As part of the Green Living Seminar, I’ll be giving a talk on downtown revitalization at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts tomorrow, and will share with them the ten questions every downtown needs to answer. Many great speakers and friends have already given lectures in the series which are available as podcasts here. If you happen to be in the area please come by and join the discussion. The class starts at 5:30 at Murdock Hall, Room 218. More details can be found here. I’ll post the podcast from the event when it goes up. Giant thanks to Imagining North Adams, the Environmental Studies Department and the MCLA Berkshire Environmental Resource Center for making this great series possible.
What are Little American Businesses? Shaheen Shadeghi makes a compelling case for why American’s are in search of the authentic more and more today. Through an introduction from the talented Andrew Consigli, we were able to have a chat with Mr. Shadeghi earlier this month. It was fascinating to hear about the early days of developing the Lab and the Camp. For those interested in how to nurture a locally oriented and people friendly destination there is much to learn from Mr. Shadeghi and the 20 years of Lab Holding‘s work. I have been reflecting on several of his placemaking concepts since our conversation that I will certainly be expanding on in future posts. Here is a preview of some of that wisdom he dropped on us:
- America is maturing as a country and the palette of taste’s throughout is becoming more varied. Truly authentic places are picking up on a local cultural and tapping into that culture to make their businesses distinct.
- American’s are more interested in paying for a $6.00 latte and sitting at a cafe with friends then buying a $7.99 pair of jeans from a national retail chain. Real places include a social experience.
- Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. If there seems to be a market in a place for a barbershop that doubles as a bar and no one wants to open one then just go ahead and open one. (This is also a great example of the “Micro-mixing” trend we pointed out in the latest version of Tactical Urbanism.)
There is definitely an art as well as a sciences to what LAB Holding’s is working on. More on creating authentic places to come. Have a great weekend.
What do street fairs, pop-up retail and chair bombing all have in common? They are low cost, high impact “tactics” for improving a neighborhood. Every city planner, developer or active citizen should start to think about how they can execute short term experiments that help build momentum for a project, change the perception of a place or energize support for bigger plans in your community. We have started doing this in Providence, and I plan to write about them in the coming weeks under the new topic of “Tactical Urbanism”.
– A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
– The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges;
– Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
– Low-risks, with a possibly a high reward; and
– The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents.
For more info on this emerging set of tools you can download the report here, read about the idea here, here, and here. Hope you are enjoying your weekend, and, perhaps, heading out to enjoy a Pop-Up Cafe or an Open Street.
Would you install something on your computer that slows it down, makes it less valuable and (for Mac users) ruins the beauty of it? No, of course not. Then why are we letting this happen to our cities? A compelling case for removing inner city highways is made in the video above by fellow CNU board member Jack Davis, and CEO John Norquist. For more information visit the Highways to Boulevards page at cnu.org.
This year’s Congress for the New Urbanism started on Wednesday. The focus is on Health and the built environment. I find it quite difficult to explain the varying connection between health and the built environment to those less informed about the complexities of urbanism. However, I think it comes down to a simple idea. Walking more is simply better for you. This can be easily illustrated by the condition at our office building in Providence. We have a great historic stair right there when you walk into the foyer. The elevator is behind the stair, out of sight and less convenient then the stair. Most everyone in our office heads right up this stair and climbs the four floors to the office. When I’m bring people to the office who are not accustom to climbing four flights you can really note the differences in fitness by the time it takes a visitor to catch their breadth. We are lucky in our office because the stair is more convenient, and, frankly, more fun to take then the clunky elevator. Our health is a unintended benefit to the way our office’s built environment function. Walkable, beautiful places are more fun to be in and therefor us humans will actually exert ourselves more to enjoy being in them. Urbanism is just like the stair in my office. More fun to be in, and improves your health.
I hope to post some more health and urbanism connection soon. If you have a health and urbanism connection of your own please comment below.
Over vacation I took the opportunity to dive into The Smart Growth Manual by Andres Duany, Jeff Speck and, fellow Living Urbanism editor, Mike Lydon. The manual is a comprehensive review of the practices that lead to the creation of smart places. I highly recommend giving it a read even if you are a seasoned practitioner. The concise text and illustrative images layout the techniques that are at the forefront of planning, urban design and architecture. The design of the book is memorable as well. I hope to see it on the desks of town planners everywhere.