Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

... Housing shortage raises prices

Another story headline that is somewhat ironic is from yesterday's Louisville Courier-Journal.



I wasn't so great in economics in college, because I am not so good at higher level math.

But the policy reaction to the housing market crisis in DC makes me feel like a great economist.

-- "The nature of high value ("strong") residential real estate markets," Dec. 2017
-- "What people don't get about the DC housing market: supply is much less than demand, so prices keep rising (a/k/a basic economics)," Feb. 2017
-- "Applying the super-gentrification thesis to San Francisco, Santa Monica, and other cities experiencing hyper-demand," Jan. 2014
-- "The eight components of housing value," Sept. 2016

Housing prices are up because supply is less than demand.  This is basic microeconomics.

Anti-gentrification advocacy poster D.C.

Anti-gentrification poster, Columbia Heights, the URL redirects to DC's Department of Housing and Community Development.

But activists tend to be focused on restricting new housing production in various ways.

Criticizing new production for creating displacement (gentrification) effects.

In the past, historic preservation has been similarly criticized.

The thing is, without new housing production, even without designating neighborhoods as historic, housing prices will continue to go up regardless, because of increased demand and demand for historically attractive properties.

Not building housing isn't going to make prices go down when demand remains high and/or is increasing.

The causes of today's Housing Shortage

1.  Most of the housing in the city was constructed before 1940 when the US population was less than half (132 million) of what it is today (309 million in 2010; estimated 325 million in 2017).

DC's population reached 900,000 during the war years, but declined to a "peak" of just over 800,000 in 1950.  After about 10 years of population growth, after decades of continuing decline, DC's population is close to 700,000.

2.  The US population has more than doubled in the last 70 years, leading to more demand for housing.

3.  Household sizes are smaller today, so you need more houses to house "the same number of people" as well as more people.

4.  There is also a rise in the number of single person households creating more demand for housing beyond that required for earlier and different demographic conditions.

5.  Finally, there is an increase in demand for living in the city (see the arguments in Options of Urbanism) and in these conditions, even small increases in demand can result in large rates of price appreciation.

Why new housing doesn't necessarily lead to lower housing prices "right now"

1.  People complain that new housing doesn't reduce prices.

2.  It can't.

It's built at today's prices for land, labor, and materials.

Only over long periods does housing "built today," decline in price relative to newer production.

3.  That being said, when demand is greater than supply even as new supply is added, the addition of supply doesn't decrease prices, because demand is still not fully met.

Intra-market nuances

But because the housing market is made of many different segments or types of demands, if certain segments face an oversupply, prices may drop a bit ("In expensive cities, rents fall for the rich — but rise for the poor," Washington Post), but this is more a function of calculating year-over-year percentages. Comparatively speaking, the housing is higher priced than older housing within the similar class.

Because of the nature of the availability and cost of land, the majority of new housing constructed tends to be multiunit housing.  It may be offered for rent or to own (condos).

Because of the vagaries of financing, there may be too much of one and too little of the other depending on the state of the market at one particular time, leading to pricing variances from the general trends.

These market inefficiencies are also produced by the long time frame for developing, permitting, and constructing new housing.  I am familiar with projects that take 15 years or longer to come to fruition.

The "lack" of middle market housing

This is something that people wring their hands over.  Why there isn't enough small housing, like rowhouses, that is cheaper relative to bigger houses and detached houses.

There is middle market housing. Plenty of it.

But it's no longer middle market, because it has been bid up because of the overall shortage of supply.

Dividing up large rowhouses into multiple units/flats and adding accessory dwelling units to houses and lots where they are more easily accommodated could add supply for this type of housing, but because it is developed at today's prices and because it is also complex to do for individual property owners in terms of permitting and the regulatory environment, financing, and construction, adding housing of this type will only have impact at the margins, because the overall additions to supply will be limited.

Ecological succession model, Chicago sociology

In strong markets, the concept of filtering may no longer be relevant

The concept of filtering was developed by the University of Chicago urban sociologists in the 1920s.

The basic idea was that cities spread outward and that as households increased their income and wealth, they would move out of the center, and that newly arriving residents, with less income and wealth, would move into these neighborhoods, restarting the same process of "ecological succession" (also called "invasion-succession theory").

-- "What filtering can and can't do," CityObservatory

This approach did not anticipate that housing at the center would remain in demand by high income households.  (That's the nature of the housing market in the UK and Continental Europe, although it's bifurcated with strong demand for both in-city and "garden suburb" housing.)

For many years, center cities were "abandoned" for the most part, although most retained some neighborhoods that remained attractive to people desiring urban living, such as Guilford in Baltimore (more suburban), Palmer Park in Detroit, etc.

Lots of smart growth advocates claim that filtering is the solution to the present lack of affordability in the face of renewed demand for urban living.

But in strong markets, where high income households want to live in the core, and where there is an increased demand to live in the city and an increased demand to live in attractive historic neighborhoods, people don't leave, housing prices go up, and there are no neighborhoods that are abandoned and thereby providing cheap housing for new entrants.

This is the case for cities like Boston, New York, DC, San Francisco, West Los Angeles, etc.  Pittsburgh, after decades of decline, seems to have joined this group of cities.  Oakland too, because of the housing shortage in cities like San Francisco.

This isn't the case in weaker markets.  In Detroit, you can find a house for less than $20,000.  Just don't expect much in the way of appreciation.  Cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Hartford, New Haven, St. Paul, etc., still have the conditions where the concept of filtering is operative.

Urban housing land trusts


More recently there has been discussion about land trusts as a way to assist affordability. The underlying land would be held by the trust, and because it would be nonprofit, it could be taxed at lower rates. Sales of houses are subject to affordability requirements.

-- "Not particularly radical: housing ideas from Right to the City," March 2018

But it's too late for this to have much effect in strong markets. It needed to get going 15+ years ago.



A leading book on the subject, Streets of Hope, about the Roxbury neighborhood in Boston, was published in 1994.

Today, the organization featured in that tale has 95 units of housing in land trusts (alongside 77 units in cooperative housing and 53 rental units), hardly enough to make a difference structurally, although it's valuable for the people living in it.

In a strong real estate market, being able to put land into urban housing land trusts is virtually impossible.

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Why it is exceedingly difficult to promote sustainable mobility in the United States of America

The headline on this Associated Press story says it all.



