage in these areas is among the lowest in the city.

Essentially what we are going to do is to place radio transmitters on poles at 200-400 foot intervals around each neighborhood, flip the switch, and let the signal roll.

This is part of a wonderful coalition that has been put together whose mission it is to make Lexington an even greater place to live.  The Broadband Coalition consists of the City, UK, Connect Kentucky, the State, City Library, Fayette County Schools and others.  Much of the credit for the success of this group belongs to Rama Dhuwaraha, Lexington’s Chief Information Officer, and Anthony Wright, the city’s Economic Development Director.  What this group has come up with is unique in the nation – to my knowledge there is no other city where partners have come together and essentially contributed into the success of  such a project, instead of demanding something from it.

For example, Kentucky Utilities has agreed to allow the placement of the radio wifi transmitter on its poles rent free, as well as providing the electricity to run each of the transmitters.  UK has agreed to provide the broadband connection through its service.  Windstream and Insight have agreed not to protest this, in the belief that once people in these underserved areas have a taste of the internet, they are going to want faster access and thus become customers. (Our connection speed is estimated to be 768k – fast enough to watch full motion video, but not anybody’s idea of fast, either.)  Schools agreed to be transmitter locations.  And the city – whose initial purpose was public safety – agreed to accept a Knight Foundation grant to serve these underserved areas.

This may all sound simple, or arcane, or whatever. But trust me, this is a big deal.

We have the opportunity to impact nearly 10% of our city’s population who live in these digitally disconnected places.   We will improve public safety – now, connection speeds are so slow that it is faster to drive evidence to the police station, for example.  And we are sending a message – to our citizens and the world – that we get it. I can’t say it enough: this is a HUGE win for our city.

The wifi transmitters will be hung in the East End, Cardinal Valley, downtown, and the major corridors of the city by mid-July.  Our committee’s role is to engage and educate people in these areas on how they can best utilize this service.  Our primary goal is to spur and increase  digital adoption.   We will work with neighborhood associations, community groups, make broadcast public service announcements, do direct mail, put out flyers – whatever it takes to get the word out.  .  We will institute other ideas like a contest for kids to design the best app that can be used on this network, perhaps. And we will be working with the library and the Urban League to help folks get trained in how the use the internet – look for pictures of the library’s PURPLE mobile internet lab

We will be working through the spring and early summer to make all this happen – ideas, questions, and comments welcome.  Stay tuned.  And smile.  Something really good is happening in our city.

(below, a wifi transmitter on a pole in downtown – in case you wanted to know what to look for…)

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The Future of Suburbia

This is a nice little piece that lays out truthfully the fate of outer ring suburbia.  There’s more of a social concern in here than Alex let’s on:  what happens to the people who are trapped in these areas?  And certainly more an environmental concern. But all in all, really good insights. Worth your time. (‘course, I dont put nothin up that ain’t worth your time :-) )

Outer Ring Suburbs and the Permanent Foreclosure

Alex Steffen, 12 Mar 10

Discussion of planetary boundaries is pretty surreal everywhere these days, but in the United States, the disconnect between reality and rhetoric has reached what I think are pretty stunning proportions. Nowhere can this be better seen than in the discussions about how to “fix” the suburbs.

Many still debate that anything about the American model of sprawl development needs fixing, but most understand that something has gone seriously wrong with the outer-ring suburbs that more than a quarter of American call home. It doesn’t take a futurist to look at the conditions on the ground — long commutes, auto dependence, the expected steep rise in oil prices, environmental problems, the bursting of a massive financial bubble (resulting in millions of abandoned homes and ruined families and a wave of bankrupted suburban local governments) — to realize that they suburbs are in deep trouble, and that trouble is just going to get worse.

Many have started to realize that the foreclosure crisis isn’t a crisis in the sense that it will come and go and everything will be fine again someday. For many places, this is the new normal; a permanent foreclosure. Any plan based on the idea we’re going back to some modified form of what we had before is wishful thinking, especially in the sunbelt states where speculative sprawl was at its worst. (In fact, I think that we haven’t seen anything like the bottom on this bust, with millions more foreclosures in the pipeline, and little money or political will to make the massive investments it’d take to keep many newer suburbs afloat.)

As people have realized how severe the problems facing outer-ring suburbs are, designs which attempt to solve those problems by turning sprawl into something else have seen a vogue. (Part of the reason I was prompted to fire off this note was that I got yet another call from a journalist working on a suburban solutions piece, and that got me thinking.)

