From bleak to bustling: how one French town solved its high street crisis | Cities | The Guardian

Today, Mulhouse is known for the staggering transformation of its thriving centre, bucking the national trend for high street closures.In the past eight years, more than 470 shops and businesses have opened here. Mulhouse is unique in that 75% of new openings are independents, from comic book stores to microbreweries and organic grocers. It is one of the only places in France with as many independents as franchises. And it is one of very few places in France where more shops are opening than closing…

…Town centre residents were among the poorest as higher earners moved to houses on the outskirts, leaving properties vacant and run down.

Mulhouse set out to rebalance the housing mix. Generous subsidies for the renovation of building fronts expedited a facelift of more than 170 buildings. Security and community policing were stepped up. Transport was key – with a new tram system, bike schemes, shuttle buses and cheap parking.

But making the town’s public spaces attractive was just as important, with wider pavements, dozens of benches, and what officials deemed a “colossal budget” for tree planting and maintenance, gardening and green space. Local associations, community groups and residents’ committees were crucial to the efforts. A town centre manager was appointed to support independents and high-street franchises setting up.

Source: From bleak to bustling: how one French town solved its high street crisis | Cities | The Guardian

Nashville’s Star Rises as Midsize Cities Break Into Winners and Losers – The New York Times

Forty years ago, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., were peers. Two hundred miles apart, the cities anchored metropolitan areas of just under one million people each and had a similar number of jobs paying similar wages. Not anymore. The population of the Nashville area has roughly doubled, and young people have flocked there, drawn by high-paying jobs as much as its hip “Music City” reputation. Last month, the city won an important consolation prize in the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters: an operations center that will eventually employ 5,000 people at salaries averaging $150,000 a year.

Birmingham, by comparison, has steadily lost population, and while its suburbs have expanded, their growth has lagged the Nashville area’s. Once-narrow gaps in education and income have widened, and important employers like SouthTrust and Saks have moved their headquarters. Birmingham tried to lure Amazon, too, but all it is getting from the online retail giant is a warehouse and a distribution center where many jobs will pay about $15 an hour.

Amazon’s announcement has been widely described as a rich-get-richer victory of coastal “superstar cities” like New York and Washington, regions where the company plans to employ a total of at least 50,000 workers. But the company’s decisions also reflect another trend: growing inequality among midsize cities.

Nashville and the other Amazon also-rans, like Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, are thriving because of a combination of luck, astute political choices and well-timed investments. At the same time, Birmingham and cities like it, including Providence, R.I., and Rochester, are falling further behind.

Source: Nashville’s Star Rises as Midsize Cities Break Into Winners and Losers – The New York Times

According to the Federal Government, the Suburbs Don’t Exist – News | Planetizen

Shawn Bucholtz and Jed Kolko describe one of the facts of American life: most U.S. residents live in suburbs, but the federal government doesn’t actually categorize communities as suburban. The federal government makes a distinction between urban and rural, but not for suburban. “The lack of an official federal definition of suburban means that government data are not reported separately for suburban areas. That makes it hard to measure the reach and impact of federal programs and to produce vital statis

Source: According to the Federal Government, the Suburbs Don’t Exist – News | Planetizen

Figure of the week: Africa is home to the 10 fastest growing cities in the world

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs projects that the world’s 10 fastest growing cities, between 2018 and 2035, will all be in Africa. The visualization below first maps the location of the fastest growing cities in the world with a population greater than 2.5 million. Interestingly, many of the fastest growing African cities are specifically located on the Gulf of Guinea including Lagos, Abuja, Abidjan, Doula, and Kumasi.

Figure showing 30 of the world's fastest growing cities

 

 

 

 

Source: Figure of the week: Africa is home to the 10 fastest growing cities in the world

Wildfires can’t cool hot real estate markets | Grist

More people than ever want to live on the wild edges of Western cities, despite the risk wildfires pose to their homes. A recent study by researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that wildfires drive down real estate prices only in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Home prices in burned areas typically rebound to pre-fire levels within one to two years.

……

Yet developers will continue to build in high-risk areas as long as there’s a demand. Residential growth in forested areas across the United States has exploded in recent years, from an estimated 12.5 million housing units in 2000 to 44 million by 2010. “We should be worried about that,” said University of Nevada, Las Vegas, research economist Shawn McCoy, who led the study. “The societal costs of wildfire will increase, because people continue to develop there. They know that those homes will sell regardless of the risk.”

