“Mobile is a wonderful city: It’s smaller and more damaged than New Orleans, but absolutely taking off and full of young people,” planner Andres Duany told Better! Cities & Towns, which published a report in the current issue. Duany Plater-Zyberk did a plan for revitalization of 200 blocks downtown and adjacent neighborhoods in the Alabama city. About half of downtown’s urban fabric has been demolished over the years — so redevelopment sites are abundant, he notes. The Alabama Department of Transportation has budgeted the removal of a massive cloverleaf feeding I-10 on the southern edge of downtown, which will open up a new development district envisioned by planners. The plan also calls for a miniature version of the “High Line” — an elevated park that pops over a surface highway — to connect downtown to an underused waterfront. Mobile peaked in population in 1960 and has dropped by less than 10,000 since — and the city is poised for a new round of growth now that Airbus plans to start construction this year of an aircraft factory 2.5 miles from downtown.
Downtown Wichita has had $372 million in development in since 2010, with another $112 million underway or about to break ground in 2013, according to a report in the current issue of Better! Cities & Towns. Population of the 800-acre downtown is expected to more than double by the middle of this decade. Wichita, not a “creative class” mecca, is seeing many of the same trends that downtowns are experiencing nationally with a rise in demand and revitalization. Prior to the recent activity, Wichita’s downtown had “epicenters of vitality, but they weren’t connected,” says Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation. The city, under mayor Carl Brewer, hired Goody Clancy to create a downtown plan and brought in market experts to get a precise picture of the development potential. Key investments made in connection with the plan were streetscape improvements, conversion of one way streets to two way, planting of street trees, traffic signalization, and a parking garage, Fluhr says.
In honor of Jane Jacobs's birthday May 4, we offer a recent blog that argues planners should learn from and emulate success rather than failure. That may have been Jane's most important, and least understood, message.
This is not the planning profession John Nolen built. A century later, our great recession has sparked a full re-evaluation of what a city’s urban planning department should be ‘doing’ for its citizens.
A recent blog from Twin Cities Sidewalks highlights growing evidence that vehicle miles may have peaked. If the right policies are put in place, vehicle miles can go down even as the population and economy rises. The graph dramatically shows the historical trends of vehicle miles traveled in the US and how they have changed in recent years. Young adults, who may set the direction for generations to come, are on a steep downward trajectory. After that graph came out, the Federal Highway Administration reported that only 67 percent of 16-to-24 year olds had driver's licenses in 2011, the lowest level since statistics have been kept. For cities, where more alternative transportation options are available, the trend is potentially stronger: from 2005 to 2009, as the population of Washington, DC, grew by 15,000, car registrations in the District dropped by 15,000, according to Jeff Speck in Walkable City. This adds impetus to getting rid of policies like minimum parking requirements (why turn America into even more of a parking lot than it already is?). Let's, instead, go with the flow and spend more on walking, biking, and mass transit, and less on expanding highway capacity for cars that likely will not be there.
Accessibility for seniors includes walkable proximity to daily needs and transit. Still, with my own parents in mind, I’ve been looking at places that have been taking supportive aging to the next step.