Review> If/Then, the Musical, Follows the Life of an Urban Planner

Art, East, On View, Review
Monday, April 14, 2014
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Idina Menzel and the cast of If/Then. (Joan Marcus)

Idina Menzel and the cast of If/Then. (Joan Marcus)

If/Then
Richard Rogers Theater
226 West 46th Street, New York
Scheduled to play through October 12, 2014

THINK OF EACH PLAZA, PIER, AND PUBLIC PARK—
HOW MANY SIT THERE EMPTY, LONELY, DARK—

The Broadway musical If/Then starts in Madison Square Park with its unmistakable folding seats, tables, and umbrellas, a signature of Janette Sadik-Khan’s overhauling of public spaces during the Bloomberg administration. In this musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (the team behind Next to Normal) city planner Elizabeth (Idina Menzel) returns to New York from Arizona where she’s just gotten out of a failed marriage—and urban sprawl.

Continue reading after the jump.

Demolishing Dallas’ I-345 To Make Room for Economic Growth

(Courtesy A New Dallas)

(Courtesy A New Dallas)

Big spaces, big cities, big freeways. This equation has held ground since the boom of major road developments in the 1970s. But a Dallas group lead by urban designer Patrick Kennedy is fighting that conception. He and his initiative, A New Dallas, are pushing a proposal that has been steadily gaining support since it began two years ago. Interstate 345 is an eight lane, 1.4 mile stretch of elevated highway that serves roughly 200,000 commuters weekly. Kennedy wishes to demolish the structure completely, replacing it with a major surface street, four new parks, $4 billion in new private investment, and homes for 25,000 Dallas residents.

Continue reading after the jump.

Planner Friends of Dorothy: Chicago Launches LGBT Urban Planning Social Group

Eavesdroplet, Midwest
Monday, April 7, 2014
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(Courtesy Moxie)

(Courtesy Moxie)

Chicago’s urban planning history is epic and, therefore, it’s no surprise that the city draws young folks fresh out of school with their MUPs, MPAs, and MPPs in droves (yours truly was one these eight years ago). However, Eavesdrop had no clue how many of them were gay until a couple weeks ago. A young buck, Daniel Ronan—fresh (meat) off the boat from Portland, Oregon—started an LGBT social group for planner and policy folks called Moxie. The inaugural meeting, which took place at Hubbard Inn, was well-attended, including not one, but two AN contributors and Dr. Curtis Winkle, the department head at UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. And some hot guy from our gym whom Eavesdrop didn’t know was a planner—heyyy!

The next meetup takes place on Thursday, April 17 at the Vinyl Lounge Chicago. RSVP here.

Minneapolis Mayor cheers on Nicollet Mall revamp

Nicollet Walk Tree Groves (COURTESY JAMES CORNER FIELD OPERATIONS)

Nicollet’s Crystal Stair (COURTESY JAMES CORNER FIELD OPERATIONS)

As a team of designers gear up for an overhaul of Nicollet Mall, dubbed Minneapolis’ main street, civic leaders there have cheered on the project in an op-ed in the StarTribune. Read More

Civic group calls on Chicago to expand car-free zones

Harry and Guenter Kempf Plaza in Chicago's Lincoln Square. (Google Maps)

Harry and Guenter Kempf Plaza in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. (Google Maps)

The jostle of potholes notwithstanding, motorists might find nothing unbalanced about Chicago’s public streets. But the Active Transportation Alliance points out while nearly a quarter of the city is in the public right-of-way, cars dominate practically all of it.

Citing the city’s Make Way for People initiative, which turns over underused street space to pedestrians, the group released 20 proposals Wednesday, calling on City Hall to create car-free spaces from Wrigley Field to Hyde Park. Read More

Pittsburgh’s New Mayor to “Focus On Underserved Neighborhoods”

City Terrain, Midwest, News, Urbanism
Friday, January 10, 2014
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Pittsburgh (Sakeeb Sabakka via flickr)

(Sakeeb Sabakka via flickr)

Pittsburgh’s new mayor took office this week, and with him comes a cabinet division dedicated to neighborhood development. The Steel City has largely scrubbed its image as an ailing post-industrial town in recent years, drawing in new artists and young professionals, but the revival has not touched all parts of the city equally.

Continue reading after the jump.

New SimCity “Green Utopias” Offer Futuristic Glimpse of Imagined Cities

National
Monday, November 4, 2013
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SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow Allows Players to Plan Virtual Futuristic Utopias. (Courtesy EA, Inc)

SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow Allows Players to Plan Virtual Future Utopias. (Courtesy EA)

In 50 to 75 years, SimCity, the virtual city-building game just about every architect or planner has played around with at some point, imagines an average metropolis taking two routes—a sustainability-based, green utopia or a money-driven, oil-dependent corruption—and gives players the tools to construct these futures.