Before gasoline became a mere commodity, oil refinery and marketing companies spent a lot of money promoting their brand and products.

Because our economy is inextricably tied into oil production (as well as automobile manufacturing).

There is a great piece in Bloomberg Businessweek a few years back called "The Petro States of America," making this point.

In looking for the cite, I also came across this article, which drills down on the point a bit, "The U.S. has its own petro-states and petro-towns," Washington Post).

It discusses how states like Texas, Alaska, North Dakota and others are particularly dependent on tax revenues related to oil production.

Except for a few cities that have an urban design that prioritizes walking ("Transportation and Urban Form: Stages in the Spatial Evolution of the American Metropolis," Peter Muller) and therefore transit and biking too, combined with a continued focus on centralizing to some extent employment centers, mostly the land use and transportation planning paradigm in the US prioritizes automobility.

Adding walking, biking, and transit to that mix is difficult and it is incredibly difficult for it to be successful because most every other planning decision privileges automobility.

Expecting sustainable mobility to be competitive in such situations is a losing proposition.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Seattle Times adds columnist tasked with the social justice beat

Tyrone Beason's first column, "A grandmother's love, stories of hardship shaped my vision of justice."

Recently the Washington Post added a Latina columnist, Theresa Vargas, writing on similar issues, and Petula Clark has covered a similar beat for awhile, although her pieces are more focused on individuals, and don't take a structural approach.

This approach to social justice or "local stories and features" is pretty typical of the columnists at  city papers such as Adrian Walker at the Boston Globe and the now retired Jerry Large at the Seattle Times.

WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, which I have written about ("Local television station news: Scripps WCPO in Cincinnati vs. Sinclair Broadcasting Corp.") because it has the deepest news website of all US television stations focused on local news, has a writer, Lucy May, dedicated to the "poverty" beat and they have published some great work, which also makes it to on-air programming.

WCPO's structural approach to writing about poverty, although based in human interest reporting, is likely to remain unique comparatively speaking, when looking at the columns of the various newspaper columnists.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Ice cream shops as commercial district activation devices


Nancy's Ice Cream in Colonial Beach, Virginia.

The previous entry mentions how in Everett, Massachusetts, planners are thinking about trying to get a ice cream shop to take space in their downtown, as a way to attract patrons.

For a few years, Dolci Gelato had a well-placed corner shop in Takoma Park, Maryland, which was jammed on summer evenings and during the Sunday Farmers Market, and likely was a great attractor and activator.

But this year, the organization converted the space to a bar as part of their adjoining Trattoria restaurant.  Old Town Takoma no longer has that very visible attractor as they've moved the gelato operation around the corner to an old no longer used bank teller drive up window.

More recently, on the Upshur commercial strip in Petworth, Lulabelle's has opened.  It's not on a corner but serves very popular ice cream and during the day--coffee beverages--helping to draw people to the district, especially kids attracted by the parallel display of candy including home-made marshmallows and other treats.

Mason's Creamery, Bridge Avenue and 44th Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

Of course, there are tons of places like this, such as Dolcetti Gelati in the 9th and 9th district in Salt Lake City or the Mason Creamery ice cream shop in Cleveland, which has been featured recently in newspaper ads by Google.

Mason's started as a food truck and selling ice cream at farmers markets, according to this article on the Cleveland Rocks, Cleveland Eats blog.

There is the down-side of the winter months however.

There are limited "solutions" to revenues dropping significantly during that time.  Lulabelle's has food, the aforementioned coffee drinks and candy, along with some gifts, to stoke sales during the months when ice cream is a slow seller.

Google video about Mason's Creamery and the use of various Google analytics and small business support services.


Planning by daypart and season.  The way to think about this, from the standpoint of commercial district revitalization planning, is planning the retail and entertainment (and programming/activation mix) by day of the week, month, season, and "daypart" ("breakfast/lunch/dinner/late-night," morning/afternoon/early evening/late evening," etc.).

Stoking the patronage of the district, at all times is a worthy endeavor.  Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato shops are a way to do this starting in the spring and in the evenings.

A locally made popsicle vendor at the Petworth Farmers MarketArtisan popsicles being sold at the Petworth Farmers Market.

Where availability of space is an issue, even ice cream food trucks and vending carts may be worth considering as an alternative to no such provision at all.

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Bus stop beautiful in Everett, Massachusetts

People involved in urban planning are familiar with the City Beautiful movement, an initiative mostly executed in the early part of the 20th Century, utilizing the Beaux Arts architectural form for majestic city buildings such as train stations, auditoriums, and city halls, along with statuary mostly of high ranking military officers on horses.

Washington's Union Station (above) and Post Office and the Civic Center in Cleveland are particularly noteworthy examples.

A few years ago in the Wall Street Journal I came across a mention of "railroad beautiful," which predates City Beautiful, and was pioneered by the Boston & Albany Railroad.

They hired architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design stations--he did nine--and Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, out of the idea that attractive stations would attract riders to their passenger stations.  After Richardson died, the railroad hired other architects to design similarly attractive stations elsewhere in the system.


Recently, I found some more writings on this movement, also called "railroad gardening," although mostly they are in my queue to find and read.  Railroad beautiful predates City Beautiful by at least a decade, although it's not likely to have influenced Daniel Burnham, as the Beaux Arts architectural style is decidedly different from Richardsonian Romanesque.

So it's fitting that in Everett, Massachusetts, which while no longer being served by rail but once had a station stop on the Boston & Albany line, the local planning office worked with artist Krissy Price, to temporarily beautify with flowers a bus stop in the city which serves the MBTA bus system ("Everett tried to make a bus stop pretty" Boston Globe).
According to Everett transportation planner Jay Monty, “The idea was to make the bus stop a place you want to spend time, interact with your neighbors at, and bring more people to transportation,” he said. The city is considering other ways to spruce up the stop in the future, including opening an ice cream stand nearby.

Everett, Massachusetts Bus shelter adorned with flowers by local artist Krissy Price


Everett, Massachusetts Bus shelter adorned with flowers by local artist Krissy Price
Photos by Pat Greenhouse, Boston Globe.

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A wee bit about grocery sales in the Washington-Baltimore market

Separately, only about 15% of consumers have bought groceries online.

