Looking Good and Working Good

Posted by & filed under Architecture, Planning.

by Scott Whipple

At Wednesday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting, the HPC completed their review of the calendar year 2010 historic preservation tax credit applications, recommending approval of a total of 59 applications.  The projects represent nearly $1 million invested, much of which went directly into Montgomery County’s economy in the form of maintenance to and rehabilitation of historic properties designated in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation.  And the credits put $98,344 back in the pockets of county property owners.

A study of the Maryland rehab tax credit program, prepared by the Abell Foundation in 2009, called historic preservation tax credits a “community revitalization engine.”  The Abell report found that the state program stimulated investment, created jobs, and improved economies.  In … Continue reading

A Scientific Look at Cities

Posted by & filed under Planning.

Scientific American’s special issue on cities covers nearly every urban topic you can think of, from the not so lost aromas of New York’s Fulton Fish Market to the history of the toilet and its influence on the growth of cities. From China to Saudi Arabia, from street markets to solar energy, the issue examines technological and social aspects of urban settlements.

Closer to home, one article asks “Can Suburbs be Designed to Do Away with the Car,” using King Farm in Rockville as an example of the challenges inmaking suburbs and suburbanites transit-friendly. There are plenty of reader comments with the usual claims of elitism and happiness; see where your ideas fall.

 

Is Walkability Worth as Much as a Walk-in Closet?

Posted by & filed under Design, Planning.

It may be, according to a new report from CEOs for Cities that measures home value in walkable and less walkable communties.

The data in Walking the Walk is based on Walk Score, a website that measures the walkability of any given address by counting how many destinations (parks, library, stores) are within walking distance.

(I would quibble this approach only to note that my house is close to a hardware store, sushi shop (!), and a national park, but with few sidewalks leading to them, walkability is limited.)

Nonetheless, using data from ZipRealty in 15 major markets, they found home values were between $700 to $3,000 higher than is less walkable neighborhoods.

So it seems a sidewalk and a place to walk can increase not … Continue reading

London, Paris, Bethesda?

Posted by & filed under Planning.

The Gazette reports this week that Shared Bikes Could Come to Bethesda. Cities around the world and around the country are finding that bike share programs add a new level of livability and possibly contribute to reducing traffic congestion.

While it could be fun to just bike around Bethesda, the proposed bike station could be the start of a bike share network throughout the County. Why not pick up a bike in Bethesda and pedal down to Friendship Heights or Silver Spring. I can imagine small fleets of biking scientists pedaling from Bethesda to NIH.

Bike sharing could also be the start of thinking about suburban transportation in a broader way. It doesn’t have to be solely about congestion. Some congestion is inevitable, … Continue reading

High Line Part Two

Posted by & filed under Architecture, Design, Public spaces.

The second half of the High Line opened this summer and even though it’s a one-off, not likely to be funded in these straightened budget times or replicated in less dense environments, it’s still intersting to think about making parks out of places that are not traditionally green.

Enjoy the pictures.

 

Urban Planning at Silverdocs

Posted by & filed under Design.

At one of America’s best theaters this week, the Silverdocs film festival is showing The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History. Pruitt-Igoe was a St. Louis public housing project, notorious among Planning 101 students as athe worst example of urban planning/social engineering/redevelopment ever. The photo of its implosion–dusty and collapsing, is iconic.

This film “reclaims the mythology of Pruitt-Igoe by questioning and recontextualizing its demise.” The interviews with former residents should be interesting.

Also of interest to planning junkies–The Revenge of the Electric Car, and Surpriseville.

Silver Spring’s AFI is One of the Best

Posted by & filed under Architecture, Planning.

Reusing an old movie theater is one of historic preservation’s toughest challenges. Often they are large downtown spaces that have been made obsolete by suburban multiplexes that can out-compete with free parking and lots of screens.

But every once in a while, they manage to survive, sometimes through re-use. The MacArthur Theater in the District’s Palisades neighborhood has lost a good deal of its romance, but at least the streetfront landmark survives, if only as a CVS drugstore.

I spent many hours in Brookline Massachusetts’ Coolidge Corner Theater, sureptitously unwrapping bagels and cream cheese while gorging myself on Frank Capra, Bette Davis, and Cary Grant. Even in this era of Netflix couch potatoes, that theater survives with membership and vigorous … Continue reading

Eco -logy meets eco -nomy: it all comes down to home.

Posted by & filed under Design, Planning, Public spaces.

Excerpts from David Korten’s “Living Buildings, Living Economies, and a Living Future” from Yes! online, May 18, 2011:

“Integrating multi-purpose buildings into a larger multi-building neighborhood or district system adds opportunities to develop public green spaces, community gardens, edible landscaping, and small-scale poultry and livestock production, as well as natural wetlands and living machine water purification to continuously recycle nutrients, water, and energy.

Integrative projects also create opportunities to balance the utility loads of businesses, which generally have greater energy needs during the day, and residences, which have greater needs during nonbusiness hours. Bringing residences, employment, shopping, and recreation together in close proximity minimizes transportation requirements and facilitates the sharing of autos, bicycles, appliances, and tools, and community connections … Continue reading

Dangerous by Design

Posted by & filed under Design, Planning, Public spaces.

No, not the bad boys your mother warned you about, but the streets you may (try to) walk along everyday.

Transportation for America’s latest report has plenty of media-catching data:

between 2000 and 2009 more than 47,700 pedestrians were killed in the United States, the equivalent of a jumbo jet crash every month in that same time period, a pedestrian was struck by a car or truck every 7 minutes while motorist deaths have dropped 27 percent in the past decade, pedestrian fatalities have fallen at only half that rate, by just over 14 percent.

But you won’t be surprised to hear that a scant fraction of federal transportation funding distributed to states for local projects is dedicated to pedestrian safety. … Continue reading

A Learning Opportunity from NCPC: Contemporary Design, Historic City

Posted by & filed under Architecture, Design, Planning.

What: 2011 NCPC Speaker Series Contemporary Design, Historic City: The Balancing Act Between Innovation & Preservation When: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 6:30 – 8:00 PM Where: Koubek Auditorium – Crough Center for Architectural Studies School of Architecture and Planning Catholic University of America

 

As a city filled with historic structures and landmarks, architectural preservation in the nation’s capital receives a lot of attention. Yet, as Washington continues to evolve, there exists a growing need for new development and a desire for more modern and inventive architecture. Making sure the two can successfully co-exist is the responsibility of the agencies involved in the planning and design review process. Join a panel of distinguished design and planning experts as they explore … Continue reading