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, January 01, 2016

New Year's Post: 2016

With all due respect to U2, there are a few changes on New Year's Day in 2016.  Best wishes for 2016!

1.  2016 is the 100th anniversary of the US National Park system.
-- The Future of America's National Parks (2007)
-- "How National Parks Tell Our Story—and Show Who We Are," National Geographic Magazine.  NG will be running articles throughout the year on the National Parks and the anniversary.

2.  2016 is the 50th anniversary of the US National Historic Preservation Act.

3.  In 2016, the European Capitals of Culture are Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain) and Wrocław (Poland).

4.  In 2016, the European Green Capital is Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Next year it's Essen, Germany, which I visited in 2014. Hopefully I can figure out a way to go back.)
-- EU webpage, with application
-- Green Ljubljana, European green capital 2016

5.  In 2016, the European Youth Capital is in Ganja, Azerbaijan.  Ganja is outside of the EU, but the EU Capital designation programs occasionally stray outside of the formal EU membership boundaries for various reasons  including strengthening contact between the EU and nearby nations.  For example, Istanbul was the Capital of Culture in 2010, but Turkey is not an EU member (although it is expected to happen at some point in the future).

6.  In 2016 (held every two years), the World Design Capital is Taipei, Taiwan.
-- World Design Capital 2016 Taipei|

In some years, I've written posts on New Year's Day, such as this series in 2011:

-- New Years post #7: Anacostia and sustainable economic development and revitalization
-- New years post #6 -- the crazy thing about U.S. zoning is that it's not designed to maximize overall land value
-- New years post #5: DC City New years post #5: DC City Council Committees and striving to be a world class city
-- New years post #4: How to Keep Resolutions and change behavior
-- New Years post #3: How about more community self-help
-- New Years post #2: sustainability and energy
-- New Years post #1

Although for the most part, posts like these are still relevant 5 years later.

Some world class actions I wish that the city where I live would take.  Aaron Renn of Urbanophile/The Manhattan Institute gives me the credit for making the point that "world class cities don't just take, they give."

It extends from a point made by Charles Landry in The Art of City Making.  The idea is that world class cities act "big" and the policies and practices they enact and implement end up being examples for others.  Paris, London, Singapore, Tokyo are places that come to mind.

Think NYC under Mayor Bloomberg and the way the city started "giving space back" to pedestrians (and bicyclists) by taking it away from roads.

NYC wasn't the first city to do that.  But they did it on a bigger scale and with a lot more visibility than other cities ("15 Ways Janette Sadik-Khan Is Making New York City A Better Place," Business Insider), not just in the US but on a global scale.

The same with Paris and bike sharing.  They were by no means the first.  But they were the biggest by a factor of 3x or 4x.  In both cases, these cities set the stage for other cities to adopt and adapt these programs and create similar practices their own jurisdictions.

This year, I don't have enough critical distance and perspective to write something like that.  Maybe a list of a few things that the city could do that would be "world class" or at least transformational (not in order) in the context of the US and/or the multi-state region:

- legislate the Idaho Stop for bicycling.  Paris did it and the world hasn't ended.
-- "Paris follows the path of Idaho, and lets bicycles run red lights," Public Radio International

- commit to, plan, fund and build Metrorail transit expansion within the city, starting with the separated Silver Line (formerly blue in this 2001 graphic from the Washington Post).  I have updated my ideas on Metrorail expansion more recently and will post about it soon.
Proposed changes for the WMATA system, 2001 (separated blue line)

- to fund it, increase the height limit at the core (this would increase the value of commercial property thereby increasing the property tax revenue stream which could finance bonds)
-- DC Height Study Public Meetings This Week and the long term implications for transit expansion in DC

- with Maryland and Virginia and the federal government (not likely while Republicans control Congress) pass a multi-jurisdictional transportation withholding tax (versement transport) on wage income to fund transit and transportation improvements
-- Musy vision won't yield great transit

- work with Maryland and Virginia to combine the MARC and VRE railroad commuter services into one integrated system and work to extend services with MD, VA, DC, WV, DE, and PA
- and to integrate Metrorail fare systems with MARC and VRE
-- One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example