FROGDREAMmain.jpg

Often, the thinking behind new suburban design provocations seems to go something like this: the problem with the outer ring is that it’s too spread out; therefore, let’s make that weakness a strength and use all that land between the buildings, say, for farms and wildlife habitat. On the surface, it might appear to make sense, but reality is far less forgiving.

The reality is that because of the way we build suburbs, the land left underneath has limited value either as farmland or as habitat; it has neither the benefits of proximity of truly urban gardening, nor the richness of undisturbed land farther out; while pulling out buldings and roads, mitigating toxics, re-shaping the flow of water over the land and restoring ecosystems essentially from scratch is such an expensive process that it will never make sense as long as really critical prime habitat remains endangered elsewhere (which will likely be the case for the foreseeable future). The “asset” of open land that outer ring suburbs have is not a very valuable one, in ecological terms.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming less and less valuable in economic terms, as well. Most suburbs have extremely tough times ahead.

I expect that the wealthiest quarter of the suburbs may well thrive for some time. In many cases, they have strong tax bases and the political power to demand new state and national infrastructure investments. More importantly, what those suburbs sell is exclusion, not bargain living, so rising operational costs may not matter as much to them (the rich can afford high gas prices).

The rest are in for a rough ride. Most of the outer ring is not enclaves of high-status exclusivity. Most of it is strung together from developments marketed as offering big family homes in safe areas at a reasonable price. It’s designed to be upper-middle class life, on the cheap.

But it’s not cheap anymore (it was never as cheap as it looked, as one glance at the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index will show). Many homes that looked like good investments during the bubble are now underwater, and surrounded by communities that will never be finished or are already in decline. Rising fuel prices are about to make big cars, long commutes and poorly insulated homes even more expensive for middle class people. What’s worse (from the perspective of the suburban homeowner) is that the cultural worm has turned, and more Americans now want to live in walkable neighborhoods and increasingly associate sprawl with poverty and crime. I expect much of the outer ring’s economic value is gone, never to return.

The conventional answer to the problems moderate-income outer ring suburbs face would be redevelopment: bring in more housing, retail and commercial, and rescue them by making them more like the prosperous walkable neighborhoods that now command a premium on the market. But inner ring suburbs already possess a huge set of strategic advantages in moving to meet the demand for walkable communities: its not that hard to imagine adding lots of infill development and new transportation infrastructure to make livable, fairly walkable, much more sustainable communities. They have good bones, and they have location.

Imagining that kind of retrofit in the outer ring is a stretch. In the absence of an as-yet-unseen, brilliant solution, the outer ring suburbs, especially those recently built with funny loans at the far edges sunbelt cities, are probably just destined to become semi-rural slums. The idea that some solution has to emerge to their problems rejects both evidence and history, it seems to me; worse, it doesn’t much help us think through how we might offer better outcomes to the people who’ve invested everything they have on the suburban fringe.

It may well be that the ruins of the unsustainable are the 21st century’s frontier. I fully expect to see some really interesting experiments cropping up in half-abandoned suburbs in coming decades. But it’s worth remembering the decline of the inner city from the 1940s to the 1990s, and thinking about how long it was before new answers and possibilities took hold there, and how much of urban America is still suffering. If we’re going to avoid that kind of disaster in the outer ring, we need big, bold thinking — thinking that transcends farming and other small-scale solutions to reimagine what the macro-level possibilities might be for places the 21st century has left behind.

One of the things I’d like to explore in the next few years is what truly different models for suburban redevelopment might look like. As I find interesting ideas, I’ll definitely be reporting back.

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Legacy Trail Construction BEGINS!

Yall that know me know that I am helping to work on Lexington’s Legacy projects.  Construction began last week on the first 7.5 mile Legacy Trail section from the Northside YMCA to the Horse Park.  This section of the Trail will be complete by August 31.  The photo above shows the line of the silt fencing that has been placed along the route of the Trail to protect this lake.  This is near Ironworks Pike and the Horse Park.

This photo shows that construction is beginning on the North Trail Head on Ironworks Pike across from the Horse Park Campground.

This pic shows the alignment across UK’s Main Chance Farm.

Here we go!  The Trail’s centerline has been staked.

Stay tuned for more pics and updates.

