Tag Archives: CNU

Investment Ready Places: The New American Frontier

How do you know if your neighborhood is ready for investment? Investment Ready Places was just launch by friends Atul Sharma, Joseph Nickol, Kevin Lavelle and James Michael of Street Sense. The premise is:

The small towns and cities of America are once again becoming the new frontier for development.

The thoughts and ideas that are included in this tool are on target with the type of triage thinking that we need in so many of our country’s smaller towns and cities. There are six key characteristics of Investment Ready Places that are essential for attracting investment that will contribute to the creation of authentic, pedestrain scaled places.

  1. Nourishment for residents
  2. Stable supply of water
  3. Manageable infrastructure
  4. Connected places
  5. Creative knowledge
  6. Heritage and living culture

I would encourage everyone to hand out the checklist at the back of the report to their city council, community leaders and neighbors. There is a good dose of reality in this little booklet that is timely. This is a new paradigm tool for an increasingly more competitive landscape of places that get it and those that are going to be left behind economically, culturally and, unfortunately, environmentally. It was so great to hear from Atul and Joe as they were developing the core ideas that are now so nicely conveyed in this booklet. Please pass it along and use it wisely.
– – –
Chuck Marohn gave a great lecture last night at MIT, I’ll have blog coverage of it here soon, and thanks Chuck for the much more solid review of IRP on the Strongtowns.org blog.

Event Planning 101: Running a One Day Conference Well

Producing a meaningful event is hard. Producing an event that encourages dialogue that leads to innovation is near impossible. Yet, shouldn’t we try? My time is too valuable to pitch it away to a panel of talking heads with little meaningful discussion. Today’s professional events need to address our new paradigm in better ways. Meaningful, exciting ways. My time and attention is worth that much. This post is a little off topic from our normal discussion of how life collides with urbanism. However, so much of what I have been doing lately is organizing people that it seems worth a post.

Ok, so how does a new paradigm event get done? I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic group of CNUNE members on the production of the recent Sustainable Urbanism Summit. This small group was able to pull off an exceptional meeting that was interactive, inspirational and, perhaps most impressive, produced on practically no budget. Robert Orr and Robin Bergstrom deserve a massive thank you for taking on the leadership of this effort. The Summit would not have been the event that it was without their passion. That is the first lesson: let passionate people run things.

But, what else matters? Below is how CNUNE produces the Sustainable Urbanism Summit. These guidelines only plot the course. It seems every year things change due to new ideas. Which is perhaps lesson two: stay flexible. You could get on quite well with only these two lessons and produce a fine event. No matter how much planning is in place things come up, and having great people on the team who are not afraid to change is key.

What events have you been to lately that were full of meaningful discussion and ideas? And if you have run one of those events let me know what you think of the event production guidelines below?

GIVE THE EVENT A VISION:

The New England Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU New England) hosts the Sustainable Urbanism Summit annually in a transit accessible New England community with the goal of creating a forum for the exchange of ideas for improving our regions built and natural environment. Throughout its history, CNU New England has focused on the improvement of the human habitat. After many years of advocacy and design guidance, the organization feels that now is a critical time for action. As the political and economic conditions of our country change, it is imperative that we tackle our environmental crisis, collectively identifying challenges, exploring opportunities, and planning for a better, more resilient way of life in New England.

Our hope is that the speakers and the discussions one experiences at the Summit will both inspire and better connect you with professionals, public servants, academics and citizens that share a commitment to improving our built and natural environment. New England has the physical framework to become a model for sustainable urbanism at every scale. Healthy and complete town centers can be one of the most comprehensive solutions to climate change. Building on this idea, we urge attendees to take advantage of the ideas discussed at the Summit. Now is the critical time for our region, we need your help to solve the critical challenges facing our villages, towns and cities.

DEFINE THE EVENTS GOALS:

  1. Produce an experience that inspires all into action.
  2. Create a platform for connections and projects to be created.
  3. Provide our speakers with an engaging audience.
  4. Make sure everyone has a fun and memorable time.

PICK THE RIGHT VENUE:

  1. One lecture hall that has good light and inspiring architecture. The capacity should leave no chairs empty. Moveable chairs are best. The room should have fine details and grand features that will enhance the presentations.
  2. The venue in general should reflect the importance of the Summit.
  3. Space for up to 10 breakout group meetings. It is ideal if several or all of these can happen in the lecture hall. Other meeting rooms should be located very close to the main hall to encourage cross pollination between small group discussions.
  4. Free space is best, but low fee space is acceptable. Religious and community meeting halls have been successful venues in the past.

PROGRAM SHOULD BE ABOUT THE PEOPLE:

  1. The group of speakers should be as multidisciplinary as possible. Strive to include all industries that might effect the built and natural environment.
  2. There should be at a minimum two big name speakers. These marquee speakers should draw attendees, and can help kick off and conclude the program.
  3. Several of the speakers should not be from New England states. This insures that we import new thinking into the region.
  4. At least one of the speakers should be “out of left field”. This speaker might be minimally related to the central theme of the Summit, but brings a unique perspective. This “sideways” speaker’s presentation will hopefully be refreshing and provocative. A little surprise is good.