-- "Poll: 84% of consumers never buy groceries online," Food Dive

(I've been thinking about it for Kikkoman reduced sodium soy sauce since my best and least expensive source moved from DC to Landover and it's inconvenient to get to by bike.  But the prices are all over the place and not comparable to what I used to pay at V-Nine, a Thai-focused food wholesaler.)
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Giant Supermarket features products that utilize Old Bay (Chesapeake Bay style) seasoning spice.
Giant Supermarket  features products that utilize Old Bay (Chesapeake Bay style) seasoning spice
1.  Giant is the market leader in the DC-Baltimore region, with almost 28% market share, according to data published ("Ahold Delhaize flexes muscle in Baltimore/D.C.") by The Packer.  This includes part of Virginia and Delaware.

According to Shelby Market Shares:

  • Giant has a market share of 27.6%
  • C&S Wholesale Grocers supplies 138 independent stores and a 14% retail market share
  • Albertsons/Safeway had 126 stores and a 12.4% market share in March
  • Walmart has 67 stores in the market and a retail share of 11.6%
  • Supervalu has 184 owned or wholesale supplied stores and a 9.6% share
  • Food Lion, owned by Ahold Delhaize, has 130 stores and a 6.1% market share
  • Harris Teeter (Kroger) has 54 stores and a 5.8% share
  • Wegmans has 14 stores and a 4.5% share in the market. ...Wegmans has two more stores under construction and at least four more planned
  • Whole Foods has 22 stores and a 3.4% share of the market
  • Weis Markets has 58 stores and a 3.1% share of the market
  • Aldi has 56 stores and a 2% share
  • SpartanNash supplies 11 stores with a 1.8% share
  • Trader Joe’s has 19 stores and a 1.6% share
  • Wakefern (Shoprite and Price Rite) has 18 stores and 1.6% share
  • Save A Lot has 44 stores and a 1.1% share.
Giant Supermarket has upgraded its packaging designs for private label, in this case, chicken breastsGiant is systematically upgrading the graphic design of its packaging for its various lines of private label products.

2. Ahold Delhaize has been getting a lot of press in the trades, especially for their private label program ("Onward and Upward," Store Brands, July 2018), which has been significantly improved, and the Peapod delivery service ("Peeking inside the pod: A deep look inside Peapod's grocery delivery," Food Dive) which is a market leader and operates in many markets in which Ahold Delhaize doesn't have stores.

3. In 2012, I thought Giant was on the ropes ("Urban retail #4: how to prevent the coming failure of the DC region's Giant Supermarket chain") but they've come back. Many of the points I made they're addressing, and while prices have increased, they are still much less expensive than Safeway.

I still think they could do what Giant-Eagle (Market District) and H-E-B (Central Market) have done in creating an upscale store division, to better compete with specialty marketers like Whole Foods.

4. They haven't brought to the DC market their small urban format, bfresh, which operates in a couple walkable neighborhoods in Boston.  It doesn't seem as if the merged Ahold Delhaize is going to continue to invest much in this format.

Big discount on ribs for Amazon Prime members, Whole Foods SupermarketWhole Foods stores now feature a wide variety of price specials exclusive to members of Amazon Prime.

5. Obviously, not just in DC but I am quite impressed with how Amazon is integrating Whole Foods, which they purchased last year, into the Amazon Prime ecosystem/business platform, offering huge discounts on various products only to Prime members.

It's another benefit in return for the membership fee, and is in line with what I expected them to do.

6. Unrelatedly, I was in an Aldi in Southern California, in a higher income section of Orange County and it was a sweet store.

Still barer bones compared to a traditional grocer, but more "upscale" compared to Aldi stores operating in lower income areas. My sense is that the company has room to expand in higher income markets. Most people are unfamiliar with the firm's discount reputation so it won't really hinder their entry..

7.  RiteAid has mostly left the area, having sold off most of their stores in this region to Walgreens, but the proposed merger between that company and Albertson's, parent of Safeway, has been dropped.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Albertsons. Generally, the company is losing market share and the firm's private equity owner is looking to cash out.

They've opened an upscale store in Boise ("Albertsons new Broadway store offers exotic foods and a bar," Idaho Statesman), their headquarters town.  Interestingly, the store was developed not by the Safeway division, but by the United Supermarkets division out of Texas, which has the upscale Market Street format ("New Albertsons stores on Broadway & in Meridian won’t be called Albertsons," BoiseDev) that I mentioned as a model in the 2012 blog post about Giant, but the store is now being branded as an Albertsons," after earlier plans to call it Market Street.

Ideally, the company could roll out this kind of thinking to more divisions.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Outside Magazine story: "8 Habits of Highly Successful Cities" | August 2018

Lately in my evaluative framework for libraries, I've realized that I haven't systematically evaluated the presentation of periodicals, especially specialty publications.

I have noticed, looking back, that in DC at least, libraries in more impoverished areas have fewer periodicals than in higher income neighborhoods.  But generally, the number of specialty publications, even as "esoteric" as the New York Review of Books, is quite limited.  Journals are practically non-existent.

But I happened to be at the Mount Pleasant Branch over the weekend, and I was looking at the periodicals (not to evaluate) and came across this article, "8 Habits of Highly Successful Cities," in the current issue of Outside Magazine.

The list is a bit idiosyncratic, but according to the article, those eight habits are:

#1. Waterfront renewal

#2. Reboot Urban Renewal

#3. Exploit Natural Resources

#4. Invest in Outdoor Recreation (of course, you'd expect that from a magazine dedicated to outdoor adventure)

#5. Support of Craft Breweries (think of this more broadly as support for innovative food and beverage concepts)

#6. Cool suburban sprawl (hmm, think of this more broadly as support for innovation in conurbations across a metropolitan area)

#7. A cluster of technology firms

#8. A commitment to sustainability.

It's best to track down and read the article, because the online piece pretty much just lists the main points with limited text.  This is a scan of one of the pages.  It turns out the scanning function at the Mt.P library branch isn't so great.


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Organizing materials: EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK, 16-22 September 2018


The WORLD STREETS: The Politics of Transport in Cities blog calls our attention to European Mobility Week and the various organizing resources:

-- European Mobility Week webpage
-- campaign resources for 2018 include a Manual, flyer, poster, and videos in all of the EU languages
-- Communications toolkit
-- 2017 EMW participation report

From the website:
Europeans love variety – in food, in fashion, in music – so why is it that when it comes to transport so many of us stick to one mode? This year’s EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK encourages us to explore the many different options available for getting from A to B, and to think about the mode that best suits our particular journey.

