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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A proposal for a DCResidentCulturePass in DC

Two errors in one day. Not good.

John Suau, Executive Director of the Historical Society of Washington points out that I mis-remembered what I read about access to HSW collections being made available at the Newseum, and the Newseum extending free access to HSW members during the period that Newseum is housing the collection.

I wrote:
The HSW collections will be accessible at the Newseum in the interim, and the Newseum is extending free access to its museum to HSW members during that time.
The reality as relayed by Mr. Suau:
Access to the Historical Society is via the Group Entrance on C Street; prior appointment is required for access to the Historical Society on 3M in the Newseum. The Historical Society does not charge a fee for services (we are a private 501(c)(3) that receives only nominal support from the District). This entrance does not allow for free access to the Newseum's exhibits and program.
-- HSW press release on access to collections while the Carnegie Building is closed for construction 

In any case, I am glad I mis-remembered, because it led to a very good idea, and this post. In fact, to build membership, Newseum should consider doing what I thought they were doing.

I have corrected the text below.

This poster from the 1970s advertised free admissions nights at museums in New York City and was designed by Alan Peckolick, who recently died ("Alan Peckolick, a Leading Logo Designer, Dies at 76," New York Times).

Culture notesThe new Museum of the Bible about to open in DC has announced that admissions fees will be voluntary, in part because by being in DC, they will be competing with the Smithsonian Institution museums and the National Gallery of Art, which are free.

The Historical Society of Washington's "second floor" of the old Carnegie (Library) Building will be closed during the building's first floor conversion to an Apple Store.  The HSW collections will be accessible at the Newseum in the interim, and the Newseum is extending free access to its museum to HSW members during that time, by appointment and through the special group entrance on 5th Street. Access to the HSW collection does not include free access to the Newseum exhibits.

Last month, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History announced they would be closing its IMAX theater and replacing it with an expanded food service operation.

I write a lot about cultural planning, cultural heritage, and heritage tourism, mostly in the context of Washington, DC and my identification of the gap between serving local audiences and telling the "Cultural resources planning in DC: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," 2007) versus being the place where the national story is told and how national power is projected through the various federal cultural institutions ("Dancing with the one that brung ya and challenging the dominant narrative," 2008).

And about arts and culture and urban revitalization ("Arts, culture districts and revitalization," 2009, and "BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building," 2016).

In keeping with my line that "I might not be a good planner, but I am great at gap analysis," it turns out that this ends up being a good place to discern gaps in cultural planning practice, especially because DC as a local place has ceded the provision and development of what would be a local cultural facilities ecosystem to the federal government, ending up with a situation where the local cultural program and offer is severely stunted.

Although DC is going through a culture master planning process, since they haven't reached out to me, I wonder about how good the plan will be.  That might sound "conceited" but outside of academia, the reality is that few people in the city are considering these issues in quite the same way.

Then again, they have decent consultants, and there is a standard approach to cultural master planning which tends to yield good work, e.g., Boston, Chicago, etc., even if I argue that there are plenty of gaps in the process of creating culture master plans leaving important elements of the cultural ecosystem unexamined, such as with higher education ("Should community culture plans include elements on higher education," 2016), cultural media, and local filmmaking ("Culture planning at the metropolitan scale should include funding for "local" documentary film making," 2016).

Not to mention that even bigger institutions have a problem finding affordable space in DC's expensive real estate ("D.C. museums lamenting the real estate market," Washington Business Journal).

And the closure of the IMAX Theatre reminds me of my point that local cultural plans still need to make recommendations about other cultural institutions, even those that are federally owned, within their communities when circumstances change.

DC's culture plan needs to consider provision of spaces of all types, including theaters.

Categorizing the audience for museums and cultural facilities in Washington.  Technically, we should first distinguish between presenting institutions, or arts as consumption, and arts as production.  Plus visual arts, natural science, and history museums have a different typology than performing arts, especially theatre, but I am not distinguishing between these two categories.  And the list below is not exhaustive.

Arts centers tend to support working artists, arts as community building, and community arts, while arts museums tend to "present" works by name artists, and may be "encyclopedic," presenting arts and artifacts over centuries.  History-related institutions (museums, historic house museums, sites, etc.) generally don't address "contemporary" matters, although there are exceptions.

We can categorize museums/cultural institutions in Washington, DC into four types.

National museums.  The first set are "federal" or nationally-focused and are positioned to tell the "national story of the United States," project national pride, etc.  These include the various Smithsonian Museums, the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  The museums are free, but performances at the Kennedy Center are not.

This category should include the National monuments (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc.) on the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and the White House, none of which charge admissions, and the Mount Vernon Plantation of George Washington, which does.

These institutions comprise the primary "tourist destinations" that out-of-the-area visitors attend on visits to Washington.

To this category should also be added certain National Parks in the area.

Nationally-focused museums.  The second set is comprised of facilities that aim to draw on the "national" audience, people visiting the city, and are less focused on serving the local community, even if they do so and quite well. 

This category includes the International Spy Museum, the now closed National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the never opened Armenian Genocide Museum of America, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Newseum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the soon to open Museum of the Bible.  Excepting the forthcoming Bible Museum, all charge admissions.  And charging puts them at a disadvantage compared to the "free museums."

