Sponsor News Briefs

Andrews University students recently created a new urban plan for a small community in Harrison County, Mississippi, that is experiencing significant growth in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Saucier, which has about 200 people in its village center, sits at the junction of Highway 49 from Gulfport and the new Highway 67 from Biloxi.

The Arlington County Board in northern Virginia has approved two new projects that are expected to help revitalize the Columbia Pike by following the Pike’s three-year-old form-based code. One project is Penrose Square, which will include a Giant supermarket, 36,000 sq. ft. of additional retail, and 299 apartments, along with a public square that will act as a hub for the corridor’s Town Center area. The project is a joint venture of BM Smith and Carbon Thompson Development LLC.

They’ve been called “mortgage helpers in the sky,” and they are a new twist on the granny flat. They are “flex suites,” or condominiums that are designed to be subdivided. Households can close off a portion of the unit, designed as a small efficiency opening on the hallway, to rent it out. Like accessory units in the back of single homes, they both offer an affordable housing option and help to make the primary units affordable to the family by lowering the mortgage payments.

Slowly but surely, local governments in the Syracuse, New York, area are implementing ideas that Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) introduced during an October 1999 charrette. The DPZ-prepared Settlement Plan for Onondaga County has still not been formally adopted, but Karen Kitney, director of the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency, says its principles underlie much of the agency’s work.

Fourteen states have enacted visitability legislation, and at least 24 cities have modified their building codes to make new houses accessible to disabled visitors, the American Planning Association newsletter Zoning Practice reported in an April issue on “universal design.” The legislation requires or encourages new houses to have such features as a zero-step entrance, wide interior doors, first-floor halls wide enough for a wheelchair, and a first-floor bathroom. “Most of the ordinances are restricted to publicly funded housing projects,” the newsletter said.

PlaceMatters, an initiative of the Orton Family Foundation, has established a website at www.placematters.org. PlaceMatters is a network of practitioners involved in what the Foundation calls “the art and science of planning for vibrant and sustainable communities.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Orton Family Foundation will develop new planning tools and processes that coastal communities can use. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation will give the Orton Family Foundation $250,000 to introduce the program “in select ‘showcase’ coastal communities where growth pressures are competing with ecological health,” the two foundations announced.

The population of American downtowns rose 10 percent during the 1990s, reversing 20 years of decline, according to a new study by Eugenie L. Birch of the University of Pennsylvania’s planning school. Birch examined downtown population, household, and income trends in 44 cities from 1970 to 2000 for a Brookings Institution report, “Who Lives Downtown.” She found that the number of downtown households grew 13 percent in the 1990s, reflecting a proliferation of smaller households made up of singles, unrelated individuals living together, and childless married couples.

Three hundred and fifty participants from all over Israel attended the first conference of Merhav, the Movement for Israeli Urbanism (MIU), held on December 12 and 13 in Be’er-Sheva, according to US urbanist Dhiru Thadani of Ayers Saint Gross Architects, the keynote speaker at the conference.

The Orton Family Foundation has launched Scenarios, a semi-annual e-journal that will focus on “local place.” Each issue will highlight a planning theme or idea related to place. The journal is on the web at www.orton.org/scenarios.

The Orton Family Foundation in Rutland, Vermont, helped the Vermont Forum on Sprawl create “Pathways to Planning,” a web-based tool that helps people assess conditions in their communities and figure out how to act against sprawl. “Our hope is that this tool will be applicable in any state (or region),” says Karen Yacos, community planning and practices program manager for the foundation.