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK 2018 is focusing on ‘multimodality’ - the mixing of transport modes within the same journey or for different trips. Many of us instinctively opt for the same method of transport when moving around without necessarily examining the needs of the specific journey. The car may be the best way to take your family to the seaside, for example, but is it the best way to get them to the city centre where space and access is often limited?

This year, why not test out different transport modes: cycle to the gym to get a head start on burning calories, bring your bike on the train to beat the rush hour traffic, or take the bus and then stroll to the shops to avoid parking fees!

As well as providing health benefits, significant savings can be achieved through a multimodal approach, particularly when short journeys are completed through walking and cycling.

Embracing the concept of multimodality means rethinking the way we move about our cities, and having the willingness to try out new forms of mobility. From a city’s perspective, it requires the political will to support alternative transport methods.

By introducing some sustainable transport modes into our journeys, not only can we have a positive impact on the environment, we may just find that we’re fitter and happier, with some extra spending money too!

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For what it's worth, I don't favor promoting "choice" as much as "sustainability" and "optimality." At least in the US, we have plenty of mobility choices, but the paradigm and therefore policy and practice favors the automobility.

Having sustainable mobility choices like biking, walking, transit, car sharing, delivery, taxis, etc. is great. But it doesn't matter if the land use and transportation planning paradigm makes these modes harder and more expensive to use compared to driving.

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Small and weak real estate markets need focused tools to spark revival of vacant properties

There is an interesting article in NextCity, "Reactivating Abandoned Buildings through Local Ownership in Smaller Cities." It discusses rehabilitation, "adaptive reuse," of what preservationists call "white elephant" buildings--big buildings that often had been industrial, that need to be adapted to be able to be "useful" in the context of current market circumstances.

The article starts off discussing a project in Upstate New York in Newburgh, by a community land bank, using various funding sources including federal housing program monies.

While interesting, it's seemingly not particularly noteworthy.

This is the typical process of revitalization, especially in weak real estate markets.

Because "the market isn't working," in order to revitalize:

1.  you need extraordinary kinds of organizations, usually nonprofits, and

2. a wide variety of funding sources, not usually traditional real estate financing sources,

to pull it off.

However, the story is noteworthy for other reasons.

First, it's important to repeat that the market doesn't always work.  In the market society that is the United States, too frequently we don't acknowledge that the "market" doesn't function the same way in every place and that it is often necessary for government and nonprofits to step in to produce desired outcomes in those places when "the market" isn't working.

Second, it calls attention to the importance of special funding sources.  It's why historic preservation tax credits are a good thing. Too bad the Federal Tax Reform act has made tax credits less valuable and more difficult to use.

It's why low income housing tax credits are a good thing. Too bad the Federal Tax Reform act has made tax credits less valuable and more difficult to use.

It's why state historic preservation tax credits are a good thing. But in many states, legislators see such programs as unduly involved in "the market" (like North Carolina) or going disproportionately to communities that for historical reasons, have more of these types of properties needing renovation (like Baltimore) so that limits are put on using them.

Even though the research finds that the return on investment to communities and states is much greater than the cost of the credit.  For the federal credit, it's slightly more than break even as slightly more dollars come back in new federal tax revenues than the cost of the credit.

But the credit also spurs almost a 6x investment of private funds, generates thousands of jobs, and fosters significant community improvement.

So why is it so hard to keep such programs operating?

Um, because there isn't a differentiated understanding and acceptance of the fact that the market doesn't always work and different vehicles are needed to stoke economic activity in such circumstances.

Third, the Newburgh program helped spawn a state initiative to provide a new funding source for rehabilitation projects. It sparked a program launched by New York State, called Neighbors for Neighborhoods, which provides (a modicum of) funding for projects by "New York residents to renovate abandoned properties in their neighborhoods for affordable rental housing," targeting "small center cities" across the state.

And that's a program that is deserving of being replicated in more states across the country.

And being augmented even within New York State, as the initial funding amount--$4 million--is pretty paltry vis a vis the need.
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The Center for Community Progress is one national organization that works on this issue of recapturing vacant properties and getting them back to productive use.

Sometimes that means a change in use, because the demand isn't there.

-- Creative Placemaking on Vacant Properties: Lessons Learned from Four Cities, Center for Community Progress

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Economist Magazine Global Liveability Index 2018

In my overall piece assessing what I learned in writing about revitalization in 8 European cities, I made the point that livability indexes are one way to evaluate cities:
Other broad-based initiatives that could be added to create a more robust programmatic and evaluative framework. Over the course of the writing project, I came across additional initiatives that should be integrated into an expanded and more complete framework of culture-based regeneration approaches. ...

You could even consider “World Cities” and Livability rankings such as from Monocle Magazine or the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the designation of the “Mayor of the Year” by the World Mayor Project, which is based on the evaluation of revitalization and other community improvement efforts. But these aren’t event-driven or specific revitalization programs as much as they are recognition “devices” that measure success.
Economist Magazine just released its 2018 report and this year, Vienna tops the list, displacing Melbourne ("Vienna overtakes Melbourne as the world's most liveable city").

The top 10 cities are:

1 Vienna

2 Melbourne

3 Osaka

4 Calgary

5 Sydney

6 Vancouver

7 Toronto

8 Tokyo

9 Copenhagen

10 Adelaide

The annual survey is based on 30 measurements across five different clusters:

stability (public safety)

- Prevalence of petty crime
- Prevalence of violent crime
- Threat of terror
- Threat of military conflict
- Threat of civil unrest/conflict

health care

- Availability of private healthcare
- Quality of private healthcare
- Availability of public healthcare
- Quality of public healthcare
- Availability of over-the-counter drugs
- General healthcare indicators

culture and environment

- Humidity/temperature rating
- Discomfort of climate to travellers
- Level of corruption
- Social or religious restrictions
- Level of censorship
- Sporting availability
- Cultural availability
- Food & drink
- Consumer goods & services

educational resources


- Availability of private education
- Quality of private education
- Public education indicators

infrastructure

- Quality of road network
- Quality of public transport
- Quality of international links
- Availability of good quality housing
- Quality of energy provision
- Quality of water provision
- Quality of telecommunications

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Why not post outdoor Community Information Boards at public buildings and sites?

I've written a lot about the ability to disseminate community information and community media in the context of a shrinking locally-focused media, and the rise (and atomization of communication) of social media and the false belief that online communications adequately substitutes for other media, especially print.