TELL THE EVENT’S STORY:

  1. The Summit is designed to be an intimate affair. This requires that the population be kept below 150 people. Use this fact to encourage early registration. (Reserve your seat today. Don’t miss the latest thinking on creating Sustainable Urbanism. Space is limited!)
  2. Keep the ticket price low, and announce early so municipal people can get a request into their budgets.
  3. As much as it is hard to believe, not everyone uses Twitter and Facebook. Tell the story of the event to people.
  4. Word of mouth is great. Make sure people know what to tell other people.

HAVE A CHECKLIST OF MILESTONES:

Six Months:

  1. Setup Summit Planning Committee
  2. Assign team leaders: Program, Sponsorship, Events, Volunteers, Communications
  3. Brainstorm possible speakers and themes
  4. Lock in a city and venue.
  5. Lock in a date.
    1. Before committing fully to a date make sure any other regional conferences or large academic events do not occur on the date.
    2. A Thursday night start, and all day Friday event works best.
  6. Announce event on main CNUNE website.
  7. Begin production of the Summit Website from the template.
  8. Lock in the marquee speakers.
  9. Create a short list of speakers.
  10. Begin inviting speakers.
  11. Scout out a pub or drinking hall for the night before cocktails and kick-off speaker.
  12. Create event budget.

Four Months:

  1. Launch event website with date, marquee speakers, location and early registration instruction.
  2. Begin to blog about everything that is going on with the Summit production.
  3. Finalize speakers list with first and second choice speakers.
  4. Make invitations to speakers.
  5. Execute venue contract.
  6. Finalize the kick-off cocktail location.
  7. Contact colleges and universities to begin outreach for registration and volunteering.
  8. Send save-the-date email blast.
  9. Create fundraising plan and sponsorship packages.
  10. Make fundraising calls to sponsors.
  11. Monitor event budget.
  12. Scout hotels in the city, and inquire about deals for groups.
  13. Invite key bloggers and press to the event.

Three Months:

  1. General registration opens.
  2. Key speakers should be on the website. Headshots and bios for each speaker are important to include because the Summit is heavy on speaker interaction. It is all about the speakers and we need to market them well. Links to speakers websites and blog should be included as well.
  3. Create draft of the program & schedule.
  4. Communicate with speakers who are traveling.
  5. Make formal call for volunteers.
  6. Finalize any hotel deals for the Summit group. We should not be committed to having to fill a certain number of rooms.
  7. Continue to update the blog.
  8. Work to confirm final speakers.
  9. Hit 50% of fundraising goal. Collect checks from pledges, and put their logos on the website.
  10. Recruit partner organization. Send them text for an email blast to their members. Add them to the website.
  11. Update industry publication about the event. Make sure it shows up in their calendars & announcements.

Two Months:

  1. Email information on hotels and travel.
  2. Finalize tour details if occurring.
  3. Finalize extra workshops if occurring.
  4. Select volunteers from applicant pool.
  5. Finalize speakers.
  6. Recruit video or reports to capture the event.
  7. Followup with key bloggers and press about attending the event.
  8. Begin blogging about individual speakers to help marketing. Interview speakers if possible. This should be a “sneak peek” and should encourage registration.

One Month:

  1. Begin email series of “Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Summit”.
  2. Monitor registration.
  3. Confirm travel details for speakers.
  4. Confirm AV requirements at the venues.
  5. Assign tasks to volunteers.
  6. Monitor budget.
  7. Send speakers guidelines.
  8. Post draft schedule for the program.
  9. Review second draft of program.

One Week:

  1. Assign equipment and material procurement.
  2. Complete “Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Summit” email blasts.
  3. If registration is full announce it.
  4. Send thank you to volunteers and remind them of their instruction.
  5. Confirm final details with speakers.
  6. Confirm event bloggers and documentation is in order.
  7. Confirm travel plans.
  8. Issue production team and speakers contact list. Cell phone numbers should be included.
  9. Post final schedule and program to website.
  10. Print program.
  11. Relax.

Two Days:

  1. Email team leaders will any last minute changes.
  2. Confirm any last minute program changes.
  3. Update schedule if needed & post to website.
  4. Print sign-in-sheets, name tags, signs showing the way to the event, etc.
  5. Confirm venue logistics.
  6. Monitor budget.

One Day:

  1. Relax.
  2. Enjoy the chaos.

Good luck with your event. I hope this guideline can help in some little way make your event a more meaningful experience for all involved. Keep an eye on www.cnunewengland.org soon for the outcomes of the Sustainable Urbanism Summit.