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Peak Oil Means the End of Zoning

As we move forward into the peak oil time, we will need to begin to adjust the way that we “plan” Lexington.  One thing that is certain is that zoning as we knew it is dying.  Zoning arose in the early 20th century as a way to segregate the harmful effects of the industrial revolution from the highest ideal in life – our homes.   It was a vital tool that provided several generations with a high quality of life.

The map above shows how “planning” is done with zoning.  All the yellow and orange areas are residential. Red areas are commercial. Blue areas are institutional. And so on.  It looks so tidy on a map.

Planning by zoning, however, has now condemned most of us to a lower quality of life.  For decades our planners continued the philosophy of segregation of land uses.  This meant that commercial areas had to be separated from business centers which had to be separated from schools which had to be separated from homes, etc.  All this separation means that we are forced to use our cars to do everything in our daily lives. All these car trips made us poorer in terms of actual money and, more importantly, in time. All these car trips hurt the environment. All these car trips made us fatter.  All these car trips contributed to the breakdown of community. All these car trips resulted in over 45,000 people a year being killed on the roads.  All these car trips made us dependent on the places that have the oil, most of which aren’t very concerned with our well being.

All these car trips made us completely dependent on our cars.  So dependent, in fact, that we can’t imagine our lives without the ability to hop in and go whenever and wherever we want to.

Peak oil is changing that.

Higher oil prices will demand a new set of city planning realities. Gone are the days where we could afford to segregate the work place from the home.  Gone are the days when we could afford to segregate the home from the market. Gone are the days when we could afford to segregate the school from the kids.

Distance is beginning to matter a great deal in the peak oil time.   Zoning MANDATED distance.  The new planning reality will accommodate PROXIMITY.

And the best place to address the new reality of proximity is with our homes. In the 1920s, when our current zoning philosophy was born, no one could imagine doing anything other than living a domestic life within one’s home.  Today, and into the future, our suburban homescape is going to be radically different. The new economic realities brought on by peak oil will cause the change.   Our homes will become little factories, offices, show rooms, distribution centers, farmsteads, scrap yards, warehouses, and schools.

It’s already happening today.  All across Lexington, people use their homes for their businesses, be it for a professional career or selling stuff on eBay.  Home schooling is on the rise. People are storing scrap.  More people than ever have small gardens. More people are living together, boarding house style. And this isn’t just single family homes; it’s happening in apartment homes as well.

In the old days of zoning, none of that would have been dreamed about.  There were places for all those things, and the home wasn’t one of them.

Now, this change will not come without some pains.  Those who still cling to the 100 year-old suburban ideal will have problems with their neighbors.  City officials will be harassed. Therefore, now is the time to begin rewriting the codes of the city to make them more peak oil friendly. Instead of fighting reality, or hoping that we can “recover” to some version of the past, we need to adjust to the new demands.

Commercial areas will evolve as well.   We’ve hit peak retail in the U.S. which leaves us with WAY too much commercial square footage in strip malls and the like.  Current zoning prohibits these areas being used for anything else.  But empty, blighted properties tend to bring down the areas of the city in which they are located.  Better to allow for additional land uses in these places – like dormitories and apartments, manufacturing, warehousing.  The parking lots of these transformed strip malls will become great places for neighborhood markets – people can bring the stuff they’ve made or grown at their nearby home to sell and trade.

The future is here.  It’s gonna look different than the past. Fortunately, humans are resourceful and they are already adapting their lives to suit the conditions.  Trying to fit an old model over this will only continue to hold us back from making the transition to the low energy future as smooth as possible.

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Portland does it again: EcoDistricts

Thanks to alert reader Tim J., read below about an initiative of Portland Mayor Sam Adams to prepare his city for the coming future….see what mayoral vision can do for a city?

“What does it mean to build a city with a zero carbon footprint or as close to zero as possible?” the Mayor asks.

In order to answer that question he created the Portland+Oregon Sustainability Institute (P+OSI). The institute, with seed money from the city, incorporated in May as a nonprofit. It aims to bring together government folks, academics and experts in construction and related fields, to pursue new collaborative projects in sustainability.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  People here will say “we’re not Portland.”  We should respond by asking if we want to live in the dark ages forever, or do we want the best for ourselves, our family, and our children’s future? Read about this and tell me which side we should be on:

“What if your neighborhood needed no outside energy for heating & cooling, produced a significant share of its electricity & fresh water, managed all of its organic waste and sewage, produced significant amounts of fresh foods, was home to a diversity of species that thrive in urban habitat?

