Posts tagged "community development"

Wishing Everyone A Happy 2013!

A Recap of Our Most Popular Posts in 2012:

Thanks for visiting our tumblr blog, we’re looking forward to posting more original and thought-provoking urbanism-related news in 2013!


The New York Times:
"Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close
By Karen Ann Cullota. Dec 27, 2012
At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Photo: Tyler Bissmeyer for The New York Times

The New York Times:

"Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close

By Karen Ann Cullota. Dec 27, 2012

At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Photo: Tyler Bissmeyer for The New York Times

PlaceShakers: 
"Solid Buildings Last: A tale of public housing, reborn
Scott Doyon. Dec 20, 2012
Earlier this month, as Hazel mentioned in her city-as-running-buddy post last week, our travels took us to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we were doing some long-term master planning for a neighboring town. Part of that job involved a tour around the area, scoping out different models and precedents, and that’s when we stumbled into South Front, the subject for today’s post.

I don’t typically gush on things simply because they’re coolbut, in this case, I’m going to make an exception because South Front, as best I can tell, embodies a litany of things we tend to advocate in the course of our work. Here’s the basics, mixing anecdotal history from both our client and from Chuck, our host at The Verandas Bed and Breakfast where we stayed:
In 1940, the newly-formed Wilmington Housing Authority built Nesbitt Court, a 216-unit housing complex on 13 acres, to meet a rapidly increasing demand for housing brought about by new wartime jobs and the workers arriving to fill them. Very consistent with housing authority projects of that era, it served originally as whites-only workers housing and then for many decades thereafter as your typical subsidized public housing — suffering all the challenges and dysfunctions such places bring to mind and falling further and further into decline until it was ultimately shut down in 2007. With no funds for renovation, the WHA chose to sell the property to private interests, securing a deal to sell it several years later as-is to Tribute Properties for $1.62 million.

Earlier this month, as Hazel mentioned in her city-as-running-buddy post last week, our travels took us to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we were doing some long-term master planning for a neighboring town. Part of that job involved a tour around the area, scoping out different models and precedents, and that’s when we stumbled into South Front, the subject for today’s post.

I don’t typically gush on things simply because they’re coolbut, in this case, I’m going to make an exception because South Front, as best I can tell, embodies a litany of things we tend to advocate in the course of our work. Here’s the basics, mixing anecdotal history from both our client and from Chuck, our host at The Verandas Bed and Breakfast where we stayed:
In 1940, the newly-formed Wilmington Housing Authority built Nesbitt Court, a 216-unit housing complex on 13 acres, to meet a rapidly increasing demand for housing brought about by new wartime jobs and the workers arriving to fill them. Very consistent with housing authority projects of that era, it served originally as whites-only workers housing and then for many decades thereafter as your typical subsidized public housing — suffering all the challenges and dysfunctions such places bring to mind and falling further and further into decline until it was ultimately shut down in 2007. With no funds for renovation, the WHA chose to sell the property to private interests, securing a deal to sell it several years later as-is to Tribute Properties for $1.62 million.”

PlaceShakers: 

"Solid Buildings Last: A tale of public housing, reborn

Scott Doyon. Dec 20, 2012

Earlier this month, as Hazel mentioned in her city-as-running-buddy post last week, our travels took us to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we were doing some long-term master planning for a neighboring town. Part of that job involved a tour around the area, scoping out different models and precedents, and that’s when we stumbled into South Front, the subject for today’s post.

I don’t typically gush on things simply because they’re coolbut, in this case, I’m going to make an exception because South Front, as best I can tell, embodies a litany of things we tend to advocate in the course of our work. Here’s the basics, mixing anecdotal history from both our client and from Chuck, our host at The Verandas Bed and Breakfast where we stayed:

In 1940, the newly-formed Wilmington Housing Authority built Nesbitt Court, a 216-unit housing complex on 13 acres, to meet a rapidly increasing demand for housing brought about by new wartime jobs and the workers arriving to fill them. Very consistent with housing authority projects of that era, it served originally as whites-only workers housing and then for many decades thereafter as your typical subsidized public housing — suffering all the challenges and dysfunctions such places bring to mind and falling further and further into decline until it was ultimately shut down in 2007. With no funds for renovation, the WHA chose to sell the property to private interests, securing a deal to sell it several years later as-is to Tribute Properties for $1.62 million.

Earlier this month, as Hazel mentioned in her city-as-running-buddy post last week, our travels took us to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we were doing some long-term master planning for a neighboring town. Part of that job involved a tour around the area, scoping out different models and precedents, and that’s when we stumbled into South Front, the subject for today’s post.

