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.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Downtown Edmonton cultural facilities development as an example of "Transformational Projects Action Planning"

If I had to pick say five major lessons from my involvement over the past 18 years or so in urban revitalization in a major city, one would be that we need to harness the value and power of "networks" to leverage the opportunity for improvement.

My writings on leveraging new transit infrastructure as a way to drive complementary changes across the extant transit "network" ("Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 2 | proposed parallel improvements across the transit network" and "Using the Silver Line as the priming event, what would a transit network improvement program look like for Northern Virginia?") or a city/conurbation like Silver Spring ("Creating a Silver Spring Sustainability Mobility District") are examples.

As I wrote in "(Big Hairy) Projects Action Plan(s) as an element of Comprehensive/Master Plans," there were many influences on my thinking in terms of developing the TPAP concept as an element of master planning at the city-wide and sub-city scales, including learnings from Bilbao ("Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning) and other European cities like Dublin, Hamburg, Helsinki, Liverpool, and Marseille, which I wrote about for a writing project commissioned by the EU National Institutes of Culture Washington Chapter project in Baltimore (entries archived at "Europe in Baltimore").

But it wasn't just foreign examples.  Portland's steady progress in developing a pro-center city agenda is one ("A summary of my impressions of Portland, Oregon and planning," 2005).  Cultural facility development programs by the Playhouse Square CDC in Cleveland ("Real estate value capture and the arts," 2010) and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust ("Pittsburgh Cultural Trust maintains diverse real estate portfolio to support arts," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; "How the Arts Drove Pittsburgh's Revitalization," The Atlantic) as well as the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative also in Pittsburgh.

Another leader is Oklahoma City and the program they created for infrastructure and project development called "Metropolitan Area Projects" or MAP.  Note that while called "Metropolitan" the projects are funded specifically by residents in Oklahoma City and the program doesn't extend beyond the city.

And the Community Works program in Hennepin County, Minnesota ("A County and Its Cities: the Impact of Hennepin Community Works," Journal of Urban Affairs, 30:3, 2008) complemented by the since ended Neighborhood Revitalization Program in Minneapolis.

Multi-jurisdictional districts like the Detroit area's Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Parks Authority, the Regional Asset District in (Pittsburgh) Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and (Greater) Denver's Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are other examples.

A major influence was the work of Toronto planner Joe Berridge, who outlined a vision of a variety of transformational projects for Toronto in the late 1990s. While not an official document, most of what he recommended came to fruition ("Toronto needs to take one last step to reach civic greatness" and "Toronto needs a new wave of world-scale projects," Toronto Star). Just think how much more could have been accomplished had the official planning processes been more purposive. Perhaps Toronto wouldn't be facing a transit crisis because of the failure to take on the "Downtown Relief Line" ("Subway crowding at crisis level," TS).

An article, "Six projects that are reshaping Downtown Edmonton," in the Toronto Globe & Mail, is another example of what I mean by embarking on a set of transformational projects as a way to further urban revitalization and success.

The point is to stich these up into a program and seize every opportunity to wring out and realize all the potential and possibilities, to achieve even more than can be achieved by any one project.

The six (seven) projects in Edmonton are:
  • a new building for the Royal Alberta Museum which is twice the size of the old building, near to the Alberta Art Gallery and with a direct underground connection to the Edmonton Light Rail system
  • a renovated and expanded central library, the Stanley A. Milner Library
  • Allard Hall, MacEwan University -- the arts building is part of the program that has shifted the university's campus from the West End to Downtown Edmonton by adaptively reusing an old railyard; the building has two theatres and an art gallery on the ground floor that will be facilities used by the curriculum but also open to the public, better engaging the university with the city outside its doors
  • Arts Habitat Edmonton: ArtsCommon and Artists Quarters -- affordable housing and live work units for artists
  • Edmonton Opera Centre, besides the auditorium, the facility includes set construction and costume facilities open to other performing arts groups
  • Winspear Music Centre, home to the city's symphony orchestra, is developing an additional facility which will replace a parking lot with a 600-seat theatre and a community arts facility.
The seventh project is in the West End, where the old arts building for MacEwan University has been purchased by the city for redevelopment as a multi-faceted arts hub and cultural center.

I'd call this effort in Edmonton a TPAP for cultural facilities.

As I argue in:

-- "Arts, culture districts and revitalization," 2009
-- "The Howard and Lincoln Theatres: run them like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust/Playhouse Square Cleveland model," 2012
-- "BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building," 2016
--  When BTMFBA isn't enough: keeping civic assets public through cy pres review," 2016
-- "BTMFBA revisited: nonprofits and facilities planning and acquisition," 2016
-- "Should community culture master plans include elements on higher education arts programs?," 2016

facilities planning and development should be a fundamental element within community cultural plans.