Leading edge policy makers, urban planners and developers across the world are starting to build such “eco districts.”

“Portland’s ability to maintain its distinctiveness and economic growth in these sectors will depend in large part on how new sustainability strategies can be accelerated and scaled up to meet the needs of citizens while significantly reducing the region’s collective environmental footprint in key areas such as energy, water, and carbon dioxide. In addition, new strategies need to be added to the region’s sustainability toolbox including congestion pricing for single occupancy vehicles, high efficiency district energy, transportation electrification, large scale building retrofits, and social marketing and civic engagement efforts that simultaneously enhance livability, create wealth, and reduce negative environmental impacts. Such strategies need to be introduced into incremental public and private capital investment and embedded into long range planning activities guided by performance metrics and goals in the following areas:

– Green job and local business growth

– Greenhouse gas emissions reductions

– Green building market penetration

– Watershed and urban ecosystem health

– Distributed stormwater and potable water management

– Multi‐modal transportation that prioritizes transit, cycling, and walking

– Air toxic and criteria pollutants reductions

– Affordable family and workforce housing preservation

– Livable and resilient neighborhoods with diverse and robust local services

What is EcoDISTRICTS? Continue reading

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Public Art on The Legacy Trail II

Yall know I’m working to help make the Legacy Trail a reality….we will break ground within 2 weeks – look for the announcement coming soon.  Our art plan is zipping a long too – this is from the Lexington Arts League’s blog “art beat”  – read the article here:

http://artbeatlexington.com/2010/02/24/things-we-learned-at-the-legacy-trail-public-arts-consortium-forum/

“…Todd Bressi and Stacy Levy presented a truly enlightening, inspiring and realistic action plan that could have its first phase completed by the time the trail opens in September.

Take a minute to let that soak in. The Legacy Trail Public Arts Consortium was just formed this past fall, and in less than a year, we will have the first phase of the public art plan completed. We are like sprinting marathon legacy-makers.

Todd and Stacy started the evening by articulating the guiding principles that helped focus the action plan, stating that the Legacy Trail will look for art that:

  • supports the experience and use of trail
  • can be commissioned especially for trail
  • creates opportunities for local, regional and national artists working in all types of media (not just sculpture)

They then outlined the different phases, or Layers as they’re calling them, and highlighted some of the features.

Layer 1: Functional Art to be Completed September 2010

Remember how we said Stacy and Todd’s plan was realistic? Well, if you think about what’s possible before the World Equestrian Games and the budget that is available and the 9 miles of trail that need to be artified, you might throw up your hands and say, maybe next year.We don’t get to do that.

So instead, Todd and Stacy have identified several ways to incorporate functional artwork that provides opportunities for many artists to be involved… and be able to complete the work under such a short timeline.

The goals for Layer 1 are to make the Legacy Trail a ribbon of experience, make it highly visible to passersby even at great distances, incorporate narratives that speak to Lexington’s legacy, and involve artists in a way that is renewable and allows for repeat participation. The art that will make that possible are blazes, pavement tapis, and crossings.

Blazes are vertical path markers that are very visible in the landscape. These 25-foot poles will line the trail in clusters of 3-5 and will be a permanent public art piece. The “flags” on them, however, will be exchangeable and designed by individual artists.

“Blazes” will be similar in structure to this public art piece in Montreal.

Another example of Blazes

Pavement tapis are sort of like decorative rugs painted on ground. They will be elliptically shaped and placed along the trail in response to narratives. They’re expected to last about 8 years and could be a starting point for future works.

This pavement tapi is public art at the North Carolina Zoological Park.

Crossings will distinguish the trail’s path at intersections or necessary disconnects. For instance, rather than do a typical crosswalk downtown, the Trail will be highlighted with public art that also functions as a trail guide of sorts.

An example of Crossings. This one in Miami speaks to the Overtown Historic Village’s African-American history.