I don’t typically gush on things simply because they’re coolbut, in this case, I’m going to make an exception because South Front, as best I can tell, embodies a litany of things we tend to advocate in the course of our work. Here’s the basics, mixing anecdotal history from both our client and from Chuck, our host at The Verandas Bed and Breakfast where we stayed:

In 1940, the newly-formed Wilmington Housing Authority built Nesbitt Court, a 216-unit housing complex on 13 acres, to meet a rapidly increasing demand for housing brought about by new wartime jobs and the workers arriving to fill them. Very consistent with housing authority projects of that era, it served originally as whites-only workers housing and then for many decades thereafter as your typical subsidized public housing — suffering all the challenges and dysfunctions such places bring to mind and falling further and further into decline until it was ultimately shut down in 2007. With no funds for renovation, the WHA chose to sell the property to private interests, securing a deal to sell it several years later as-is to Tribute Properties for $1.62 million.”


“Ready for the Geezer Glut? Then think beyond “aging in place”
Ben Brown. October 8, 2012

Among the Big Issues awaiting communities after we shake off the post-recession blues is what to do about demography. Particularly the part about America’s aging population.
The first-borns among the 76-million-strong Baby Boomer generation reached 65 in 2011. And over the next three decades, the geezer slice of the population pie will swell to 20 percent, compared to a little more than 13 percent in 2010. Take a look at the chart below, compiled from Census projections and pulled from the informative Alliance for Aging site.

That’s more than 88 million folks 65-plus, with the fastest growing cohorts the “oldest-old” segments of 80-plus.
I have a special interest in this topic, given that I’m among those leading-edge Boomers who have reconfigured commerce and culture to suit our tastes over the last half-century. It’s been a great run.
By now, just about everybody not invited to our long-running generational fiesta is tired of indulging Boomer fantasies. Sorry. Since we’re still running lots of stuff and still hoarding most of America’s financial assets, there’s more to come. Currently, we’re in the middle of one of our periodic – and probably our last – reality denial exercises. This is the one where we’re pretending Big Pharma, robots, electric cars and Dr. Oz will extend our playtime into infinity. You know, “60 is the new 40.” Unlike previous Boomer reality ducks, however, this one is going to be tough to buy or lie our way out of.
We’re all gonna die. And before we die, we’re likely to slide into various stages of decrepitude and neediness. We’ve had a glimpse of what that looks like with our own parents. We’re next. So the intricate tapestry of denial we’ve been weaving is already fraying around the edges.
Here’s a taste of how medical professionals are looking at the age wave, courtesy of Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, on an American Medical Association site in 2010:

The statistics are staggering. By age 65, around two-thirds of all seniors have at least one chronic disease and see seven physicians. Twenty percent of those older than 65 have five or more chronic diseases, see 14 physicians — and average 40 doctor visits a year. Situations like these are a nightmare for patients and the physicians who treat them.
Is any community ready for that?

What got me to thinking about this lately were two things. One was a timely diagnosis of the problem, especially as it applies to place, by Linda Selin Davis on The Atlantic Cities October 3 blog. Pointing to “the tainted legacy of age-segregated housing that is a $51 billion industry,” she nailed the unintended consequence of the “retirement community” movement:

We suffer from a severe lack of foresight, a shortage of personal and community planning when it comes to where and how to age. We’ve separated our elders from their extended families without replacing what their relatives might once have provided: a decent quality of life, until the very end.

The other insight feels like a solution, at least in a very targeted way. It comes from organizers of a senior cohousing initiative in Abingdon, VA called ElderSpirit Community. I’ve stayed in touch with them over the last decade because they provide one of my go-to antidotes for cynicism. Starting with few resources and little experience in neighborhood design, finance and development, they’ve assembled and successfully managed the intricate components of intentional community. And they’ve done that while measuring success against wildly idealistic standards. ElderSpirit members committed to a community designed for both physical and financial accessibility, for exploring spiritual purpose in broadly ecumenical ways and for supporting one another’s mental and physical well-being in the final stages of their lives.”

Via: Placemakers

Ready for the Geezer Glut? Then think beyond “aging in place

Ben Brown. October 8, 2012

Among the Big Issues awaiting communities after we shake off the post-recession blues is what to do about demography. Particularly the part about America’s aging population.

The first-borns among the 76-million-strong Baby Boomer generation reached 65 in 2011. And over the next three decades, the geezer slice of the population pie will swell to 20 percent, compared to a little more than 13 percent in 2010. Take a look at the chart below, compiled from Census projections and pulled from the informative Alliance for Aging site.

That’s more than 88 million folks 65-plus, with the fastest growing cohorts the “oldest-old” segments of 80-plus.

I have a special interest in this topic, given that I’m among those leading-edge Boomers who have reconfigured commerce and culture to suit our tastes over the last half-century. It’s been a great run.

By now, just about everybody not invited to our long-running generational fiesta is tired of indulging Boomer fantasies. Sorry. Since we’re still running lots of stuff and still hoarding most of America’s financial assets, there’s more to come. Currently, we’re in the middle of one of our periodic – and probably our last – reality denial exercises. This is the one where we’re pretending Big Pharma, robots, electric cars and Dr. Oz will extend our playtime into infinity. You know, “60 is the new 40.” Unlike previous Boomer reality ducks, however, this one is going to be tough to buy or lie our way out of.

