We grew up as planners learning that shopping malls sapped downtown of its energy–whether it was small town retailers wiped out by the mall just over the county line or urban retail boulevards gutted of life as suburbanites left the city to follow jobs and the shopping followed them.
Over time, downtowns began to reimage themselves as malls. Beginning in 1980, The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program was based on that very premise, organizing disparate retailers to work together on signage, opening hours, seasonal sales, and marketing.
Federal Realty took it one step further, simply buying up retail streets in places like Westport, Connecticut and Bethesda, Maryland to create a single, curated retail environment from brick … Continue reading
Suburbs have always been an indicator of economic status. If you lived in them, you were wealthy enough to take on a mortgage, maintain a house and yard, and eventually own and maintain one or even two cars.
At some point, that shifted. Living in the city and maintaining a middle class lifestyle took an upper class income. Limited attractive neighborhoods and buildings cost a premium. And if local schools and services were not up to par you needed to pay tuition and fees.
Now, according to Christopher Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo in the New York Times, a larger number of city neighborhoods are outstripping the suburbs in desirability and thus in per square foot value. Their recent report finds that walkable … Continue reading
American Century types like to complain that this country doesn’t make anything anymore or if we do it’s artisanal cheese and not steel. But as this article points out, that cheese or other basement production is often where the big stuff starts. How can we forget Apple’s garage beginnings.
So if economies are shifting, at least in some small way, to local production and services, are our communities able to accomodate new jobs?
According to Mike Pyatok, interviewed in Better Cities and Towns, “Most planning regulations are based on the Euclidean model that separates cities into zones accommodating a single use, which true live-work is decidedly not.”
While Pyatok is pointing out that the rules of subsidized housing preclude small scale economic ventures, … Continue reading
We can extol the New England Common and the midwestern town square, but let’s be honest, America’s real public spaces are parking lots. We have turned our landscape over to the car. In his forthcoming book, “ReThinking a Lot,” MIT urban planning professor Eran Ben-Joseph estimates that there are 500 million parking spaces in the US, covering about 3,500 square miles, about the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Other estimates are higher–up to 2 billion spaces; throw in Connecticut and Vermont.
That comparison is a sad statistic on our willingness to turn over civic life to the car; parking lots are an investment in space that seems to be paying out negative social, environmental, and economic impacts. So what … Continue reading