- add yard waste and other "waste diversion" programs by starting with differentiated waste collection programs in the outer city
-- More on zero waste practice

- rethink/reposition the Central Library as the city's leading "local" cultural asset.  I intend to write a position paper on this sometime in 2016.
-- The Central Library planning process in DC as another example of gaming the capital improvements planning and budgeting process
-- National Library Week

- create a local fine arts museum separate from the national museum system which has a different agenda not focused on anchoring local arts.  I realized a couple months ago that I blew it when writing a couple years ago on the debacle of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  Instead of allowing the Gallery to dissolve, with the National Gallery and GWU taking it over, it should have been taken over by the city and reconfigured as a "local" fine arts museum.

- pilot the International Garden Festival/International Building Exhibition large scale revitalization programs in Germany in the US, as a way to reshape and improve the economic circumstances of the "East of the River" section of the city.  This is a way to develop the "Marshall Plan" for Wards 7 and 8 that one of these days I will finally write.
-- DC has a big "Garden Festival" opportunity in the Anacostia River
-- European Garden Festivals as a model urban planning initiative

- pilot a US Green Capital program modeled after the European Green Capital program as a way to further focus cities on developing sustainable practice, with DC as the first city designated.  Other cities are way ahead of DC on sustainability (other than the number of LEED buildings, which is a function of the nature of the real estate market, not something that the city "did"), although the city is moving forward, and the water system has implemented one of the world's most innovative energy production systems as part of the treatment process.
-- "San Diego Vows to Move Entirely to Renewable Energy in 20 Years," New York Times

- redevelop the Walter Reed campus around biotechnology and life sciences, in addition to the residential and real estate program currently slated for the site.  More on this later.

- make more of the city's organization processes focused in a systematic way on generating outcomes that strengthen and improve neighborhoods
-- Outline for a proposed ward focused (DC) Councilmember platform and agenda
-- Rethinking community planning around maintaining neighborhood civic assets and anchors
-- The layering effect: how the building blocks of an integrated public realm set the stage for community building
-- Transit stations and placemaking: stations as entrypoints into neighborhoods

- DC Public Schools should shift meal services to "family style preparation and service" as a new competitive advantage.  I wrote about this a couple years ago, suggesting that instead of looking at food service as a cost and something to outsource, the school system should rethink food as a part of "school" and a way to teach and shape behavior--in short, as a competitive advantage.  Note that I am told, but haven't had a chance to follow up, that the CentroNia charter school in Columbia Heights does something along these lines.

A third-grader serves milk at the Umejima Elementary School lunchroom. Ko Sasaki/For The Washington Post.

I mention this because of the recent increased attention on this issue more generally, which bugs me because it's something that I dealt with 25 years ago working at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Commenter christopher pointed out in a comment thread that in Japan, elementary school kids serve lunch and clean up after, although the meals are prepared by professionals.
-- Shrinking to oblivion: managing the demise of the DC Public School system
-- "A top chef from a world-famous restaurant wants to fix America's school lunches, Washington Post (2015)
--  "On Japan’s school lunch menu: A healthy meal, made from scratch," Washington Post (2013)

DDOT should create and empower a new position of "Chief Thoroughfare Architect" comparable in authority to the "Chief Engineer" with responsibility for ensuring that the urban design, placemaking, and civic architecture elements within DDOT projects.
-- How I would approach organizing the DC master transportation planning process and plan
-- DC's bad urban design as it relates to new transportation infrastructure
-- Lies, damn lies, and obfuscations: placemaking, place qualities, historic preservation and transportation infrastructure
-- Transportation bridges as an element of civic architecture, urban design, and placemaking
-- Transit (transportation) infrastructure as an element of civic architecture
-- Design as a city branding strategy: transit edition
-- An argument for the aesthetic quality of the ensemble: special design guidelines are required for DC's avenues
Montpellier France trams, livery design by Christian Lacroix
Montpellier France trams, livery design by Christian Lacroix.

Tunnel of Lights, Railroad Park, Birmingham, Alabama,  "Light Rails" by Bill FitzGibbons
Tunnel of Lights, Railroad Park, Birmingham, Alabama, "Light Rails" by Bill FitzGibbons. Photograph by Jenna Nicole Photography.

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