-- "Voting vs. civic participation | elections vs. governance"
-- "Community cleanups (and other activities) as community building and civic engagement activities"

In my Silver Spring series, one of the points is a proposed digital neighborhood communications system (see item 10, PL #5: Creating a Silver Spring "Sustainable Mobility District" | Part 3: Program items 10-18").  While I still think the creation of such a system should be pursued, at the same time, more simple methods do exist.

Recommendation: why not have outdoor community bulletin boards posted at public buildings and assets including schools, libraries, parks, recreation centers, transit stations, kiosks in commercial districts, etc.?

They exist here and there but not in a systematic way.  And Metrorail specifically does not allow for the posting of localized community information.

Here are some examples, mostly from the area.

I didn't include indoor community boards.  As a rule DC's libraries and recreation centers have community bulletin boards although they vary in quality.

In the for profit realm, coffee shops and some grocery stores have community bulletin boards.

They could be linked into one system.

Community Notice Board, Merseytravel, Queens Square Bus Station, Liverpool
Community Notice Board, Merseytravel, Queens Square Bus Station, Liverpool. Yes, transit authorities can do this.

Information board, Sligo Creek Trail
Information board, Sligo Creek Trail, Montgomery County, Maryland.

Community bulletin board behind Hampshire Langley Shopping Center on Kirklynn Avenue, Takoma Park (Takoma Langley Crossroads)
Community bulletin board behind Hampshire Langley Shopping Center on Kirklynn Avenue, Takoma Park (Takoma Langley Crossroads). It might be that the big board is run by the shopping center. The smaller box to the right is managed by the community association.

Bulletin board at Mount Pleasant Plaza, DC
Bulletin board at Mount Pleasant Plaza, DC. This is a rare example of a posted outdoor community information board at a DC Government controlled site.

Bulletin board at the Rhode Island Avenue pedestrian bridge trailhead, Metropolitan Branch Trail
Bulletin board at the Rhode Island Avenue pedestrian bridge trailhead, Metropolitan Branch Trail. I believe this was put up by the DC Department of Transportation. Interestingly, a community Little Free Library has been placed to the right of this sign.

Community kiosk, Adams Morgan neighborhood, northeast corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW intersection
Community kiosk, Adams Morgan neighborhood, northeast corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW intersection. All commercial districts should be provided with information kiosks, identification signage, and other promotional facilities. This is one of only two examples of a kiosk in the public space that I am familiar with.

Community kiosk in the Palisades neighborhood of DC, MacArthur Road NW
This is the other... Community kiosk in the Palisades neighborhood of DC, MacArthur Road NW. But I wonder if it is on private space.

Bulletin board, Park, 11th and Monroe NW
Bulletin board, Park, 11th and Monroe NW. I can't find a photo, but there is a community information board at every park site in Takoma Park, Maryland.

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An example of using vehicles as a way to market public services: Park City Transit, Salt Lake City GreenBike

In the vein of my writings ("Part 7 | Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward" and "Orange County Registrar of Elections uses their vehicles to promote voting | branding") on the design method and design and marketing for local governments and transit, specifically concerning sustainable mobility...

I was briefly in Park City, Utah, known for skiing, other outdoor recreation activities, the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the annual Sundance Film Festival.  (They're gearing up to bid for another Winter Olympics--"Winter Olympics: What if Park City's weather is as mild as 2018," Park Record.)

In transit terms, Park City is noteworthy as an example of a "resort area transit system" that is free to ride, because it is designed to encourage tourists to not drive as well as to assist residents and employees in getting around.  The choice to offer free transit is a transportation demand management-based decision, along with air quality issues.  (That said, plenty people there drive.)

It's also cool because it's the only ski resort town where the ski lift goes from the town center up one of the mountains, so it's highly visible.  It made me think of the opportunity of the proposed gondola system in GeorgetownBut unlike the transit system, it's not free.
Ski lift, Park City, Utah

Park City Transit has visually forward liveries for the buses, promoting the city's outdoor recreation assets.  One of the graphics employed features cyclists, either road racing or riding, or mountain biking.
Park City Transit, Utah

Inset of bicyclists on the bus livery, Park City Transit, Utah

Similarly, while not nearly as aesthetically attractive, the bike share system in Salt Lake City at least promotes using the system, with a marketing message promoting bike share on the vans used in getting around to service the system.
GreenBike bike share van, Salt Lake City

By contrast, DC's Capital Bikeshare vans fail to use the opportunity they have to promote use of the system through attractive messaging.
Capital_Bikeshare_van

By contrast, DC's Circulator buses do employ "ads" on the back, promoting transit and sustainable mobility. And one of these ads promotes bike share. In fact, the bike share vans could just use that as an ad on the van's sides, combined with a bit more text.
Ad for bicycle sharing on the back of a DC Circulator bus

Capital Bike Share kiosk with an ad promoting the bike share program.
Bicycle sharing station on 3rd Street NW, adjacent to the Takoma Recreation Center, DC

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Update on DC's plans to build a new United Medical Center

At the end of April I wrote a three-part series about DC's plans to rebuild the United Medical Center, pointing out there is a once in three generations opportunity to create something fabulous.

The three parts covered super innovative public health programs (#1), creating a biomedical and health sciences education initiative in parallel (#2), and landing big name sponsors to help pay for it (#3).

-- "Ordinary versus Extraordinary Planning around the rebuilding of the United Medical Center in Southeast Washington DC | Part One: Rearticulating the system of health and wellness care East of the River"
-- "Ordinary versus Extraordinary Planning around the rebuilding of the United Medical Center in Southeast Washington DC | Part Two: Creating a graduate health education and biotechnology research initiative on the St. Elizabeths campus"
-- Ordinary versus Extraordinary Planning around the rebuilding of the United Medical Center in Southeast Washington DC | Part three: the potential for donations around an expanded program"

But there isn't any public planning process for the project.  Although a public planning process isn't guaranteed to produce innovative recommendations.

Nothing particularly innovative is happening with the new hospital in Prince George's County ("Prince George's breaks ground on new Largo hospital," Washington Business Journal). Still one can hope that at least with a public process, the opportunity for innovation is there.

The planning activities for UMC that have been conducted are out of Executive Branch capital improvements planning ("Bowser wants to speed up design, construction of new hospital at St. E's," Washington Business Journal), which isn't a public process (Government of the District of Columbia | FY2019 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan | A FAIR SHOT | Volume 5 | FY2019- FY2024 Capital Improvements Plan).