Layer 2: Temporary Installations Starting 2011 Continue reading

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Wall Street Journal to Homebuilders: “It’s time for America to find itself a new economy”

This is awesome – a conservative paper telling it like it is!  The housing “industry” is a model just like the auto industry.  Cheap inputs, government subsidies (tax breaks), and mass marketing about “dreams” and “freedom.”  The problem is the world has changed on both these industries.  Inputs are no longer cheap, the government cannot afford to keep subsidizing them, and “dreams” and “freedom” associated with the old model come at a great cost for the majority of people.  The dreams and freedom that we will aspire to will be just as great – just different.  We all need places to live, but we need a new model for a new world.

“Mean Street: Don’t Be Brainwashed by the Housing Cult”

By Evan Newmark in the WSJ:

“It’s one of my favorite truisms that you can never be too cynical about Wall Street or Washington.

But after watching Bob Toll, CEO of Toll Brothers on CNBC this Monday, I’ll be adding home builders to that esteemed list.

meanstreet

Every CEO talks his own book, but few do it like the home builder CEOs.

On CNBC, Toll was at it again, exhorting the Fed to keep pumping billions into housing because new home construction “employs through direct and corollary basis about 20-25% of all the jobs in the country.”

That’s right. Bob Toll apparently thinks 30 million Americans derive their daily wage from the home building industry.

But here’s the thing. Bob Toll is wrong. That number is wrong. And our nation’s ongoing obsession with new home construction is also wrong.

It’s time for America to find itself a new economy. Continue reading

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Can We Design Cities For Happiness?

“If we in the Third World measure our success or failure as a society in terms of income, we would have to classify ourselves as losers until the end of time,” declares Enrique Peñalosa, who served as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. “So with our limited resources, we have to invent other ways to measure success. This might mean that all kids have access to sports facilities, libraries, parks, schools, nurseries.”

Folks, don’t think “Third World” ain’t us.  If you are a regular reader you know what I mean.  The way we plan our city needs to change to reflect the new realities of the world:  energy descent,  a changed climate, and a new economic paradigm where income growth is not the key indicator of success.  Read below for great ideas….

From shareable.net

“Happiness itself is a commons to which everyone should have equal access.

That’s the view of Enrique Peñalosa, who is not a starry-eyed idealist given to abstract theorizing. He’s actually a politician, who served as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, for three years, and now travels the world spreading a message about how to improve quality-of-life for everyone living in today’s cities.

Peñalosa’s ideas stand as a beacon of hope for cities of the developing world, which even with their poverty and immense problems will absorb much of the world’s population growth over the next half-century. Based on his experiences in Bogotá, Peñalosa believes it’s a mistake to give up on these cities as good places to live.

Peñalosa uses phrases like “quality of life” or “social justice” rather than “commons-based society” to describe his agenda of offering poor people first-rate government services and pleasant public places, yet it is hard to think of anyone who has done more to reinvigorate the commons in his or her own community.

Transforming Bogotá

In three years (1998-2001) as mayor of Colombia’s capital city of 7 million, Peñalosa’s Administration accomplished the following:

  • Led a team that created the TransMilenio, a bus rapid transit system (BRT), which now carries a half-million passengers daily on special bus lanes that offer most of the advantages of a subway at a fraction of the cost.
  • Built 52 new schools, refurbished 150 others and increased student enrollment by 34 percent.
  • Established or improved 1200 parks and playgrounds throughout the city.
  • Built three central and 10 neighborhood libraries.
  • Built 100 nurseries for children under five.
  • Improved life in the slums by providing water service to 100 percent of Bogotá households.
  • Bought undeveloped land on the outskirts of the city to prevent real estate speculation and ensured that it will be developed as affordable housing with electrical, sewage, and telephone service as well as space reserved for parks, schools, and greenways.
  • Established 300 kilometers of separated bikeways, the largest network in the developing world.
  • Created the world’s longest pedestrian street, 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) crossing much of the city as well as a 45- kilometer (28 miles) greenway along a path that had been originally slated for an eight-lane highway.
  • Reduced traffic by almost 40 percent by implementing a system where motorists must leave cars at home during rush hour two days a week. He also raised parking fees and local gas taxes, with half of the proceeds going to fund the new bus transit system.
  • Inaugurated an annual car-free day, where everyone from CEOs to janitors commuted to work in some way other than a private automobile.
  • Planted 100,000 trees.

Quality of Life = Common Wealth

All together, these accomplishments boosted the common good in a city characterized by vast disparities of wealth. Peñalosa is passionate in articulating a vision that a city belongs to all its citizens. Continue reading

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Possibilities for Lexington’s Future

People around here are having a tough time envisioning a positive path to the future.  So many of us a re committed to “life as we know it.”  But change is always with us.  And the changes we are facing are fundamental. 

