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.

Friday, December 11, 2015

American Planning Association 2016 conference in Phoenix

===From email=====

Registration is now open for the 2016 APA National Planning Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, April 2 – 5, 2016. Thousands of planners from around the country will convene for the premiere planning event of the year at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s honorary chair is former U.S. House of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords holds a master’s degree in regional planning from Cornell University.

The four-day conference is an opportunity to connect with peers, share innovations and discuss how to address the challenges facing communities today, and tomorrow. Find out how Phoenix, the sixth largest city in the United States is planning to become the country’s first carbon-neutral city. Enjoy the sunshine and all the conference has to offer, including:

·         Hundreds of conference sessions designed for all attendees from the advanced practitioner to the early career professional.

·         Ten tracks that focus on specific planning topics including energy planning, housing, public health, generational planning and water resources.

·         More than 50 mobile workshops, guided by local practitioners, will take conference attendees into the community and surrounding region to learn in-depth and get an up-close experience of planning in Southwest. Topics include retirement communities, tourism, river restoration and downtown revitalization.

·         Keynote speakers who will challenge and inspire. Jack Uldrich, a global futurist, will shake up assumptions in the opening keynote. Concluding the conference is John Englander, an oceanographer that will illustrate climate change and rising sea levels mean for the economy and society.

Early bird registration rates are available through February 4, 2016. Register early to ensure your spot!


There are a lot of urban planning reasons to knock Phoenix, Arizona, given its poster child status concerning sprawl ("Bird on Fire: The World's Least Sustainable City," Places Journal) and the reality that much of the development in the Southwest was driven by military spending ("The Rise of the Gunbelt," book review ).

That being said, there are many pro-urban examples of best practice there that are worth checking out on the part of urban planners and other members of the placemaking profession.

-- The Phoenix light rail line has been successful in recentering interest and use of transit as well as refocusing real estate development somewhat ("$8.2B invested along 20 miles of Valley Metro," Metro Magazine) away from sprawl and towards transit-served locations.

In the November 2015 election, voters passed a referendum extending a sales tax supporting transit expansion and operations, and other transportation improvements.

Some of the older strip centers in the vicinity of the Camelback and Central Avenue Station are home to an interesting mix of independent retailers, who located there before the light rail system, attracted by low rents.  It will be interesting to see how long those buildings will remain, if proximity to the transit station will drive more intense development?

-- earlier this month, the first extension to Mesa, with four new stations, opened for service ("Arizona Rail Extension Opens Early to Connect Urban Growth") and in March 2016, just before the APA conference, the system will open its second extension, 3.2 miles and 3 stations, extending service to Northwest Phoenix

-- Phoenix is also a textbook example of lining up money in advance of the light rail's opening to fund affordable housing ("Light rail housing fund spurs 15 projects in metro Phoenix" and "Why you don't see more vacant lots along light-rail route," Arizona Republic).  This is an important advance in linking transportation infrastructure with equity considerations, as well as tighter integration between land use intensity and development and transit infrastructure

-- Similarly during the recession, to keep a development active, a Tempe developer created a senior housing development, Encore on Farmer, as an integral element of the program, funded in part by tax credits ("Rare housing mix: Affordable, new," AR).  They've since done similar projects elsewhere in Greater Phoenix.

-- Tempe in Motion, the transportation agency for the City of Tempe is a national best practice model in sustainable mobility, including bike planning, the multi-modal transportation system, the neighborhood-to-activity-center Orbit bus system, promotion of biking and placemaking, etc.

-- Tempe is the home of Arizona State University.  Mill Avenue is the main commercial district for the city, also serving the university population.  Phoenix also has a professional schools campus for the University of Arizona, which is separate from the main campus in Tucson.

-- the Phoenix Biomedical Campus is an impressive initiative linking academic institutions, medial and health firms, nonprofit research institutes, and hospitals

-- the Phoenix Public Market farmers market has a night market on Thursdays, and a cafe building (it had been a store featuring items from farmers and artisan producers, but it wasn't able to make a go of it)

-- Maricopa County--which is huge, over 9,000 square miles--has an expanding bikeways system better than many metropolitan areas

Jobot Coffee

-- the Roosevelt Row arts district, in part comprised of bungalows, is pretty cool.  The APA recognized the district as a "Great Place" earlier this year (likely in advance of next year's conference)

-- While Chandler, Arizona is noteworthy for not agreeing to provide subsidies to professional sports teams in their case for minor league and spring training facilities ("The city that said no to baseball," Bond Buyer) and they are doing just fine, Glendale can't say the same, as deals around hockey and the team arena have pushed the city to the edge ((NHL hockey in Arizona an albatross for Glendale taxpayers," Topeka Capital-Journal).

-- the Grand Canyon is close enough for a visit, so people not having been should add a couple days to their visit. On the way, Prescott, Arizona is interesting and has a number of places that prepare great huevos rancheros

-- Tucson is about two hours away, and is home to the University of Arizona and is noteworthy for launching streetcar service last year. The impetus for the program was a citizen organized effort, not a top-down process.

According to a town engineer in Suburban Tucson, already the streetcar has repositioned Downtown Tucson as a premier location for nightlife and new residential and business development, when before the streetcar it was moribund.

-- One of the geotourism efforts supported by the National Geographic Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations with the Sonora Institute is for the trans-border Sonora region linking Arizona and Mexico's Sonora State.

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At 9:37 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The Toronto Globe & Mail ran a feature on "Roosevelt Row,:" mentioning some places to see. People coming in for the conference should come in on Friday so they can attend the First Friday Artwalk.


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