….

The researchers found that the value of homes within sight of burn scars did dip after a fire and was slower to rebound. But even there, homebuyers’ awareness of fire risk didn’t impact their willingness to invest in those properties. Overall, housing values in the high-risk zones dropped in the year following a wildfire, but rebounded to pre-fire prices in one to two years.

….wildfire suppression accounts for 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget; by 2021, it’s projected to increase to 67 percent….

Source: Wildfires can’t cool hot real estate markets | Grist

Rising seas could wipe out $1 trillion worth of U.S. homes and businesses | Grist

 

Some 2.4 million American homes and businesses worth more than $1 trillion are at risk of “chronic inundation” by the end of the century, according to a report out Monday. That’s about 15 percent of all U.S. coastal real estate, or roughly as much built infrastructure as Houston and Los Angeles combined.

The sweeping new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists is the most comprehensive analysis of the risks posed by sea level rise to the United States coastal economy. Taken in context with the lack of action to match the scale of the problem, it describes a country plowing headlong into a flood-driven financial crisis of enormous scale.

 

Check out interactive map to see how your home, zip code or community does: http://US Coastal Property at Risk from Rising Seas.

Union of Concerned Scientists report at: Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (2018)

Grist: Rising seas could wipe out $1 trillion worth of U.S. homes and businesses

Is the global economy just a giant debt scam? What the financial elite doesn’t want you to know | Salon.com

Let’s restate that, because it gets more shocking the more you think about it. The bailout money came from the European Central Bank and the IMF, largely meaning the taxpayers of France, Germany and other prosperous nations of Western Europe. Exactly none of it went to restore social services or repair roads in Greece. All of it was used to make payments on the Greek government’s existing debt — most of which was to banks in Western Europe. So Angela Merkel and François Hollande (then the French president) and other political leaders extorted money from their own taxpayers, on the pretense that they were helping out a small, struggling nation on Europe’s southern fringe, and siphoned it directly to the biggest European banks, largely in their own countries. It was a direct wealth transfer from ordinary people to the financial elite.

Source: Is the global economy just a giant debt scam? What the financial elite doesn’t want you to know | Salon.com

As California’s largest lake dries up, it threatens nearby communities with clouds of toxic dust – The Verge

Dying lakes release dust, often polluted dust, that is literally killing people who can’t afford to move.

Though we often think of lakes as permanent landmarks, global warming, irrigation, and our constant thirst threaten these resources around the world. Terminal lakes like the Salton Sea, bodies of water that have no natural drain, are particularly vulnerable. Iran’s Lake Urmia — once the largest body of water in the Middle East — has shrunk by almost 90 percent over the last 30 years; Africa’s Lake Chad is also 90 percent smaller than it was in the 1960s; and Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea, once the fourth largest salt lake in the world, has practically been wiped off the map.

When these lakes evaporate, they can upend industries and erase surrounding communities. For residents near the Salton Sea, the most pressing problem is the threat of toxic dust. The receding Salton Sea will reveal at least 75 square miles of playa, the lake bed that the water once hid. When that soil dries, it will begin to emit dust laced with industrial runoff from the surrounding farms: up to 100 tons of dust could blow off the playa daily. If it isn’t captured, that dust will push the area’s asthma crisis from bad to dire. The Salton Sea is a dust bomb that has already begun going off.

Source: As California’s largest lake dries up, it threatens nearby communities with clouds of toxic dust – The Verge

An Infrastructure Plan That Would Actually Work by Willem Buiter & Dag Detter – Project Syndicate

The total value of commercial assets owned by state and local governments is sure to be of the same magnitude, or larger. After all, local governments own and operate most airports and ports, as well as utilities such as water, sewerage, and electricity – all of which are in desperate need of funding. But real estate comprises the bulk of public commercial assets. By some estimates, publicly owned assets account for as much as one-quarter of the total market value of real estate in a city or county. At the same time, many localities need additional funding for affordable housing.

All told, this public wealth represents a substantial opportunity for investors, local governments, and society as a whole. If professionally managed, the yield from such a vast portfolio of commercial assets could fund not just critically needed infrastructure investments, but also any other public goods and services that are in demand.