Separately, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a model example of managing multiple arts facilities across a district to foster cultural endeavors and revitalization, is looking to open a cinema in Downtown Pittsburgh ("Pittsburgh Cultural Trust considers movie theater on Sixth Street," Pittsburgh Business Times) to broaden the cultural offer there.

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At 6:58 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Richard -

Good post, but I am going to zero in on your comment on Toronto's Relief Line.

I don't know much about it, but it is critical to keep in mind that, if built, the line will create new HRT trips and not eliminate or reroute existing trips. Therefore, in a manner of speaking, it doesn't reallocate HRT access from existing riders to potential future riders who may be more affluent or live in a more desirable location. While WMATA here has much bigger concerns than its five-year-old subway loop proposal, I do remind decision makers that many riders that currently have direct access to job centers will be required to make time-consuming transfers if the subway loop were ever built.

Also, it is fair to keep in mind that our friends to the north don't insult their riders' intelligence by equating HRT with mixed-traffic LRT, streetcars, or BRT. As you know, I am a fan of all forms of transit and I am quite cognizant of the capital costs and time to plan and build an HRT line. But my general belief is that these projects need to be "done right the first time," so that transit planners and agencies aren't stuck juggling multiple transit modes or burdening themselves political fallout from building buses in some neighborhoods while others enjoy heavy rail.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'd say the trick is using a BHAP is order to activate networks.

again going back to mental models.

Very different worlds (software development vs urban development) but then again true value is created at the intersection of disciplines.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Paul, the DRL should not be confused with the SmartTrack program and other initiatives of the current mayor of Toronto, John Tory. That's mostly focused on better utilizing commuter rail, adding some stations, and then the debacle with "replacing" the 7 station Scarborough RT with one subway station.

Like NYC and Boston's Orange Line, the biggest transit problems that certain cities like Toronto have are capacity related. Very popular, more development, therefore more riders. And the systems haven't been upgraded (specifically with modern signals) to take on more riders, and at some point, regardless, you hit capacity.

They have two main lines and more than one million riders on the lines. The problem with capacity is at the core.

Instead of adding core capacity, to placate various political interests they've been doing some line extensions outward, but all that does is create more pressure on the core. And for the investment, it doesn't add a lot of ridership (e.g., the new extension to Vaughn, while providing two stops to a major destination, York University, will add only 40,000 to 50,000 riders/day).

WRT Toronto, Steve Munro is one of the leading advocates:

They should have been dealing with this for years, just like for DC creating a separated Silver or Blue line and adding another cross-river connection north.

... again, how it could have been allowed to create a Silver Line extension without also dealing with what this would do to the core remains unbelievable to me.

I've been writing about that since 2006. This was the first piece:

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

charlie -- interesting point. If by "activating" you also mean creating.

This is the big thing that gets me about the 'hood, with transit, with sub-city development.

E.g., ANCs are potentially a network. Commercial district revitalization programs are potentially a network.

But we haven't built the technical assistance and capacity building and organizational structures to realize that.

My ANC right now is going through a totally f*ed period right now, and I fault this multiple scale failure.

... then again, I think about "democracy" theoretically and maybe people are just incapable forever.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

about software....

when I first read "Cathedral and the Bazaar," first the essay, then the book, about open source software development, I was struck by how relevant this was to participatory democracy.

I haven't read Tim O'Reilly's stuff about the exaltation of software and digitalization vis a vis "government" but I see a lot of that is wacked granted the tools can be valuable.

My piece on this, keying on the design method as opposed to digitalization and softare, but making the point that what really matters besides the design method is willingness to be open, transparent, participatory, etc.

again, that focus on openness, transparency, participation is theoretical. Maybe in the digital world, analogue forms of process can't compete.


At 12:09 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

(Oh, I read it c. 2002 at the height of my period of involvement fervence on H Street, Main Street, etc.)

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Note that I went back in and added three paragraphs after the stuff on Bilbao/EU referencing US examples of TPAPs.

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

The links are from the guys who ran Windows for Microsoft for about 10 years.

So yes, basically the same problem and issues; you'll notice he think the move fast and break things (Ezra Klein) doesn't work well.

Also this:

You don't inherit democracy, you have to go out and earn it.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

re: first paragraph of Disinfo. article, reminds me of some of the stuff in the book _Friday_ by Heinlein. When you queried the info system about who owned it, that was a null question that couldn't be answered.

wrt traditional news outlets, the author isn't totally fair. It's true though that as "national" news outlets are concerned, we seem to be down to the Times and the Post.

But other papers, including the LA Times and the unmentioned WSJ do great reporting on some stuff. Even USA Today has done a bunch of important stories.

But they don't seem to get the same kind of resonance.

wrt earning democracy... despite all that I write, I am not particularly hopeful, just thinking about a handful of things I am involved in (my neighborhood ANC, Eastern Market, and the city more generally).

And that isn't anything when it comes to national.

But yes, Domhoff was-is-remains right.

And money really matters (Kochs, Mercers, etc.).


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