Continue reading after the jump. (Video)

APA Hands Out National Planning Excellence Awards

Midwest, National
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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Philadelphia's Integrated Planning and Zoning Process won National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice, namely its "innovative approach to leveraging the synergy between citizen education, planning, and zoning reform." (Courtesy APA)

Philadelphia’s Integrated Planning and Zoning Process won National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice, namely its “innovative approach to leveraging the synergy between citizen education, planning, and zoning reform.” (Courtesy APA)

Northwest Indiana’s 2040 masterplan took home top honors for comprehensive planning last week, when the American Planning Association handed out its 2013 National Planning Excellence Awards. The association also saluted 12 projects with the first-ever National Planning Achievement Awards.

Tying into a major theme at this year’s conference, the APA award winners tended toward projects with an ambitious scope, such as Philadelphia’s sweeping planning and zoning rewrite and New York’s Zone Green initiative.

Continue reading after the jump.

On View> Layered SPURA: Spurring Conversations Through Visual Urbanism

East
Monday, January 30, 2012
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(Courtesy Parsons)

(Courtesy Parsons)

Layered SPURA: Spurring Conversations Through Visual Urbanism
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School
66 Fifth Ave.
Through February 25

The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) that occupies 14 square blocks on the Lower East Side has remained one of the largest underdeveloped city-owned parcels of land for more than 40 years. Very few of the originally-planned buildings came to pass, and vast parking lots created by slum-clearance on the south side of Delancey Street symbolize a hotly contested renewal plan. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani and students of the New School’s City Studio have spent three years investigating the complex issues surrounding the site, and in an exhibition highlighting their research and artwork they propose to instigate a new grassroots conversation rather than a top-down planning vision.

City in China Disappears Overnight

International, Newsletter
Thursday, October 13, 2011
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Chaohu city is officially canceled. (Courtesy anhuinews.com)

Chaohu city in China has been canceled. It wasn’t a small city. In fact the population of more than 4 million is comparable to Los Angeles, the Phoenix metro area, and the whole of South Carolina, but that is now irrelevant data, since Chaohu’s official city status was annihilated on August 22. Although buildings and inhabitants remain as proof of a once-coherent city plan and living organism, the land has since been divided into three parts and absorbed by its neighbors, Hefei, Wuhu and Ma’anshan.

Continue reading after the jump.

Help! Only Two Votes Needed To Fix California’s Infill Policy

West
Thursday, September 1, 2011
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California Capitol Building. (Courtesy jjkbach)

California Capitol Building. (Courtesy jjkbach)

Okay, let’s take advantage of this Democracy thing, folks… Today you have the rare opportunity to shape urban planning policy in California by convincing a few swing voters in the state’s Senate to support AB 710, the Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011. Apparently the bill is two votes shy of passage. If passed it would do a number of things to improve the state’s sprawling urban development policy, including… Read More

QUICK CLICKS> Model Cities, Food Deserts, McMansion Decline, Green Infill

Daily Clicks
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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(Image via www.azcentral.com)

 

Toy Cities. Our friends at Planetizen tell us that Avondale, AZ had urban planner James Rojas over for a playdate of sorts. Citizens who took part in this re-visioning session got to use pipecleaners, Legos, blocks, and other assorted toys to build their ideal version of the city. According to Rojas, this bottom-up community planning method breaks down barriers and allows people to exercise a degree of creativity not often found at the typical charrette.

Food Oases. Streetsblog questions the much hyped notion of the “food desert”:  is it media myth or reality?  It seems that urban areas aren’t always as lacking in food stores as they seem, at least depending on your definition of supermarket. Even the USDA, who recently debuted their new food desert locator, might be a bit confused about what constitutes a food desert. (In fact, the web application says that a part of Dedham, MA is a food desert. Maybe they don’t count the Star Market that’s right near that Census tract…)

Suburban Swan Song. Slate’s architecture columnist Witold Rybczynski has penned an obit of sorts to that symbol of suburban sprawl, the McMansion. He posits that when the recession is over people will be in the mood to buy homes again, but that they may be hesitant to purchase a behemoth of a building that costs a lot to heat and cool.

Green Alert. Inhabitat takes a look at the latest in the green roof trend in the form of sloping roofs on townhomes in the City of Brotherly Love. It seems that the historic Center City has a new (and almost LEED certified) infill development called Bancroft Green. The high-end homes here sport some nifty plant covered roofs as well as geothermal heating and herb gardens that capture storm runoff and spaces designed specifically for bicycle storage.

 

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