Planning

Indianapolis: From Naptown to Super City

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I have long touted the sports strategy that Indianapolis used to revitalize its downtown as a model for cities to follow in terms of strategy led economic and community development. I really think it sets the benchmark in terms of how to do it, and it has been very successful.

Indy is hosting the Super Bowl on Sunday, something that is locally seen as a sort of crowning achievement of the 40 year sports journey. As part of that, the Indianapolis Star and public TV station WFYI produced an hour long documentary on the journey called “Naptown to Super City.” I think it’s a must watch for anyone who is trying to figure out to revitalize their own downtown.  read more »

How Libraries and Bookstores Became the New Community Centers

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Bookstores and libraries have long played a central role in fostering a deeper appreciation of knowledge, and in lifelong learning. Increasingly, these places are also filling another critical need in our communities, by providing a haven for those seeking a communal connection in an ever-more isolated world.

Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place, coined the term “third place” to describe any environment outside of the home and the workplace (first and second places, respectively) where people gather for deeper interpersonal connection. Third places include, for example, places of worship, community centers, and even diners or pubs frequented by the “locals.”  read more »

Housing Affordability and Public Policy

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Nothing in the world today affects citizens more directly than the home in which they live.  And when it comes to housing no piece of recent research opens more interesting avenues of investigation than the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.  read more »

Britain Fears a Developer’s Charter

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The UK Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced that there were only 127,780 new housing completions last year in Britain. British house building activity is down to levels of after the First World War, when reliable industrial records began, and still falling. In 1921 the British population was nearly back up to 43 million following the slaughter of the First World War. In 2011 the population of England, Wales, and Scotland is approaching 61 million people. By 2031 the British population is expected to be closer to 70 million.  read more »

Mistaking an Aberration for the End of Home Ownership

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It is well known that home ownership has declined in the United States from the peak of the housing bubble. According to Current Population Survey data, the national home ownership rate fell 2.9 percentage points from the peak of the bubble (4th quarter 2004) to the third quarter of 2011.  read more »

Three Cheers for Urban Sprawl

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“Hands off Our Land!” screams the Daily Telegraph, like some shotgun-toting red-faced farmer.  The newspaper, on behalf of the reactionary toffs who form the least pleasant section of its readership, has launched a campaign directed against ‘urban sprawl’ (ie. the rest of us).

On a good day, the Telegraph serves up enlightened articles by progressive liberals like Janet Daley and Simon Heffer and Jeff Randal (I’m talking about real liberals here, not American Trotskyites).  But then it disappears under the desk, drinks some devilish, bubbling potion and emerges looking like Mr Hyde, all wonky teeth and messy hair.  “Hands off Our Land” is the Telegraph at its worst - a campaign to thwart the government’s all-too-modest suggestions to reform Britain’s vicious planning laws.    read more »

Urban Development: Playing Twister With The California Environmental Quality Act

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When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation.  read more »

The Driving Decline: Not a "Sea Change"

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The latest figures from the United States Department of Transportation indicate that driving volumes remain depressed. In the 12 months ended in September 2011, driving was 1.1 percent below the same  period five years ago. Since 2006, the year that employment peaked, driving has remained fairly steady, rising in two years (the peak was 2007) and falling in three years. At the same time, the population has grown by approximately four percent. As a result, the driving per household has fallen by approximately five percent.  read more »

Central Florida: On the Cusp of Recovery?

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Central Florida is poised at the cusp of a major turnaround, and its response to this condition will either propel the region forward, or drag it backward.  This cusp condition is brought about by a train and a road; neither of which have begun yet but both of which appear imminent.  Sunrail uses existing 19th century railroad tracks as a commuter spine through Orlando’s disperse, multipolar city.  The Wekiva Parkway completes a beltway around Orlando, placing it with Washington DC, Houston and other ringed cities.  Before either gets built, the region deserves some analysis  read more »