We’re all gonna die. And before we die, we’re likely to slide into various stages of decrepitude and neediness. We’ve had a glimpse of what that looks like with our own parents. We’re next. So the intricate tapestry of denial we’ve been weaving is already fraying around the edges.

Here’s a taste of how medical professionals are looking at the age wave, courtesy of Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, on an American Medical Association site in 2010:

The statistics are staggering. By age 65, around two-thirds of all seniors have at least one chronic disease and see seven physicians. Twenty percent of those older than 65 have five or more chronic diseases, see 14 physicians — and average 40 doctor visits a year. Situations like these are a nightmare for patients and the physicians who treat them.

Is any community ready for that?

What got me to thinking about this lately were two things. One was a timely diagnosis of the problem, especially as it applies to place, by Linda Selin Davis on The Atlantic Cities October 3 blog. Pointing to “the tainted legacy of age-segregated housing that is a $51 billion industry,” she nailed the unintended consequence of the “retirement community” movement:

We suffer from a severe lack of foresight, a shortage of personal and community planning when it comes to where and how to age. We’ve separated our elders from their extended families without replacing what their relatives might once have provided: a decent quality of life, until the very end.

The other insight feels like a solution, at least in a very targeted way. It comes from organizers of a senior cohousing initiative in Abingdon, VA called ElderSpirit Community. I’ve stayed in touch with them over the last decade because they provide one of my go-to antidotes for cynicism. Starting with few resources and little experience in neighborhood design, finance and development, they’ve assembled and successfully managed the intricate components of intentional community. And they’ve done that while measuring success against wildly idealistic standards. ElderSpirit members committed to a community designed for both physical and financial accessibility, for exploring spiritual purpose in broadly ecumenical ways and for supporting one another’s mental and physical well-being in the final stages of their lives.

Via: Placemakers

“Transit villages in N.J. blend past with future, and spark development
By Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger . Sept 22, 2012
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson surveyed the old railroad town that was trying to revitalize its main street.
He looked at the renovated movie theater that attracts scores of families and at the refurbished building that serves as a practice center for Olympians on the U.S. table tennis team.
Simpson looked at Dunellen and saw the past — and the future.
"This is like old wine in a new bottle — all of the ingredients for success are here," he said last month at a ceremony to name the Middlesex County borough the state’s 26th Transit Village, communities built around transportation hubs, making it convenient to get around without a car.
A report and database due out Monday by New Jersey Future — the result of more than three years worth of study — assesses development opportunities around New Jersey’s transit stations and heralds the importance of transit-oriented development.
The report by the smart growth and transportation choice advocacy group shows that what is old is new again in New Jersey as towns look to the past — their train stations — to make them desirable for a new generation of commuters who have eschewed their cars.
"In particular, the ‘Millennial’ generation has expressed a preference for driving less and walking more, and employers are increasingly heeding the imperative to locate in places where they will be accessible to a young workforce that wants multiple transportation options," the report stated.
New Jersey Future’s research director, Tim Evans, has spent 3 1/2 years assembling a database looking at New Jersey’s 243 transit stations, including 205 rail stations, 16 major bus terminals, 12 ferry terminals and 10 terminals that have more than one mode of transportation, such as Hoboken Terminal, which has trains, buses and ferries.
It’s the first time such a study has been done of New Jersey’s extensive network of transit stations, and suggestions were made for how to better use the vital asset in the future.
The report lists transit municipalities with the greatest number of jobs (Newark, Jersey City, Edison); station areas featuring the highest population densities (9th Street and 2nd Street stations in Hoboken on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Hoboken Terminal); stations in neighborhoods where at least one-third of households do not have a vehicle (Warren Street and Washington Street on the Newark Light Rail); stations in neighborhoods having a median home value greater than 200 percent of the statewide median (Millburn, Summit, Peapack) and stations where fewer than one-third of parking spaces are typically occupied (Point Pleasant Beach, Florence, Cinnaminson).
The report could help policy-makers and developers put the right kinds of incentives — such as urban hub tax credits or Transit Village designations — in the right kinds of locations and help municipalities understand the strengths and weaknesses around their transit assets, said Elaine Clisham, New Jersey Future’s director of communications.”
Via: The Star Ledger
Photo: Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger
Photo: 

Transit villages in N.J. blend past with future, and spark development

By Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger . Sept 22, 2012

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson surveyed the old railroad town that was trying to revitalize its main street.

He looked at the renovated movie theater that attracts scores of families and at the refurbished building that serves as a practice center for Olympians on the U.S. table tennis team.

Simpson looked at Dunellen and saw the past — and the future.