Source: An Infrastructure Plan That Would Actually Work by Willem Buiter & Dag Detter – Project Syndicate

Bringing Some New Ideas to an Older Part of Amsterdam – Next City

 

By night, Reguliersdwarsstraat is one of the busiest streets in central Amsterdam. A hub for the city’s LGBTQ community, its restaurants, bars and clubs attract large numbers of locals and tourists alike. By day, however, the picture is markedly different. Despite being just steps away from Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market, the area has struggled to attract the daytime crowds. Related Stories Bronx Worker Cooperative Plans to “Compost Capitalism” Baltimore Businesses Team Up to Address

Source: Bringing Some New Ideas to an Older Part of Amsterdam – Next City

Seychelles Finds A Novel Way To Swap Its Debt For Marine Protections : The Two-Way : NPR

The Seychelles have brokered a novel deal that will allow the island archipelago to swap millions of dollars in sovereign debt for protecting nearly one third of its ocean area.

It’s hailed as the first of its kind. “Seychelles is clearly breaking new grounds and with it, it has positioned itself as a world leader in ocean governance and management,”

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/23/588273709/seychelles-finds-a-novel-way-to-swap-its-debt-for-marine-protections

What You Can Learn About the Future of Cities from Wakanda – CityLab

Citylab has pulled together a Wakanda Reader, or online bibliography of sorts, to indulge those who are interested in the larger questions around urbanism implicated in Black Panther. We would call it a syllabus, but there are already several syllabi available—this #WakandaSyllabusfrom Walter Greason, an economic history professor at Monmouth University and founder of the International Center of Metropolitan Growth, is particularly good. This Wakanda curriculum for middle school grades from school teacher Tess Raker has also been making the rounds.

As for what else has been circulating, here’s an exhaustive, still-living-and-growing list of articles that build upon the Wakandan mystique:

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/02/the-wakanda-reader/553865/?utm_source=twb

What Does China’s ‘Ecological Civilization’ Mean for Humanity’s Future? | By Jeremy Lent | Common Dreams

China’s leader affirms an ecological vision aligned with progressive environmental thought. Whether it’s mere rhetoric or has a deeper resonance within Chinese culture may have a profound global effect

Propaganda or hope for the future?

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/02/10/what-does-chinas-ecological-civilization-mean-humanitys-future

Why we all need Deaf urbanism – Greater Greater Washington

Deaf Urbanism is about changing the conversations around our cities, bringing our Deaf cultural values to the city at large, and preserving our place in society at large — as well as defining urbanism for our own community. Many tenants of Deaf Urbanism have to do with fostering a sense of inclusion as well as eliminating ableism and tokenism…

Deaf Urbanism is really just good design

Many able-bodied people benefit from technological advancements that were first designed for Deaf people, such as subtitles and texting. In urban contexts, various design ideals in DeafSpace include tactile elements, visual access and wayfinding throughout the urban environment. Tactile elements are simply changes in the walking surfaces to denote uses and boundaries — think of a rough stone edge near a curb, so that when you are looking away, you can feel with your feet when you are reaching the edge.

When it comes to visual access, having buildings and spaces that are open, have lots of light, and have direct visual connection benefit everyone. Being able to see your friends in a group in a building across the way on the second floor is simply good design. Applying these items in a larger urban context, we can use different materials in paving to denote different spaces and transitions, such as a cafe, a sidewalk, and a crosswalk. Having appropriate visual connection of buildings to Metro stations instead of buildings obscuring the visual landscape benefits everyone.

Many other urban design elements — such as gentle slopes and wide sidewalks instead of stairs — benefit people that have limited mobility and are also appreciated by able-bodied people. Another example is reduced curb cuts, which benefit pedestrians and bikers as well as people who are Deaf and disabled. Instead of having to step down or look for cars, an able-bodied person can just walk through…

Deaf people communicate in a 3-D language that can benefit planning conversations. It is intuitively simpler to communicate a 3-D environment in a 3-D modality. In our roundtable conversations for Deaf Urbanism, we discuss the scale of streets and how they should look with bike lanes, streetcar lanes, and the like in only a few signs…

Source: Why we all need Deaf urbanism – Greater Greater Washington

Via: Placeswire.org

Vernacular Economics: How Building Codes & Taxes Shape Regional Architecture – 99% Invisible

Ever noticed how the bricks on newer British buildings are bigger, or stopped to appreciate hand-stenciled wallpaper, or enjoyed a sip from a fancy hollow-stemmed glass? If so, you may well be admiring a product of regulation and taxes as much aesthetic tastes. From basic materials to entire architectural styles, building codes and taxation strategies have had huge historical impacts on the built world as we know it. Take the capital of France, for instance.

