Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green Cities, Cool Cities (Florida, Kotkin)

Richard Florida of "Creative Class" fame has posted Greening the City on his blog at The Atlantic

Why not consider devoting different streets to different kinds of transportation? And surely cities need more green space and some are actually getting it. Inspired by the High-Line Park, by DC's Rock Creek Park, and Toronto's extensive ravine system, I have been noodling about the possibility of creating linear green belts or what I like to think of as sliver parks through cities. . . .

So I was more than pleasantly surprised to see The New York Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff highlighting just such an approach coming out of  a nine-month design competition for the Bronx's "faded" Grand Concourse.

Florida discusses the article about some very innovative ideas proposed for the Bronx project, and links to the Grand Concourse project website. 

Meanwhile, Joel Kotkin of New Geography and Forbes continues to pour empirical water on Florida's creative class thesis in Numbers Don't Support Migration Exodus to "Cool" Citites:

For the past decade a large coterie of pundits, prognosticators and their media camp followers have insisted that growth in America would be concentrated in places hip and cool, largely the bluish regions of the country.

Since the onset of the recession, which has hit many once-thriving Sun Belt hot spots, this chorus has grown bolder. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently identified the "Next Youth-Magnet Cities" as drawn from the old "hip and cool" collection of yore: Seattle, Portland, Washington, New York and Austin, Texas.

It's not just the young who will flock to the blue meccas, but money and business as well, according to the narrative. The future, the Atlantic assured its readers, did not belong to the rubes in the suburbs or Sun Belt, but to high-density, high-end places like New York, San Francisco and Boston.

This narrative, which has not changed much over the past decade, is misleading and largely misstated. Net migration, both before and after the Great Recession, according to analysis by the Praxis Strategy Group, has continued to be strongest to the predominately red states of the South and Intermountain West.

An interesting and important debate about the core issues of land use planning.

Matt Festa

November 12, 2009 in Environmental Law, Green Building, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brad Pitt, New Orleans, and "Houses of the Future"

Wayne Curtis has a very interesting article in The Atlantic, called Houses of the Future.  The intro:

Four years after the levee failures, New Orleans is seeing an unexpected boom in architectural experimentation. Small, independent developers are succeeding in getting houses built where the government has failed. And the city's unique challenges—among them environmental impediments, an entrenched culture of leisure, and a casual acquaintance with regulation—are spurring design innovations that may redefine American architecture for a generation.

An interesting assessment, particularly in its suggestion that private development has been working better so far than any comprehensive efforts to rebuild New Orleans.  What does Brad Pitt have to do with all this?

And then, suddenly, amid heroically overgrown lawns, you see a cluster of modern, colorful, and modestly sized homes, looking like a farm where they grow houses for Dwell magazine. These are the fruits to date of Pitt’s other project, Make It Right New Orleans. New Orleanians refer to these homes collectively as “the Brad Pitt Houses,” which gives them the pleasing ring of an ambitious public-housing project from the post–World War II years. But Pitt’s ambitions are not merely utilitarian. He hopes to offer displaced residents affordable, cutting-edge, radically green homes designed by name-brand architects like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry. And he seems to be succeeding.

Four years after Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans is not proceeding the way anyone envisioned, nor with the expected cast of characters. (If I may emphasize: Brad Pitt is the city’s most innovative and ambitious housing developer.)

However, not everyone is on board with Brad Pitt's (architects') designs:

Not everybody is so circumspect. “Oh, it’s all bullshit,” Andres Duany said to me last fall, when I brought up Make It Right. “The high design? That has nothing to do with reality. That’s just architectural self-indulgence.”

Duany has been heavily involved in New Orleans rebuilding since the hurricane, but he advocates both traditional design and traditional methods:

So the central problem, according to Duany: “All the do-goody people attempting to preserve the culture are the same do-gooders who are raising the standards for the building of houses, and are the same do-gooders who are giving people partial mortgages and putting them in debt,” he said. . . .

As an alternative, Duany argues for “opt-out zones” for some of the hardest-hit areas, including the Lower Ninth. Within these zones, residents could rebuild their homes the way the city was originally constructed: by hand, incrementally, and unencumbered by what Duany calls “gold-plated” building regulations or bank requirements.

It's a good article that touches on many land use issues (I just wish The Atlantic had included more pictures in the web version). 

Matt Festa

October 20, 2009 in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Green Building, New Urbanism, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 16, 2009

NYT on Environmentalism in the Suburbs

The New York Times published several articles on environmentalism in the suburbs, seemingly on the same day last week but on different pages of different sections in different editions (NY, NJ, CT, LI) of the paper.  (I don't get the dead-tree version so correct me if I'm wrong about this.)  An interesting batch:

Green and Greener in Suburban Towns

In New Jersey, Conserving at Ground Level

A Westchester Town Looks to Conserve its Trees

On Long Island, Free Parking for Fuel Efficiency

Connecticut Town Starts by Banning Plastic Bags

City Aims to Reduce Carbon Output by Buildings

Each article discusses a different issue in a different locality, but a common theme that I picked up is just how deeply environmental consciousness has affected the suburbs.  Several of these local governments have gone as far as to change their zoning codes or offer incentives to promote green building, conservation, and carbon output reduction.  The suburbs get the blame for causing sprawl but the people in the suburbs may be reaching a threshold point of incorporating environmentalism into local policy.

UPDATE: Mireya Navarro, the New York Times environmental writer who authored three of the six articles linked above, emails to confirm that the stories all ran in the Sunday, Oct. 11 metro section, which (as Ms. Navarro put it) is "zoned"(!) for the different suburban areas (NJ, LI, CT, Westchester, etc.).  So if you only got one of these stories in your Sunday NY Times, you can read them all here on the Land Use Prof Blog! 

Matt Festa

October 16, 2009 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Green Building, Sprawl, Suburbs, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)