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Adaptive reuse of existing buildings for agriculture: Plant Chicago – vertical farming and industrial reuse.

Take a quick look at their philosophy in 2 minutes.

Don’t think we’d have any 40-story buildings, but what if we used less and converted … i don’t know … some of our numerous self-storage facilities to vertical farms?

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This Utne Reader article describes what may be a subdivision trend–designing residential neighborhods integral to farms.

New developments in Chicago, Atlanta, and Colorado are moving beyond community gardens and contracting with farmers to run and manage the farm next door. And as the article points out, there is the potential for conflict, “pesticide drift,” etc. This is why we zoned in the first place, to separate percieved noxious uses, and even though these residents will be a self-selected group ready to get their hands dirty, fresh tomatos are one thing, manure is quite another. When you look at the websites, there is a definite “people like us” vibe that makes you wonder if agriburbia is the green equivalent of a gated community.

But … Continue reading

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A couple years ago, the EPA published a very concise, well-conceived, and practical guide for municipalities to turn smart-growth principles into regulations. Titled “Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes“,the publication outlines 11 “fixes”:

Allow or Require Mixed-Use Zones Use Urban Dimensions in Urban Places Rein in and Reform the Use of Planned Unit Developments Fix Parking Requirements [more on this in an upcoming blog] Increase Density and Intensity in Centers Modernize Street Standards Enact Standards to Foster Walkable Places Designate and Support Preferred Growth Areas and Development Sites Use Green Infrastructure to Manage Stormwater Adopt Smart Annexation Policies Encourage Appropriate Development Densities on The Edge

Of course, as partners with HUD and DOT in the … Continue reading

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Based on a lecture presenting ICMA’s recent report, “Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities”, the first part of this synopsis summarized the general goals, scope, challenges, and policy principles for a “smart growth” approach to rural community development. Numerous links to various resources are provided therein. The second part of this synopsis will outline more detailed strategies for rural communities based on smart growth principles.

Strategies to Accomplish Goal 1: Economic Support of Working Lands and Conservation Areas

Ensure viability of a resource economy:

Assess taxes based on current use, rather than at its highest market value; Provide tax credits for conservation; Enact right-to-farm policies; Advocate renewable energy development; Allow value-added farm and forest product processing; and … Continue reading

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Representatives from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Environmental Protection Agency recently presented the results of a study, “Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities”, at the National Building Museum. As we look towards modifications to our zoning laws, it may be useful to summarize some of their findings.

Smart Growth Goals

Economic support of working lands and conservation areas; Investing in assets to make rural towns thrive; and Creating new stable, sustainable neighborhoods and communities.

Defining “Rural”

Simply put, USDA defines rural by what it isn’t – rural areas are not “metropolitan counties”. This course-grain approach, of course, doesn’t help define the differences between and within Montgomery County’s more urban corridors and nodes, its residential … Continue reading

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Bike sharing is a natural for Miami Beach. Yup, even in a place where Lamborghinis jostle with Bentleys in the public parking lots, a bike is cool.

The island is flat, warm, laid out in a gridded street pattern, and partially ringed with off-road bike routes that pass by a marina, Government Cut, South Pointe Park, and the beach. If you live and work on the Beach, a $15.00 monthly Deco Bikes membership gets you unlimited access. If you’re a tourist, just swipe your credit card, choose a bike, and pedal off.

The docking stations are located all over the island, and I wonder if there will be an obvious pattern of use. In Montreal, Bixi bikes all go downhill … Continue reading

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GEICO, Wisconsin and Western Avenues, Friendship Heights

The corporate headquarters for GEICO (1959) is an International Style complex of carefully articulated buildings designed by architect Vincent G Kling. Long low wings are contrasted by higher opaque blocks and sheathed in porcelain enamel and textured glass panels. The 26-acre landscaped campus includes flying saucer light fixtures, a Hovercraft-like fountain perched at the entrance.  Terraced parking lots  are shaded by mature trees.  A taller office tower (left) was added in 1964.


Architect Vincent Kling of Philadelphia worked for Skidmore Owings & Merrill before establishing his own firm in 1946. His expertise was in research labs and commercial space. As he designed the GEICO building, he was engaged in creating, with Edmund Bacon, the master … Continue reading

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Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a full day in Cleveland, Ohio. And I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, Cleveland is a pretty nice place.

I’d only ever passed through Cleveland on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited in the middle of the night. So I was unsure of what to expect, but my perceptions certainly focused on Cleveland as a rust belt city with some pretty serious environmental problems.

What I found was a city (and a region) facing a severe economic crisis, but one whose downtown and core neighborhoods cling to vibrancy. I was impressed with the urban form of Downtown, a district which has seen better days, but whose architecture … Continue reading

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guest post by Kristin O’Connor

Now If We Can Get the Brook Back in Twinbrook

Ah, the environmental benefits of reusing a building—a very large building with tons of existing steel and concrete. Built in the early 1970s, the 18-story Parklawn building is the tallest, most prominent in Twinbrook. Formerly, it housed the Food and Drug Administration before it consolidated employees in White Oak. Since then, much of the building has been vacant.

The cost savings of building materials and energy make this a good sustainable decision. Additionally, the building’s proximity to the Red Line Metro station and the WMATA/JBG’s Twinbrook Station development, makes re-using the 1.3 million square foot building a good financial and sustainable option for any … Continue reading

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guest post: Clare Lise Kelly

Can you identify this Montgomery County Building? Here’s a hint: This complex share ties with Penn Center in Philadelphia.

Tune in next month to find out what building it is and its architectural merits.

Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.