"This is like old wine in a new bottle — all of the ingredients for success are here," he said last month at a ceremony to name the Middlesex County borough the state’s 26th Transit Village, communities built around transportation hubs, making it convenient to get around without a car.

A report and database due out Monday by New Jersey Future — the result of more than three years worth of study — assesses development opportunities around New Jersey’s transit stations and heralds the importance of transit-oriented development.

The report by the smart growth and transportation choice advocacy group shows that what is old is new again in New Jersey as towns look to the past — their train stations — to make them desirable for a new generation of commuters who have eschewed their cars.

"In particular, the ‘Millennial’ generation has expressed a preference for driving less and walking more, and employers are increasingly heeding the imperative to locate in places where they will be accessible to a young workforce that wants multiple transportation options," the report stated.

New Jersey Future’s research director, Tim Evans, has spent 3 1/2 years assembling a database looking at New Jersey’s 243 transit stations, including 205 rail stations, 16 major bus terminals, 12 ferry terminals and 10 terminals that have more than one mode of transportation, such as Hoboken Terminal, which has trains, buses and ferries.

It’s the first time such a study has been done of New Jersey’s extensive network of transit stations, and suggestions were made for how to better use the vital asset in the future.

The report lists transit municipalities with the greatest number of jobs (Newark, Jersey City, Edison); station areas featuring the highest population densities (9th Street and 2nd Street stations in Hoboken on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Hoboken Terminal); stations in neighborhoods where at least one-third of households do not have a vehicle (Warren Street and Washington Street on the Newark Light Rail); stations in neighborhoods having a median home value greater than 200 percent of the statewide median (Millburn, Summit, Peapack) and stations where fewer than one-third of parking spaces are typically occupied (Point Pleasant Beach, Florence, Cinnaminson).

The report could help policy-makers and developers put the right kinds of incentives — such as urban hub tax credits or Transit Village designations — in the right kinds of locations and help municipalities understand the strengths and weaknesses around their transit assets, said Elaine Clisham, New Jersey Future’s director of communications.”

Via: The Star Ledger

Photo: Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger

Photo: 

RTNA Neighborhood Improvement Proposal Images

Mass Urban has recently completed the first phase of a neighborhood planning proposal in Jersey City, NJ. Working in collaboration with SIM-P a NYC-based team of recent urban planning grads, the project was iniatiated on behalf of a Jersey City-based community organization: RTNA ( Redstone Townhomes Neighborhood Association). Here are images from the booklet we produced for RTNA and community members. 

The project has just entered its second phase, where the proposal is being presented to local residents and community groups, please stay tuned for further details!

“A Housing Project Upgrade Done Right
Kaid Benfield. Sept 17, 2012
Lincoln Heights, Ohio, is about a dozen miles north of Cincinnati. It contains around 4,500 residents, 98 percent of them African-American. In fact, according to a community website, it was the first self-governing African American community north of the Mason-Dixon Line and at one time the largest. But household income is low, and only about a third of the town’s single-family homes are owner-occupied.
What I will write here is really a set-up for the evocative video below. It shows the story of Valley Homes, a cooperatively owned housing project built in Lincoln Heights in 1942 that had become badly deteriorated, because mounting needed repairs to buildings that had been poorly constructed in the first place had become too numerous and too expensive for its low-income owners to undertake. In 2005, the property fell into receivership and two years later a task force was appointed to search for a permanent solution. The details of what happened over the next few years and the evolution of the project’s ownership and financial structure are complex. 
But high on the list of task force goals were new senior housing and allowing current residents to stay. Eventually the old buildings were condemned and torn down, and the group selected a development firm named the Model Group to redevelop the site. The good news is that Valley Homes has now been replaced with a mix of updated and affordable housing types called Villas of the Valley, and the site is once again serving the community. Jay Springer elaborates onCincinnati.com:

The redevelopment of the site was identified as a top community priority in the Lincoln Heights Urban Renewal Plan and Revitalization Strategy of 2001. Model Group worked closely with the residents of the Valley Homes Redevelopment Task Force and the Lincoln Heights Planning Commission to develop designs appropriate and sensitive to the surrounding community. This development included the demolition of functionally obsolete, dilapidated housing and the construction of 42 new ranch-style, detached senior cottages, 35 two-story, attached rental units, and 4 single-family detached homes. Model Group’s effort to incorporate community feedback combined with key members of the Planning Commission publicly championing the project resulted in a transformational development for the Village of Lincoln Heights.