Below, is an example of thinking in positive ways about how to face and adapt to those changes.  Seattle is having a great city-wide discussion about what it would mean to be carbon-neutral by 2030.   These discussions involve land use and transportation, water, local food, responsible business, waste, civics and more.  With each section comes a snapshot outlining an alternative to the dead ends we find ourselves in today. Then, on-line resources are provided to encourage deeper learning. 

This is exactly the kind of discussions we need to be having here.  Read and see what you think.  From worldchanging.com:

If Seattle can in fact lead the way toward North American climate neutral cities, it may well have an impact far greater than the size of its population would suggest. It may, for instance, help accelerate the race towards a bright green future already engaged by cities like Vancouver, Portland and San Francisco. It may even help spur further action in internationally leading cities like Copenhagen, Melbourne and Stockholm. Since much of the innovation needed to achieve ecologically low-impact prosperity is urban innovation, accelerating this race is in everyone’s interest.

Our own Alex Steffen first proposed Seattle’s goal just a few months ago during his Town Hall talks. Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin introduced Alex on the first night of the two-talk event, and has since used what he heard that night to embolden the local government to finally take action.

“Alex Steffen’s talk last November inspired me to think about the next step,” Conlin said. “Seattle has done a lot to reduce our climate footprint, but we need to do a lot more. This year, the Council will work with the Mayor and executive departments to map out specific goals and objectives on climate neutrality.”

No doubt this is a cause for celebration and congratulations, but after the excitement fades, we here in Seattle will need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Becoming the first climate neutral city in the United States will be no small task, and the City will need all the help it can get, as well as pressure to take even bolder steps. For the goal of carbon neutrality to translate into Seattle emerging as a bright green city, we’ll need full citizen participation.

And that too should be cause for celebration in Seattle. This is a goal so hugely important and challenging that all the residents of this city will need to lend their skill and talent to make it work. Because carbon neutrality will involve reworking many fundamental systems (including transportation, energy, planning and food), we will have numerous opportunities to try new things, start new enterprises, create new customs and re-engage with our communities. Indeed, that chance to reimagine the way things work is one of the best benefits of a push to carbon neutrality because it means new businesses, a competitive advantage in the bright green economy, and green jobs.

It is our duty as responsible citizens to be informed. So we’ll need to know what carbon neutrality means, what it entails and how we will know when we are headed in the right direction. A good place to start is with these videos from Alex Steffen’s talks at Town Hall Seattle.

When I think about carbon neutrality, I think not only about the massive challenges it presents, but also about how different and better it could make our lives. From my vantage point I see that there are several areas that will change greatly once we start taking on this challenge. This will be a huge exploration, not all roads will lead to success, but it’s important to keep imagining what the future of cities and the economy will look like.

Let’s imagine 10 moments of an average day that might be different in a carbon neutral city. The following are a collection of ideas, from my point of view. They are a thought explorations in how I think carbon neutrality will benefit cities and the people who live there. Even if your city has not announced carbon neutrality as a goal, you too can think about just how different your city would be in a bright green future. Continue reading

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Fresh Food for Our Neigborhoods NOW

New York City has instituted great way to get fresh food into neighborhoods where stores don’t offer it:  Green Cart.
 
We have that problem here, in the East End for example. But there are many places in Lexington, on both sides of Main Street, that need handy fresh foods. Not everyone has a car, or the time to ride the bus, to a supermarket. This idea provides a balance: bringing food into the neighborhood, but without the overhead of actually building a structure. Keeps costs down, which keeps prices down, which enables more people to buy healthy food. Better health, and a better quality of life result. Who can be against that? Thanks to smart person Becca S for the tip! 
 
Here’s a snippet from the NYC Green Cart website:

“Green Carts are mobile food carts that offer fresh produce in certain New York City areas. Local Law 9, signed by Mayor Bloomberg on March 13, 2008, establishes 1,000 permits for Green Carts.

The Green Cart Initiative is supported by a $1.5 Million grant from the Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund. This grant funds micro-loans and technical assistance for Green Cart operators, as well as branding, marketing, and outreach to encourage residents of the Green Cart areas to purchase fresh produce from the carts.”

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cdp/cdp_pan_green_carts.shtml

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