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Thursday
Oct162014

When One Story Makes Sense

Most sustainably great places started with one story buildings. This example comes from Portland, OR.

A quiet crisis is emerging in our building practice: one story buildings are being coded out of the system right when we need them most. While it is true that the Wendy's, Kmarts, and Walgreens of the world earn their anti-urban distinction, we should hesitate to throw the one story baby out with the suburban bathwater. One story buildings are being called upon amidst the unpredictable shift to e-commerce, the speed at which we need to take advantage of new markets, the stubborn difficulty of building and financing affordable mixed-use buildings, and, due to the capital cost, the propensity of credit-worthy chain tenants to show up in conventional new mixed-use buildings, leading to the same placelessness and capital extraction we seek to avoid in the first place.

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Thursday
Sep252014

Really, Really Long Dinner Tables

Really, Really Long Table Dinner, Calgary
Last century's general attempt to tidy up cities unintentionally removed many of the ways that we celebrate outdoor places, the fruits of our collective labor and the joy of living in neighborhoods. Thankfully, that is all starting to change. A rediscovered demand for sharing a meal together in both known and undervalued spaces has people clamoring to pop-up dining tables in cities around the world. It is proof positive of a shift from conventional mixed-use thinking to a more experience-based model as the core driver in building vibrant places and creating real value. Farm-to-table has reached a new level.

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Monday
Mar172014

The Campus Neighborhood

 

PNC's investments (PNC 3 tower shown at the left) in downtown Pittsburgh have been key to the remaking of nearby Market Square (foreground) and the inspiration of redevelopment around it. PNC's new tower is shown going up in the background.

Traditional downtown anchors moving from isolation to integration

Downtowns are evolving into their next generation. The past sixty years saw them change from dynamic regional centers to cores struggling to find their place amidst steadily de-industrializing economies. They had been divvied up into pods: some for work, others for entertainment, and still others to host the civic functions of a city. But all of that is changing. No longer comprised of isolated districts, twenty-first century downtowns are rebuilding themselves once again as integrated places. They are leveraging a creative mix of employment, education, recreation, commercial programming, and residential streets to attract an active, full-time population and justify successive layers of investment. In this move, two types of civic entrepreneurs are taking hold in many of these Investment Ready Places: corporate citizens and downtown universities. Both are growing new types of campuses that are proving to be powerful agents of change in regenerating city centers.  

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Monday
Jan062014

Urban Mobility Measures for New Mayors


7th Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The 2014 Transportation Agenda

As 2014 gets under way, many of the country's largest cities are transitioning into new leadership. New mayors such as those of New York, Boston, Detroit, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh are coming in amidst renewed understanding of the role, power, and influence of metropolitan regions. In their own way, each new mayor seeks to position his or her city as a hotbed of innovation in economic development, customer service, administration, finance, operations, housing, education, neighborhood regeneration, infrastructure, and public safety. And while expectations for these cities have never been so high, the fiscal fragility of cities has never been so real. Portfolios of expenditures, liabilities, and subsidies have been exposed by insufficient revenues and poor performing investments on Wall Street and main street. As a result, these new mayors must be creative and practical in guiding their cities through their first terms. 

One of the areas that these new mayors share a focus is transportation and regional connectivity.

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Friday
Oct182013

On Remaking Cities

Downtown Pittsburgh was host to the 2013 Remaking Cities Congress this week.Cities are never finished. They continue to evolve and adapt to change. The urban design of a city is the sum of organic and planned public spaces that have formed over time in its streets, riverfronts, plazas, and neighborhood parks. These spaces are formed and activated by the the uses housed in both public and private buildings that frame them. They serve as the enabler of the city’s economy and the backdrop for the city’s vitality, character, and livability.

 

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