The new development also includes a community center. 
The change is certainly impressive and, in some respects, green. But it is not perfect: from the perspective of smart growth and city planning ideals, one can certainly find fault with the new neighborhood, which took a step back by replacing part of the traditional street grid with cul-de-sacs, and constructed fewer homes than the site once contained. I’m particularly disappointed that parts of the development appear even to lack sidewalks. But this is not a major transit-oriented, affordable and mixed-use showcase with the impressive scale and urban detail of, say, Denver’s remarkable South Lincoln transformation. (It also hasn’t enjoyed the focus and assistance of multiple federal agencies, as has that project.) Nor does it contain the sparkling green ambition of, for example, Seattle’s High Point. The financing appears to have been challenging, to say the least.
No, this is a much smaller and more modest project, but one no less important to its community and certainly no less significant to its residents, whose lives it has vastly improved. You would have to be blind not to see the dramatic improvement. It looks terrific to my eye, suggesting some of the first, more densely populated inner suburbs” 
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Photo: The Model Group

A Housing Project Upgrade Done Right

Kaid Benfield. Sept 17, 2012

Lincoln Heights, Ohio, is about a dozen miles north of Cincinnati. It contains around 4,500 residents, 98 percent of them African-American. In fact, according to a community website, it was the first self-governing African American community north of the Mason-Dixon Line and at one time the largest. But household income is low, and only about a third of the town’s single-family homes are owner-occupied.

What I will write here is really a set-up for the evocative video below. It shows the story of Valley Homes, a cooperatively owned housing project built in Lincoln Heights in 1942 that had become badly deteriorated, because mounting needed repairs to buildings that had been poorly constructed in the first place had become too numerous and too expensive for its low-income owners to undertake. In 2005, the property fell into receivership and two years later a task force was appointed to search for a permanent solution. The details of what happened over the next few years and the evolution of the project’s ownership and financial structure are complex. 

But high on the list of task force goals were new senior housing and allowing current residents to stay. Eventually the old buildings were condemned and torn down, and the group selected a development firm named the Model Group to redevelop the site. The good news is that Valley Homes has now been replaced with a mix of updated and affordable housing types called Villas of the Valley, and the site is once again serving the community. Jay Springer elaborates onCincinnati.com:

The redevelopment of the site was identified as a top community priority in the Lincoln Heights Urban Renewal Plan and Revitalization Strategy of 2001. Model Group worked closely with the residents of the Valley Homes Redevelopment Task Force and the Lincoln Heights Planning Commission to develop designs appropriate and sensitive to the surrounding community. This development included the demolition of functionally obsolete, dilapidated housing and the construction of 42 new ranch-style, detached senior cottages, 35 two-story, attached rental units, and 4 single-family detached homes. 

Model Group’s effort to incorporate community feedback combined with key members of the Planning Commission publicly championing the project resulted in a transformational development for the Village of Lincoln Heights.

The new development also includes a community center. 

The change is certainly impressive and, in some respects, green. But it is not perfect: from the perspective of smart growth and city planning ideals, one can certainly find fault with the new neighborhood, which took a step back by replacing part of the traditional street grid with cul-de-sacs, and constructed fewer homes than the site once contained. I’m particularly disappointed that parts of the development appear even to lack sidewalks. But this is not a major transit-oriented, affordable and mixed-use showcase with the impressive scale and urban detail of, say, Denver’s remarkable South Lincoln transformation. (It also hasn’t enjoyed the focus and assistance of multiple federal agencies, as has that project.) Nor does it contain the sparkling green ambition of, for example, Seattle’s High Point. The financing appears to have been challenging, to say the least.

No, this is a much smaller and more modest project, but one no less important to its community and certainly no less significant to its residents, whose lives it has vastly improved. You would have to be blind not to see the dramatic improvement. It looks terrific to my eye, suggesting some of the first, more densely populated inner suburbs” 

Via: The Atlantic Cities

Photo: The Model Group

“The five Cs of neighborhood planning


Howard Blackson, Better! Cities & Towns


I live in a city that is currently updating its Community Plans. This is an historically difficult planning job because Community Plans transcends both broad policy statements (such as the amorphous “New development should be in harmony with surrounding development…”) and specific development regulations (“Front yard setbacks shall be 25 feet deep from property line…”). An issue with updating Community-scaled plans is the personal sentiment people feel for their homes and the difficulty we have in expressing such emotion within conventional 2D planning documents. The source of most conflicts and confusion I see occurring during these updates is due to the confusion over the scale and size difference of a ‘community’ versus a ‘neighborhood’ unit.
A community is defined as, “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” Many places have different communities inhabiting them, such as an elderly, or arts, or ethnic community living and/or working in close proximity to each other. Even the Internet can be considered a place inhabited by many diverse communities. So the scale, parameters, and character of a community-scaled planning effort is difficult to define.
Usually, community planning areas are defined by political boundaries, or historic development plats and, in some deplorable cases, old insurance red-lining practices that gave a city its initial zoning districts. This being the case, I contend that the neighborhood unit is a better tool to define, plan, and express policies and regulations necessary to preserve, enhance and, yes, build great places.
The neighborhood is a physical place — varied in intensity from more rural to more urban — that many different communities inhabit. At its essence, whether downtown, midtown or out-of-town, its health and viability (in terms of both resilience and quality of life) is defined by certain basic characteristics. Easily observable in neighborhoods that work, these characteristics have been articulated a variety of ways over the years — most notably for me by Andrés Duany and Mike Stepnor. Combined, they form what I like to call the 5 Cs:”
Via: Better! Cities & Towns