Instead, it comes up as part of the annual budget approval process, but not with a separate process of hearings and vetting that is public, as is typical of most local governments.

Concerning UMC, the Executive Branch's priority is, not unreasonably, to find a qualified manager, deal with clear operational and accreditation problems, and right the hospital's cratering finances.

In that situation, it's hard to think innovatively.

According to the Washington Post, for me via the Washington Business Journal ("GWU to oversee UMC replacement hospital in Southeast"), George Washington University has been chosen to run the new UMC.  Their hospital is owned by GWU and the for profit hospital management company Universal Health Services, and the university has a medical school which will be a good source for cheaper residents.

From the article:
According to the report, GWU and the District will spend the next several months negotiating the precise terms of the partnership. GWU may eventually own the hospital, according to the report, and Bowser and GWU Hospital CEO Kimberly Russo hope to have an agreement finalized before the end of the year with plans to open the new facility on the St. Elizabeths campus in 2023.

City Administrator Rashad Young told the Post the GWU deal is being made “to get the District out of the hospital business.” The District owns UMC, beleaguered, financially challenged facility located on the District’s border with Prince George’s County.

In April, Bowser released a proposal to replace UMC with a $248 million, 106-bed facility on the St. E’s campus — trimming it down from an initial plan for 144 beds. According to the Post’s report, the new hospital is now being planned for between 100 and 125 beds with obstetric and nursery services.
In the comments on the three articles, I've occasionally added points that I've come across, including additional ideas that are new to me.

Now wrt post #1 I have these points to add:

-- I recommend that as part of "the hospital," a separate emergency clinic be included, separate from "emergency room" modelled after public health clinics, to help divert regular cases from the emergency room.

One model is the community health clinics run by Mary's Center that are co-located within the Briya Charter Schools--I mean to write about this--but set up to divert non-emergency care cases from the "hospital" and to set up wellness and chronic disease management programs through that entity.

-- Using schools and clinics as hubs to create healthy communities: The example of Briya/Mary’s Center, Brookings Institution

-- Like the proposed program at St. Anthony Hospital in Chicago, but different because it is operational, Bon Secours Hospital in West Baltimore has an extensive community social and economic development program, including the construction and operation of various types of affordable housing--they have 700+ units under operation or in construction

-- the Salt Lake County Library runs a "reading room" in a community health clinic in Salt Lake City (which is interesting in itself because the city has a separate library system which I write about a lot; this is probably the only County Library facility specifically within the City) designed to serve the primarily low income, children, and Hispanic demographics of the client population, with the aim of providing free books to children (Byington Reading Room, case study, Urban Libraries Council

Besides my general idea that library branches by hospitals could have dedicated health and wellness collections (in Montgomery County, the Wheaton branch has a special collection on health, and it happens to be somewhat close but not really near to Holy Cross Hospital), it would be possible to create a public library branch, and a dedicated health information program as part of the proposed allied public health clinic listed in point #1.

Conclusion.  But I don't expect any of these kinds of innovative ideas to be incorporated into the building of a new UMC.

Another example of the need to formalize and incorporate the Transformational Projects Action Planning framework into master planning.  This is definitely an illustration of the value of a regularized process for what I call "Transformational Projects Action Planning" ("Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning"), where master plans include "big hairy audacious projects" as anchors, and as spurs to broad-ranging community improvement.

Now I believe such a framework needs to be applied at multiple scales. 

For example, writing about the Purple Line recently, I wrote that thinking about that multi-billion dollar capital investment and the and opportunities for complementary improvements not limited to the transit network, propelled and helped me to scintillate my thinking about "Transformational Projects Action Planning" generally but at different scales too.
  • macro ("Comprehensive Plan/Master Plan")
  • micro (specific elements such as economic development or transportation within a master plan), and 
  • individual project (e.g., how do we make this __________ [fill in blank] initiative transformational and innovative).
The UMC program and the lack of a public process for it and likely missed opportunity to create an innovative hospital and program has helped me to see that Transformational Projects Action Planning is an organizing structure for planning at various and different scales. In this case maybe four scales:
Office of Land Use versus an Office of Planning.  It's also an illustration that DC's Office of Planning is more an office of land use, rather than a focused on a full range of urban planning activities.

Lack of public capital improvements planning process in DC.  It's also an illustration that DC doesn't have a public process for capital improvements planning, instead running it through the executive branch without public review, excepting the very full calendar and agenda of the annual appropriations and budgeting process.

By contrast, other local governments almost universally do capital planning through a public process led by the Office of Planning.

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Big farmers markets as touchpoints for community information and organizations

One of the advantages of only having a few farmers markets in a community is that they can be really good and highly attended. DC has so many farmers markets that many are pretty small. Although some, being in denser areas, get a lot of attendance (Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, etc.).

Cities like Baltimore and Salt Lake tend to have a handful of public markets, which means that a couple are really really big and end up being regular community events.

The Downtown Salt Lake Farmers Market on Saturdays is one such event. It's in Pioneer Park, which is massive (a 10 acre block) and to "fill it up" it's also a crafts market, has prepared food vendors, etc.

It also has a fair number of community organizations, sometimes government agencies, that exhibit as well, taking advantage of the large volume of attendees to get their message out.
Salt Lake County Bicycle Ambassadors booth at the Downtown Salt Lake City Saturday Farmers Market
Salt Lake County Bicycle Ambassadors booth at the Downtown Salt Lake City Saturday Farmers Market


Booth promoting the creation of a Wasatch Food Cooperative, Downtown Salt Lake City Saturday Farmers Market
Booth promoting the creation of a Wasatch Food Cooperative, Downtown Salt Lake City Saturday Farmers Market

There were many such booths on Saturday including the group trying to create the Wasatch Food Cooperative, the good government group Alliance for a Better Utah, an affiliate of ProgressNow, a regional political engagement movement based in Colorado, but with affiliates across the country (which is an organization I hadn't heard of), Salt Lake County's Bicycle Ambassador Program, KUED, the NPR affiliate, the Wasatch Film Festival, of course the SNAP nutrition education promotion program of the State Agriculture Extension program out of the University of Utah, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, promoting a vegan diet, and others.

Sometimes, you see such groups at farmers markets in DC, but very rarely.