Source: Vernacular Economics: How Building Codes & Taxes Shape Regional Architecture – 99% Invisible

Blowing down the Saddledome and building a new Victoria Park – Calgary – CBC News

Imagine you were given a serious chunk of Calgary’s core, a blank sheet of paper and a pencil, and told you could turn it into whatever you wanted.That’s pretty much what the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) is doing with Victoria Park.Planners and a couple of architectural firms are hammering away at a vision for the future of one of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods.It’ll be a 20-year plan to turn what’s currently a seriously bizarre jumble of skyscrapers, empty lots, an aging Saddledome, a bus barn and several rail lines, into Calgary’s entertainment district of the future. And a cool new place to live.

Source: Blowing down the Saddledome and building a new Victoria Park – Calgary – CBC News

Opinion | A New Map for America – The New York Times

From 2016 but even more salient today. Compare to Trump’s Infrastructure Plan once released and see where the plan misses the key points.

Congress was once a world leader in regional planning. The Louisiana Purchase, the Pacific Railroad Act (which financed railway expansion from Iowa to San Francisco with government bonds) and the Interstate System of highways are all examples of the federal government’s thinking about economic development at continental scale. The Tennessee Valley Authority was an agent of post-Depression infrastructure renewal, job creation and industrial modernization cutting across six states….

What would this approach look like in America? It would start by focusing not on state lines but on existing lines of infrastructure, supply chains and telecommunications, routes that stay remarkably true to the borders of the emergent super-regions, and are most robust within the new urban archipelagos…

Where possible, such planning should even jump over international borders. While Detroit’s population has fallen below a million, the Detroit-Windsor region is the largest United States-Canada cross-border area, with nearly six million people (and one of the largest border populations in the world). Both sides are deeply interdependent because of their automobile and steel industries and would benefit from scaling together rather than bickering over who pays for a new bridge between them. Detroit’s destiny seems almost obvious if we are brave enough to build it: a midpoint of the Chicago-Toronto corridor in an emerging North American Union.

To make these things happen requires thinking beyond states. Washington currently provides minimal support for regional economic efforts and strategies; it needs to go much further, even at the risk of upsetting established federal-state political balances. A national infrastructure bank, if it ever gets off the ground, should have as part of its charter an obligation to ignore state lines when weighing

Source: Opinion | A New Map for America – The New York Times

Latest Renderings for Kearny Point, New Jersey’s Former Shipyard Being Transformed into a Small Business Hub | Untapped Cities

A very interesting project to track. Conversion of an industrial waterfront into a modern office park with exceptional architects/planners and a developer with a vision.

 

 

Aerial view of the Kearny Point site. Image via STUDIOS Architecture (Architecture) in collaboration with WXY architecture + urban design (Master Planning).

Kearny Point, which is located cross the Hudson River in Kearny between Newark and Jersey City, is being positioned as a sustainable business campus. The developer, Hugo Neu, is renovating and redesigning spaces that were once dedicated to one of the most well-known and most active shipbuilding sites, which opened in 1917 in the months leading up to the entrance of the United States in the first World War…..The developers have since renovated a first building, Building 78, that serves as Kearny Point’s proof of concept. It currently houses 150 small businesses, of which over 70% of which are minority or women-owned, a co-working space called Kearny Works, a cafe and a blue roof. The site also houses various companies, including a vertical farm, a bridal design company, a vitamin company, and much more.

A master plan has been developed by WXY, the architecture and urban design firm behind projects like the Spring Street Salt Shed and DSNY Manhattan District Garage, the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park, the redesign of Astor Place, and the reconstruction of the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk. At Kearny Point, WXY has envisioned a comprehensive plan that will densify the site, add public open space, offer new waterfront access, restore native habitat, and protect the site from flooding.

$1 billion is planned to be invested over the next decade, contributing to 7000 new permanent jobs and new tax revenue for the state and local jurisdiction. There will be three million square feet of converted or new office space. In addition, 15 acres of restored shoreline will accompany a new 4,100 foot waterfront promenade and 10 acres of publicly accessible civic and open space, including a 20,000 square foot amphitheater. It is anticipated that the waterfront area around the south basin and Building 197 will be completed this year, with another large portion of the historic yard anticipated to be completed between 2017 and 2018. A second waterfront phase is projected to be completed by 2023.

Source: Latest Renderings for Kearny Point, New Jersey’s Former Shipyard Being Transformed into a Small Business Hub | Untapped Cities