The five Cs of neighborhood planning

Howard Blackson, Better! Cities & Towns

I live in a city that is currently updating its Community Plans. This is an historically difficult planning job because Community Plans transcends both broad policy statements (such as the amorphous “New development should be in harmony with surrounding development…”) and specific development regulations (“Front yard setbacks shall be 25 feet deep from property line…”). An issue with updating Community-scaled plans is the personal sentiment people feel for their homes and the difficulty we have in expressing such emotion within conventional 2D planning documents. The source of most conflicts and confusion I see occurring during these updates is due to the confusion over the scale and size difference of a ‘community’ versus a ‘neighborhood’ unit.

A community is defined as, “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” Many places have different communities inhabiting them, such as an elderly, or arts, or ethnic community living and/or working in close proximity to each other. Even the Internet can be considered a place inhabited by many diverse communities. So the scale, parameters, and character of a community-scaled planning effort is difficult to define.

Usually, community planning areas are defined by political boundaries, or historic development plats and, in some deplorable cases, old insurance red-lining practices that gave a city its initial zoning districts. This being the case, I contend that the neighborhood unit is a better tool to define, plan, and express policies and regulations necessary to preserve, enhance and, yes, build great places.

The neighborhood is a physical place — varied in intensity from more rural to more urban — that many different communities inhabit. At its essence, whether downtown, midtown or out-of-town, its health and viability (in terms of both resilience and quality of life) is defined by certain basic characteristics. Easily observable in neighborhoods that work, these characteristics have been articulated a variety of ways over the years — most notably for me by Andrés Duany and Mike Stepnor. Combined, they form what I like to call the 5 Cs:”

Via: Better! Cities & Towns

"Multiple Families, One Roof
Owners Challenge Zoning to Make Room for Adult Children, Elderly Parents
By S. MITRA KALITA, July 18 2012
Junior’s living in the basement. Mom and Dad put a tenant in the garage. And now Grandma’s moving in. But packing them in like that isn’t always legal.
The suburban single-family home is becoming a misnomer as economic reality collides with shifting demographics.
Many suburban communities have long made it difficult, or impossible, for homeowners to convert underused space—barns, garages and basements—into rental apartments. But across the U.S., homeowners are pressing for changes in zoning laws to allow rentals while home builders report a rise in demand for houses with in-law suites or quarters with separate entry.
"There’s a change at both ends," said Dean Palos, the director of planning in Johnson County, Kansas, near Kansas City, which is exploring allowing multiple dwellings in one house. "College graduates are going home to live, parents who are aging want to downsize. People see this as an economical way to take advantage of the property they have."
For decades, many suburban communities have discouraged renting out space in single-family homes, citing concerns including traffic, parking and stress on utilities.
Six years ago, Johnson County considered but ultimately didn’t pass a measure to allow so-called accessory units. But with both the job and housing markets struggling to recover, “now they are far more sympathetic,” Mr. Palos said of the county planning commissioners. At least half a dozen recent meetings have been devoted to the issue.
One of five college graduates, ages 25 to 34, is living with his or her parents, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, the number of shared households—meaning an adult not enrolled in school living with another adult who isn’t a spouse—rose 11.4% between 2007 and 2010, from 19.7 million households to 22 million, the Census reported last month. Yet the number of households grew by 1.3% during the period.
That number has stagnated as families double up and college graduates accept lower-wage jobs, unable to rent a place of their own. Economists in part blame the slow recovery of the housing sector on young people who aren’t setting up house on their own.
The brunt of America’s detached single-family homes— 41.9 million, or more than half—are in the suburbs, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies; cities and rural areas comprise the rest.
The rise in shared households challenges the ideals upon which American suburbs were built, including ample space for families, their homes and their cars. But as baby boomers who raised families in the suburbs now age there, many don’t want to sell their homes—or can’t.
"People are occupying housing that is three to four times what they need," said Patrick Hare, a longtime advocate for and author of books about accessory housing. "If you take all that surplus space, it can be utilized for accessory apartments."
Via: The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Jesse Neider for The Wall Street Journal

"Multiple Families, One Roof

Owners Challenge Zoning to Make Room for Adult Children, Elderly Parents

By S. MITRA KALITA, July 18 2012

Junior’s living in the basement. Mom and Dad put a tenant in the garage. And now Grandma’s moving in. But packing them in like that isn’t always legal.

The suburban single-family home is becoming a misnomer as economic reality collides with shifting demographics.

Many suburban communities have long made it difficult, or impossible, for homeowners to convert underused space—barns, garages and basements—into rental apartments. But across the U.S., homeowners are pressing for changes in zoning laws to allow rentals while home builders report a rise in demand for houses with in-law suites or quarters with separate entry.

