Tag Archives: economic development

Turning a Highway into a Public Plaza is Possible


Streets are for people. People on foot, on bike and in motor vehicles. But, at the end of the day they are all just people regardless of what mode they are using. We have forgotten this fact in the planning of our streets. It is so refreshing to see that communities such as Poynton are using the design of their streets and major intersections as the foundational elements for the renewal of their economy.

Now, many of you might be thinking that the above video is about the UK and that shared space is not in the character of our towns and cities here in the States. Plus we love our cars so why would we not put them as top priority. However, in a number of projects over the past five years I’ve advocated for the use of shared space and included shared space in the urban design plans. Alas, only one of them has been built… and its an alley so that doesn’t really count. However, the story in Poynton has convinced me even more that shared space is a key solution for not only traffic safety and efficiency, but economic development.

However, there are several hurtles that these projects will need to jump when being implemented in the States:

  1. Finding an engineer that will put their professional stamp on the project drawings.
  2. Negotiating with the “science” of modern day traffic models to convince the powers that be that shared space can increase traffic efficiency.
  3. Ensuring everyone that these spaces can be designed to accommodate the impaired and as the above video conveys even improve mobility for the disabled.
  4. Figure out how to work around the “if it is not in the guidelines it cannot be built” mentality that so many DOTs are limit by in regards to shaping our built environment.

There are several projects in the States in addition to the one in Providence that I know about that have been able to pull of the impossible (Montgomery, Cambridge, etc.). However, what we all have forgotten is that shared space was the only way streets were built in the U.S. less than 75 years ago. Jason King from Dover Kohl reminded me of this fact when he sent me the image below of Madison Square.

I applaud Ben Hamilton-Bailie and all those involved with implementing Poynton on what was surely a giant hill to climb in order to get this project built. If you know of any shared space project on the drawing boards in your area please do leave a comment with the details. Thanks to Chuck at Strongtowns for sharing this video with me.

Madison SquareShared space in Madison Square, New York

Poynton Shared SpacePoynton Share Space. Image: Hamilton-Bailie Associates

 

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.

Providence 2030: A Vision for a Livable City

What will your city be like in the year 2030?  Over the past nine months I helped lead a group of young business and community leaders in Providence answer that question.  Twenty years in the life of a city is not that much time when I realized that my old neighborhood, the South End, took 40 years to construct.  However, organizations such as Architecture 2030 believe that monumental achievements are possible by that date. As with Ed Mazria, this group in Providence has hope that achieving such a goal in a small span of years is possible. That is if the idea is compelling enough…or visionary.

Here are the key themes of the Providence 2030 vision as one would explain the city in that year. The entire document can be downloaded here.

  1. We continue to grow a vibrant economy.
  2. We support our world renowned culture.
  3. We care for our engaging civic realm.
  4. We celebrate our mobility.
  5. We value and educate our youth.
  6. We are a leader in sustainable practices.

We hope that the Providence 2030 vision is powerful enough to help guide the change that is needed over the next 20 years.  Let me know what you think?  Bonus question: Has your community created a grand vision for its growth and development? If not, shouldn’t it?

A big thanks to the Providence Foundation for supporting the creation of this document.  Since its publication, the Foundation has formally adopted it as the organizations vision.  I hope future posts will talk about projects the Foundation is taking on that will help realize this vision.