Given the increasing difficulties of mass public communication at the community scale in the face of the decline of community media such as newspapers, the lack of coverage of such organizations in broadcast media, and the atomization of communication via social media, "special events" such as festivals and farmers markets become an important way to reach people concerning various civic matters, for social marketing (public health, nutrition, biking as transportation, environment), etc.

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Free water at the Downtown Salt Lake Farmers Market

Downtown Salt Lake City Saturday Farmers Market provides free water, which makes sense in a hot climate. They are smart in having procured "a water sponsor"

Downtown Salt Lake City Saturday Farmers Market provides free water, which makes sense in a hot climate. They are smart in having procured "a water sponsor""

This market is run by the Downtown Alliance, the business improvement district in Salt Lake City. In my opinion it's one of the best outdoor farmers markets in the U.S. The Downtown Alliance, which also runs the GreenBike bike sharing program, is particularly good at breaking out event or program activities so that they can bring in sponsors to help defray the cost. For example, with the bike share program, a local health system is the "helmet sponsor" and provides free bike helmets to new members.

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Orange County Registrar of Elections uses their vehicles to promote voting | branding

Orange County Registrar of Elections uses their vehicles to promote voting

Orange County Registrar of Elections voter registration booth


By population, Orange County, California is the sixth largest county in the US. It's suburban sprawl sure. But full of cities that have a minimum population of 100,000.

I write a fair amount about how local governments can and do employ branding and identity systems to promote what they do.  This particular piece, "Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward," comprehensively lists many of those posts.

Many governments fail to take advantage of the resources they have, such as the opportunity to utilize vehicles as rolling billboards.  Some communities use their "garbage trucks" to promote environmental messages, but most don't.

DC Water (WASA) misting tent, Adams Morgan Day Street FestivalDC Water (WASA) misting tent, Adams Morgan Day Street Festival

Here and there agencies stand out, using branding, clever logos, and identity programs to promote what they do, such as "DC Water," the rebranded DC Water and Sewer Authority.

But typically, even if one agency stands out in this way, this kind of approach to design and identity, unified through branding, doesn't extend across a government.

Sometimes too, there is criticism that this approach makes it harder to understand what government does.

For example, when the Portland Development Corporation, the redevelopment agency for the City of Portland, Oregon, renamed itself "Prosper Portland," Carl Abbott, a prominent urban historian criticized the move ("Public agencies shouldn't hide behind feel-good words," Portland Oregonian). From his op-ed:
The Portland Development Commission, a public agency whose name has lasted since 1958, is renaming itself "Prosper Portland." This is one more example of a perplexing trend. Public agencies in Oregon have been going stealth by adopting new names that mask their basic character.

Once we had an Oregon Department of Economic Development. Now we have "Business Oregon." It used to be clear that it was part of state government. Now it is easy to confuse with the private Oregon Business Council, which I assume is the reason for the name change.

Once we had a Housing Authority of Portland. Now we have "Home Forward," a name that doesn't conjure much of anything in the way of an image.

And now comes PDC turning itself into "Prosper Portland." I've been trying to figure out the grammatical implications. Is this an imperative statement that commands Portland to move forward: "Prosper Portland! Or else!" Get your act together and get moving. Or is it a fragment of a larger phrase like "Prosper Portland Style," which makes someone of my age think of the classic cinema comedy "Marriage Italian Style" starring the incomparable Sophia Loren?

Seriously, the pattern here is disturbing. What is lost in the name change is any acknowledgment that these organizations are parts of the apparatus of democratic government. Gone are "administration," "commission" and "department." Public agencies are hiding behind feel-good words like "progress" and "home" and trying to avoid the nation's testy anti-government mood.
The OC Registrar of Elections has a consistent identity-branding system across their vehicles, brochures and other materials, and their community outreach program such as booths like this one at a farmers market in San Juan Capistrano.

They have a special election this week, which is one of the reasons they were out promoting voter registration.

Probably because it is increasingly difficult to get poll workers, they have a program where high school students can staff voting activities.

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Indoor bicycle racks at for profit coffee shop

Indoor bicycle parking at Campos Coffee Roastery and Kitchen, Salt Lake City
Indoor bicycle parking at Campos Coffee Roastery and Kitchen, Salt Lake City

Elsewhere in Salt Lake City, the Harmon's City Creek Supermarket also has a couple of indoor bicycle parking spots, but they aren't particularly easy to use or so prominently placed. (This particular supermarket branch is a design award winner in the industry, very much oriented to serving the center city market in a way decidedly different from suburban stores.)

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Thursday, August 02, 2018

DDOT Hosts First DC Bike Fair: Saturday, August 4th

I've suggested that this should be done for 10 years or more (e.g., see items 5 and 6, "Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1").  More than two days notice would be preferable. 

Bus with a ad sign promoting the Utah Transit Authority's Bike FestivalWhile the Utah Transit Agency no long sponsors a Bike Bonanza, when they did they promoted it with ads on buses and light rail vehicles, as well as flyers.

Limited marketing.  As well as a strong promotional campaign via outdoor media--at bus shelters, billboards, ads on buses, flyers, etc. I've seen ads for the DC Circulator on bus shelters.

To truly capture people's attention and help shift them to biking for transportation, a wide-ranging campaign is required.

Metrorail stations and bus shelters should be primary marketing touchpoints for transportation demand management information.  In fact this makes me realize that there should be a transportation demand management information board or kiosk at every Metrorail station, and such a kiosk could promote upcoming events by local transportation agencies such as DDOT.

Bus Shelter, Baltimore
Baltimore bus shelter with a map on the back wall and two flyer holders to the left of the map.

Bus Shelter, Baltimore
MTA information flyer in a Baltimore bus shelter.

Sign promoting the Bike&Go bike share program, Merseyrail LiverpoolFor example, this sign on the Liverpool Merseyrail system (at the Liverpool Central Station) promotes that agency's bicycle sharing program, called Bike & Go.

Many of the MTA bus shelters in Baltimore include an information board for communications from MTA.  No reason that couldn't be done in the DC area.

Except that in the DC area, each jurisdiction controls its own bus shelters.  WMATA only controls bus shelters on Metrorail station grounds.