"There’s a change at both ends," said Dean Palos, the director of planning in Johnson County, Kansas, near Kansas City, which is exploring allowing multiple dwellings in one house. "College graduates are going home to live, parents who are aging want to downsize. People see this as an economical way to take advantage of the property they have."

For decades, many suburban communities have discouraged renting out space in single-family homes, citing concerns including traffic, parking and stress on utilities.

Six years ago, Johnson County considered but ultimately didn’t pass a measure to allow so-called accessory units. But with both the job and housing markets struggling to recover, “now they are far more sympathetic,” Mr. Palos said of the county planning commissioners. At least half a dozen recent meetings have been devoted to the issue.

One of five college graduates, ages 25 to 34, is living with his or her parents, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, the number of shared households—meaning an adult not enrolled in school living with another adult who isn’t a spouse—rose 11.4% between 2007 and 2010, from 19.7 million households to 22 million, the Census reported last month. Yet the number of households grew by 1.3% during the period.

That number has stagnated as families double up and college graduates accept lower-wage jobs, unable to rent a place of their own. Economists in part blame the slow recovery of the housing sector on young people who aren’t setting up house on their own.

The brunt of America’s detached single-family homes— 41.9 million, or more than half—are in the suburbs, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies; cities and rural areas comprise the rest.

The rise in shared households challenges the ideals upon which American suburbs were built, including ample space for families, their homes and their cars. But as baby boomers who raised families in the suburbs now age there, many don’t want to sell their homes—or can’t.

"People are occupying housing that is three to four times what they need," said Patrick Hare, a longtime advocate for and author of books about accessory housing. "If you take all that surplus space, it can be utilized for accessory apartments."

Via: The Wall Street Journal

Photo: Jesse Neider for The Wall Street Journal

"Cities (Of All Sizes) Lead the State in Population Growth
July 18th, 2012 by Tim Evans
The eight urban centers identified by the State Plan accounted for only 1.1 percent of the state’s total increase in population between 2000 and 2008, but accounted for 11.4 percent of the total statewide population increase from 2008 to 2011.
The story is similar but more dramatic for the 30 cities identified by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey as “distressed” in their 2006 report Cities in Transition.  As a group, the distressed cities lost population between 2000 and 2008, just as they had lost population for four decades between 1950 and 1990 before managing a modest gain in the 1990s. But between 2008 and 2011, the 30 distressed cities together posted a 2.6 percent population increase, outstripping the statewide rate (1.8 percent).
The pattern is also visible in the group of municipalities that were at least 95 percent built out (that is, that have developed at least 95 percent of all of their developable land (pdf)) as of 2007 – a diverse group of big cities, smaller towns, and older suburbs. These places as a group decreased in population by 1.1 percent between 2000 and 2008 (while the state grew by 3.0 percent) but grew faster than the state between 2008 and 2011.
A Sudden Reversal of Post-World-War-II Trends
In June, New Jersey Future took a look at new 2011 county population estimates and found a dramatic reversal of the population growth patterns of the past half-century, with more heavily urbanized counties actually growing faster than counties on the suburban fringe in the wake of the housing market collapse of 2008. This month, new municipal population estimates offer an opportunity to see whether the same phenomenon is playing out at a more local level.
The Census Bureau and the Associated Press have already noted the turnaround in the municipal data from the national perspective, with cities growing faster than their surroundings for the first time in decades. Is the same thing happening in New Jersey? In a word, yes.
Measured any of several ways, the pattern is clear: Between 2008 and 2011, older, more urbanized, more built-out municipalities generally grew faster than less-developed suburban, exurban, and rural municipalities. Consider the eight “urban centers” defined by the State Plan – Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Trenton, Camden, New Brunswick, and Atlantic City. As a group, these cities had lost population for four decades, through 1990, and then posted a very small gain (+1.0 percent) in the 1990s (vs. 8.6 percent growth statewide). They continued to grow anemically between 2000 and 2008, increasing by 0.3 percent, compared to a 3.0 percent increase (also fairly anemic) for the state as a whole.
But between 2008 and 2011, these urban centers nearly matched the statewide growth rate, growing by 1.7 percent vs. a statewide rate of 1.8 percent. These big cities had not come close to matching the statewide growth rate since before 1930. They managed this feat by gaining, on average, 17 times as many new residents annually from 2008 to 2011 as they had between 2000 and 2008. In other words, the urban centers did not simply hold steady after the recession – they actually started gaining people at a much faster rate.
Just as the Census Bureau found, the “urban” rebound in New Jersey extends beyond the biggest and most identifiable cities to include built-up, densely populated places of all sizes. If we look at all 188 municipalities in New Jersey that were at least 95 percent built out as of 2007 – a mixed bag of cities big and small, older “urban” suburbs, and stand-alone small towns like Freehold, Red Bank, Hightstown, Princeton, Flemington, Riverton, or Penns Grove – we see the same loss of prominence since World War II: In 1940, these municipalities together contained two-thirds (66.4 percent) of the state’s total population, but by the time of the 2010 Census accounted for only 38.3 percent of the state total. Since 1950, these built-out municipalities have grown at a much slower rate than the state as a whole, including having actually lost population in the 1970s (-7.0 percent) and 1980s (-2.5 percent). They collectively lost population between 2000 and 2008, as well.
From 2008 to 2011, however, these 188 municipalities together grew by 2.0 percent, besting the statewide growth rate of 1.8 percent. They accounted for 42.2 percent of the total statewide population increase between 2008 and 2011. (See chart below.)”
Via: New Jersey Future
Photo: Red Bank, one of New Jersey’s rapidly growing small cities. Wikipedia

