In the wake of the 2011 demise of California’s 400 redevelopment agencies, cities, developers, and institutions are all struggling to find new ways to fund the construction and maintenance of essential infrastructure and other public buildings and facilities. A San Francisco official recently complained to me that there are 40,000 dwelling units entitled in the city that aren’t being built. He noted a variety of reasons, but a chief one for large developments is the need for massive unfunded up-front investments in infrastructure. This includes projects like Treasure Island, Park Merced, Pier 70, and Hunters Point/Candlestick. [Read more…] about Show me the Money: Financing Public Facilities in the Age of Scarcity
You can look at commercial district revitalization in two ways: The first way, which is the common way, and unfortunately not the best way, is to hatch a scheme to get rid of everything that is under-performing and replace it with something else. Bulldoze it, and start over with a blank slate. This approach to economic revitalization is the cornerstone of many well-intentioned plans — the wholesale replacement of entire existing commercial ecosystems. It is also an approach that values typical male attributes: valuing big, valuing new, valuing the deal. This is truly a shame since these districts often have wonderful businesses, owned by locals, which serve as non-traditional anchors pulling from wide trade areas. [Read more…] about What’s so feminine about good revitalization of a commercial district?
Parking was not among the conditions Jane Jacobs said are required to create exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts. She did say: “There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people…” And: “The district must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.” [Read more…] about Why Parking Still Matters in America’s Downtowns
I recently had a client ask me to look at a local park disfigured by freeway construction bifurcating the neighborhood and cutting residents off from this very expensive and valuable amenity. Environmental problems. Social problems. Economic problems. Could anything be done? What are best practices today? [Read more…] about Don’t listen to Mark Twain – freeway caps gaining traction
New York City’s new math: 100 years, $4.5 billion, 3 subway stops.
New Year’s Day 2017 saw the ribbon cut on the first phase of the Second Avenue subway, the locally-mythic train touted to alleviate the overburdened east side subways since the late 1920s. A Great Depression, a world war and a City bankruptcy interfered with its execution. After nearly 10 years of actual construction and neighborhood misery, three airy, clean and art-filled stations opened for business. [Read more…] about Take a Train: The Q – NYC’s new subway extension is airy and full of art
This nondescript building in downtown Astoria, OR was hiding a surprise: a breathtaking expanse of clear span space with a rare domed lamella roof system. As unlikely as it appears on the exterior, this warehouse-like building was actually an Armory, constructed to provide entertainment for military personnel during World War II headquartered in this lovely Pacific Northwest spot — the gateway to the mighty Columbia River. [Read more…] about Oh the Stories They Could Tell…Astoria Armory Edition
The role that industry played and continues to play in molding American society was a hotly contested topic this political season. While talk mostly centered on workers and the economic forces that engulf them, little was mentioned about the actual factories where they work and how these structures shape our cities. The interconnection of factory buildings with urban landscapes and the position they hold in the lives of cities are topics that Nina Rappaport, an architectural historian, curator and educator tackles in her latest book, Vertical Urban Factory (2015, Actar Publishers, New York). In nearly 500 pages and 400 photographs and illustrations, she investigates the history of the factory building, manufacturing processes and the integration of industry within cities. [Read more…] about Vertical Urban Factory — A Review
Over the years, I have encountered many of the challenges surrounding the rising urbanization of some major US cities. This experience has provided me with the understanding that a few common factors are essential in the evolution of these increasingly dense city centers. In my view, the best strategy for success in these areas is based upon 1) identifying the place, 2) establishing an independent financial base, 3) using these funds to promote the place through an entrepreneurial channel – a district management corporation in the form of a public benefit non-profit organization (501(c)(3)). [Read more…] about Placemaking: the next phase of true district management
After months of discussion and several revisions, the Downtown Mobility Plan goes to the San Diego City Council on June 21st. The plan aims to transform the street grid to an integrated urban network for all including motorists, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians. Downtown’s workforce and residential populations are projected to more than double within twenty years and numerous buildings are currently under construction. [Read more…] about Downtown San Diego Mobility Plan – to Council June 21st
At first glance, the recent East Village Convadium proposal has many appealing qualities: it is an attractive, modern complex with many interesting features. However, the Charger’s owners hope to capitalize on the recent trend in California and use the ballot initiative process to “expedite” California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review, and for good reason. The flash and hype of the ballot initiative covers many significant, unanswered questions about potential cost overruns and environmental impacts that may cost San Diego taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. [Read more…] about A Football Stadium in East Village? Not so Fast