James Howard Kunstler on the Congress for the New Urbanism

“To put it bluntly, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is perhaps the only surviving collective intelligence left in the United States that is producing ideas consistent with the reality.  They recognize that our survival depends on down-scaling and re-localization. They recognize the crisis we will soon face in food production, and the desperate need to reactivate the relationship between the way we inhabit the landscape and the way we feed ourselves. They recognize that the solution to the liquid fuels crisis is not cars that can run by other means but on walkable towns and cities connected by public transit.” – Too Stupid To Survive by James Howard Kunstler, June 15, 2009

Discussing Living Urbanism at CNU

Living Urbanism Hill Living 1We held an open source conversation about the concept of Living Urbanism at CNU17. Below are a series of point that summarize the conversation. Many insightful topics were discussed such as redefining our understanding of the neighborhood, how to create elegantly sustainable places, how the community of a place is the foundation for its success and the power of using the concepts of social media in the real world, with real people.

Thanks to everyone who took more then an hour out of their Congress to share their thoughts on this emerging concept. I produced the image above as a diagram for how some of these concepts could effect the form of our built and natural environment. Please comment if I have missed anything or want to introduce additional ideas.

Characteristics of Living Urbanism:
1. Served by locally produced food.
2. Served by power produced by a local, renewable system.
3. Served by water provided by a locally renewed aquifer or water body and
4. supplemented by captured rain.
5. Served by infrastructure and commerce that supports a zero waste
economy.
6. Served by a transit system providing access to needs not easily reached
by foot.
7. Served by convenient access to Nature and the countryside.

Discussion on Living Urbanism:
What do we define as truly being “daily needs”? It could be stated that social interaction is the primary daily need.

Where does a sense of community come from and how do we capture that in a place?

What are the “loose fitting” characteristics of timeless places that we are not apply to our contemporary designs? More focus on the detailed characteristics of flexible buildings and neighborhoods need to occur. Rome being the best example of enduring and flexible form.

Streets need to be thought of more as places and not only thoroughfares. Public space is the platform for social interaction to occur. A Living Tradition needs the support of a community to carry on the lessons.

Creating high quality, beautiful public spaces throughout a neighborhood and city is, perhaps, the best economic development tool available. A piece of Living Urbanism must have fantastic postcards of it’s many publics spaces.

Stuff that sucks isn’t going to last.

Living Urbanism is a threshold. It supports a lifestyle that is resilient and, perhaps, more enjoyable. Regardless of form, a person’s daily commute to work would ideally be no more then 15 to 20 minutes.

The local geography of a person’s daily routine is important to consider when thinking about the structure and life of a neighborhood. This local geography is smaller then we think. What is the pattern of your daily life and how does your current built environment not support a comfortable routine.

There is an over concentration of jobs. How can technology support a decentralization of the workplace that is economically sensible? We need tools for linking and creating small outposts for big business.

All aspects of vertical sprawl need more concrete positions to be effective. If the train doesn’t work can you walk? Can urbanism really be resilient if it relies too heavily on technology that is not enduring through recession, depression and crisis.

We must remember that a high quality Civic Realm is directly related to the ability to create smaller units and therefore more density in less space.

Top 5 Must Read Summer Books for Urbanists

I heard many recommendation this week in Denver about books to read. It felt appropriate to pull together my own list. The books on this list have all in one way or another positively effected my practice.  I’ve assembled these into my CNU Denver Top 5 Books for Urbanists. I hope you find time on a nice beach this summer to read a few of them.

The 5 books are…

Camillo Sitte: The Birth of Modern City Planning: With a translation of the 1889 Austrian edition of his City Planning According to Artistic Principles (Dover Books on Architecture)
Self-Sufficient Urbanism: A Vision of Contraction for the Non-Distant Future
The Architecture of Community
Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

It is worth mentioning one additional book as a bonus to those folks really looking to make a difference. It’s a quick read and well worth it. The Bonus book is…

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Living Urbanism Publication Preview Party

2009_06_livingurbanism_partyOur new media project, Living Urbanism, had a great preview party for the next issue due out on July 1. You can find Living Urbanism online here. Big thanks to the CNU Nextgen and the local ULI Young Leaders group for coming out and making it a great event. The party was at Lodo’s which has a fantastic vista of the roof tops of the neighborhood anchored in the background by a good urban stadium.

“Built to Last”

I was excited to see this film win The Congress for New Urbanism CNU 17 video contest. This short was created by independent filmmaker John Paget with First+Main Media. It does an excellent job illustrating the connection between our built and natural environment. The more I think about the larger system we live in the more I realize that environmentalists should really be Urbanists. 

This video is the first of several exciting things in the works for this years CNU. Stay tuned for more big announcements. In the meantime watch the video, share it with friends and send me you thoughts on it.

CNU New England Urban Design Workshops

CNU New England’s “301 Urban Design Workshops” start tomorrow in Providence. I will be helping instruct two of the events with Bill Dennis, Don Powers and Rick Chellman. Thanks a bunch to our partners, Maine Association of Planners, 1000 Friends of Connecticut and Grow Smart RI, for helping make the workshops possible.