Bad location for a bike expo.  Plus, I understand why for equity reasons ("Urg: bad studies don't push the discourse or policy forward | biking in low income communities (in DC) edition," 2014; "Eight "mutual assistance programs" that can build support for biking as transportation on the part of low income communities," 2015) they would do this East of the River, but considering the majority of the population is west of the river and the best opportunity to shift people to biking is in the core of the city, it'd make more sense to do this in the core.

No reason why multiple events can't be held, but like having one of the only "Open Streets" events years ago East of the River, with the result that few people came and the event wasn't repeated, I don't think this is a particular good location choice.

In any case, this should be an annual event, as part of a full program of promoting biking as transportation, as an element of transportation demand management planning and programming.

From email:
(Washington, DC) — The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Capital Bikeshare will host the first DC Bike Fair Saturday, August 4, 2018. The DC Bike Fair is a fun filled, all ages block party where residents can experience and learn about biking options in the District of Columbia. The DC Bike Fair will include an obstacle course, interactive demonstrations, a community bike ride, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Skate Mobile, free bike raffles and other prizes and music. DDOT and local bike advocacy groups will share information about trails and bike lanes in and around Wards 7 and 8 in the District.

WHO: DDOT and Capital Bikeshare
WHEN: Saturday, August 4, 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
WHERE: 2241 Martin Luther King Avenue SE (in the parking lot next to the Big Chair)
*Nearest Metro Station: Anacostia*

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cultural plans should have an element on culture-related retail

I have a bunch of pieces about how we should think more broadly when doing community cultural plans, to include sections on elements such as "higher education" ("Should community culture master plans include elements on higher education arts programs?") or arts-related media ("Culture planning at the metropolitan scale should include funding for "local" documentary film making" and "Voting vs. civic participation | elections vs. governance").

And I have written about the necessity of buying and holding buildings via the creation of arts-related community development corporations ("BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building" and "BTMFBA revisited: nonprofits and facilities planning and acquisition").

The "Buy The M*F* building already" pieces key on the example of Paris-based SEMAEST, a CDC tasked by the Paris government to support locally owned independent and innovative retail, in part by buying (or master leasing) space and renting it to for profit and nonprofit organizations at an attractive price ("Emmanuelle Hoss, new managing director of the Semaest, a real estate company in the city of Paris," LSA). From the article:
This structure, which includes some sixty employees, is responsible for influencing the Parisian commercial fabric by relocating local merchants and independent artisans. To do this, it buys premises, can also preempt or negotiate exclusivities from donors to ensure the activity of their future tenants. Tenants to whom it offers advantageous installation conditions (exemptions from door step, right to lease, first deferred rent ...), as long as their shops or their activities meet the local and responsible development requirements defended by the company institution. 
In "The SEMAEST Vital Quartier program remains the best model for helping independent retail" I wrote that the program operates on a break even basis, and in some of the targeted neighborhoods, vacancies have declined by up to 40% ("Paris City Hall wants to revive Semaest," Les Echos). The program has assisted more than 650 individual businesses and controls 730,000 s.f. of retail space.

-- Presentation
-- Paris SEMAEST Integrated Action Plan, Urbact (English)

Separately, I have suggested that central libraries should be remade more directly as cultural centers ("Civic assets and mixed use: Central Library edition"), and could include a variety of cultural-based organizations--for profit like book publishers and news-stands and nonprofits like public radio stations and other organizations.

But this can even be done at the scale of neighborhood branch libraries too, depending on the size of the district ("Neighborhood libraries as nodes in a neighborhood and city-wide network of cultural assets").

I've never really written about the book by Scott Timberg, Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, which among its arguments, makes the point that certain types of independent retailers--record stores, book stores, music instrument stores, galleries, etc., supported the arts both directly because of what they sold was arts-related, and indirectly, because artists of all types--musicians, actors, writers, artists, etc. tended to work in these stores, and the money they made supported their ability to engage in artistic endeavors.

Beijing has a fund to support bookstoresNotionsCapital calls our attention ("Beijing plans to pour $15 million into city bookstores over the next two years," Quartz) to an initiative in Beijing where the city government has set aside $15 million to support the development of bookstores.

From the article:
The Beijing city government wants to fortify spaces for readers. Last week the city announced a hefty increase to its yearly budget to subsidize brick-and-mortar bookshops.

The annual budget for bookstores will now be 50 million yuan (about $7.4 million), nearly three times as much as the bookstore budget the last two years. The subsidies will help bookstores with rent and store improvement costs, according to state-run Xinhua. The city also aims to add 16 large, mall-sized stores, and 200 smaller ones by 2020. And it will provide tax breaks for bookstores and encourage real estate developers to provide cheaper rent, reports state-owned China Daily.

“We cannot rely on the market to ease the bricks-and-mortar bookshops’ existential difficulties, and a government policy supporting them is absolutely necessary,” Zhang Su, deputy head of Beijing’s bureau of radio and television, told The (London) Times.
According to the London Times, as part of the program, public libraries will open desks in bookstores, so that patrons can have access to books they may not be able to afford to buy, and some bookstores will open branches in libraries.

Of course, in China, financial support of bookstores is a two-edged sword given that the national government will abduct producers of books with content they don't like ("Defying China, Hong Kong Bookseller Describes Detention," New York Times).

Thinking beyond books and about systematic support.  Yes independent bookstores are opening again ("Independent Streak: Against the odds, small book stores are on the rise," Valley Advocate) but they are still having a hard time making it.

The record shops that exist are having a hard time, but are a great source of support for local musicians.  Periodical shops--newsstands--are pretty much nonexistent.

Video stores are closing, but in Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Film Society maintains a video store at the Tower Theatre cinema in the 9th and 9th community commercial district ("Why Tower Theater Video Rentals Thrive While Blockbuster's Rentals Fails," Utah Stories).

Arts museums may have good sections of art books, but many do not.

Many local chapters of the American Institute of Architects have architecture and design bookstores as part of their operation, such as in Philadelphia, or at the main headquarters in Washington, DC.

Culture plans need to include elements on retail.  The Paris and Beijing efforts make me realize that we need to be more direct about the place of retail in cultural planning, given that it is incredibly difficult to support arts-related retail strictly on a market basis, to build in measures to foster and support retail in an ongoing way.

Culture plans need to recommend the creation of an arts-focused community development corporation.  It should act in part like SEMAEST, buying and holding real estate, to support arts uses generally, but including arts-related retail.  It should also focus on developing lower cost housing options for artists, like the national ArtsSpace organization, but focused on cities and metropolitan areas.

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