"Cities (Of All Sizes) Lead the State in Population Growth

July 18th, 2012 by Tim Evans

The eight urban centers identified by the State Plan accounted for only 1.1 percent of the state’s total increase in population between 2000 and 2008, but accounted for 11.4 percent of the total statewide population increase from 2008 to 2011.

The story is similar but more dramatic for the 30 cities identified by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey as “distressed” in their 2006 report Cities in Transition.  As a group, the distressed cities lost population between 2000 and 2008, just as they had lost population for four decades between 1950 and 1990 before managing a modest gain in the 1990s. But between 2008 and 2011, the 30 distressed cities together posted a 2.6 percent population increase, outstripping the statewide rate (1.8 percent).

The pattern is also visible in the group of municipalities that were at least 95 percent built out (that is, that have developed at least 95 percent of all of their developable land (pdf)) as of 2007 – a diverse group of big cities, smaller towns, and older suburbs. These places as a group decreased in population by 1.1 percent between 2000 and 2008 (while the state grew by 3.0 percent) but grew faster than the state between 2008 and 2011.

A Sudden Reversal of Post-World-War-II Trends

In June, New Jersey Future took a look at new 2011 county population estimates and found a dramatic reversal of the population growth patterns of the past half-century, with more heavily urbanized counties actually growing faster than counties on the suburban fringe in the wake of the housing market collapse of 2008. This month, new municipal population estimates offer an opportunity to see whether the same phenomenon is playing out at a more local level.

The Census Bureau and the Associated Press have already noted the turnaround in the municipal data from the national perspective, with cities growing faster than their surroundings for the first time in decades. Is the same thing happening in New Jersey? In a word, yes.

Measured any of several ways, the pattern is clear: Between 2008 and 2011, older, more urbanized, more built-out municipalities generally grew faster than less-developed suburban, exurban, and rural municipalities. Consider the eight “urban centers” defined by the State Plan – Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Trenton, Camden, New Brunswick, and Atlantic City. As a group, these cities had lost population for four decades, through 1990, and then posted a very small gain (+1.0 percent) in the 1990s (vs. 8.6 percent growth statewide). They continued to grow anemically between 2000 and 2008, increasing by 0.3 percent, compared to a 3.0 percent increase (also fairly anemic) for the state as a whole.

But between 2008 and 2011, these urban centers nearly matched the statewide growth rate, growing by 1.7 percent vs. a statewide rate of 1.8 percent. These big cities had not come close to matching the statewide growth rate since before 1930. They managed this feat by gaining, on average, 17 times as many new residents annually from 2008 to 2011 as they had between 2000 and 2008. In other words, the urban centers did not simply hold steady after the recession – they actually started gaining people at a much faster rate.

Just as the Census Bureau found, the “urban” rebound in New Jersey extends beyond the biggest and most identifiable cities to include built-up, densely populated places of all sizes. If we look at all 188 municipalities in New Jersey that were at least 95 percent built out as of 2007 – a mixed bag of cities big and small, older “urban” suburbs, and stand-alone small towns like Freehold, Red Bank, Hightstown, Princeton, Flemington, Riverton, or Penns Grove – we see the same loss of prominence since World War II: In 1940, these municipalities together contained two-thirds (66.4 percent) of the state’s total population, but by the time of the 2010 Census accounted for only 38.3 percent of the state total. Since 1950, these built-out municipalities have grown at a much slower rate than the state as a whole, including having actually lost population in the 1970s (-7.0 percent) and 1980s (-2.5 percent). They collectively lost population between 2000 and 2008, as well.

From 2008 to 2011, however, these 188 municipalities together grew by 2.0 percent, besting the statewide growth rate of 1.8 percent. They accounted for 42.2 percent of the total statewide population increase between 2008 and 2011. (See chart below.)”

Via: New Jersey Future

Photo: Red Bank, one of New Jersey’s rapidly growing small cities. Wikipedia

Architectural + Urban Research

Mass Urban is a multidisciplinary design-research initiative concerned with contemporary cities and urbanism. Mass Urban was co-founded in April 2011 by David Lee and Cliff Lau.

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