Cultural institutions based here.  A third set is facilities offered by institutions based here, and even if the focus of the facility is not local, the audience tends to be made up of locals.  This includes Constitution Hall (Daughters of the American Revolution), the Anderson House of the Society of Cincinnati, the Phillips Collection, the National Building Museum, the German-American Heritage Museum, Dunbarton Oaks, the Hillwood Estate, Folger Shakespeare Library, etc.  Most of these facilities charge admissions.

(The Building Museum would argue it should be in the second category.  Interestingly, while their exhibits are nationally-focused and their sponsors tend to be national firms and organizations, my sense is that their audience is pretty local, so I have them in this category.)

Locally-focused cultural institutions.  The fourth set is facilities focused on serving the local population/telling the local story/or are a part of local institutions.  The foremost local cultural institutions in most communities are the local library system, the local fine arts museum, and the local history museum. 

DC has a local library system, but it doesn't have a local fine arts museum.  The Historical Society tried to create a "City Museum," but it didn't work out. 

While it is fulsome to take the blame, I kick myself for not putting forward the idea that the now defunct Corcoran Gallery be taken over by the city and made over into the local fine arts museum, while shifting the Corcoran School of Art and Design to the University of the District of Columbia ("Should community culture plans include elements on higher education").  Although I don't think DC had the capacity to rise to the challenge and opportunity.

The someday to reopen Children's Museum is one (even though they want to reposition as a national museum), as are the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, and the collections of the Historical Society of Washington, Tudor Place, the Katzen Center at American University, Lisner Auditorium, the Textile Museum and the George Washington University Museum (focused on local history), etc.  Many charge for admission, some don't.

Equity admissions initiatives. Years ago, I came across a program by the Walker Art Center which provides free membership for low income families (How Museums Can Become Visitor Centered, p.14, The Wallace Foundation), and even provides transportation to the museum.

Similarly, the Montgomery County Department of Recreation RecAssist Fund provides free access for low income families. 

The Salt Lake City Library system has worked out an arrangement with five local cultural facilities: Discovery Gateway; The Leonardo; Natural History Museum of Utah; Red Butte Garden, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts; to provide the "Community Exploration Pass," where patrons can check out a pass providing free access to the museums for one month.  (There are limited numbers of passes, but passes are available at all seven branches.)

I am sure there are other examples.

This one isn't quite the same as the others, but, courtesy of the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, residents of New York City can get free admission to the PS1 museum outpost of the Museum of Modern Art, located in Queens, provided they can show id demonstrating their residency. 

Similarly, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters  Museum of Art (Baltimore) have free admission, supported in part I believe by foundations.

And as featured in the museum poster, many museums have one night per week or month when they offer free admission.

CityPass marketing packages are oriented to tourists.  Cities with a large base of tourist visitation tend to have a product called a CityPass, marketed to tourists. 

A CityPass packages a number of attractions into one ticket, at a discount from the list price for individual admission, and can be bought to be used over multiple days.  The San Francisco CityPass includes free transit on the MUNI system--streetcars, cable cars, MUNI Metro, and buses.

In DC, because the primary museums are free, CityPass isn't likely interested in being represented in the market. 

Instead, DestinationDC has created an equivalent product, called the Go Card Explorer Pass.  But since most tourists are primarily interested in the national museums and monuments, it likely isn't a big player in the tourism market, except that it is marketed in association with tourist bus transportation.

Why not a "CityPass" membership package for local residents/How about creating the DCResidentCulturePass.  The relationship between the Newseum and the Historical Society of Washington for the period when access to the HSW archives is on-site at the Newseum gave me an idea.

The cultural institutions that charge admission and focus on serving local audiences (mostly) should create a form of "Resident CityPass" that allows for limited admission privileges at the other institutions, with the aim towards encouraging more visitation and an increased number of memberships.

For example, a pass could include the National Building Museum, the Historical Society, Newseum, Phillips Collection, Tudor Place, Hillwood Estate, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. 

A relevant example is how Disneyland and Disneyworld offer specially priced membership passes for area residents, although the price keeps rising and the benefits reduced ("Disneyland reintroduces Southern California pass for $459," Orange County Register).

Similarly, many years ago when I applied for a job at a "chain-oriented" concert/theatre facility, I made the point that while on any one night they competed with local institutions like the National Theatre, Arena Stage, the Shakespeare Theatre, and the Kennedy Center for selling tickets, the reality is that these institutions collectively comprise the "Downtown DC Cultural Cluster" and they should share audiences, vis-à-vis cultural institutions located outside of the city center.

The idea of "Resident" isn't limited to DC, but to residents in Metropolitan DC who are members of at least one of the proposed participating institutions.  Of course, any relationship a local library system wanted to develop, comparable to that how the Community Exploration Pass works in Salt Lake is up to them.

Other marketing initiatives as examples: two local; one cross-national; one national. Locally, the Dupont-Kalorama Museums Consortium provides free access the first weekend in June.  The participating museums are Anderson House – Society of the Cincinnati, Dumbarton House, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, The National Museum of American Jewish Military History, The Phillips Collection, and Woodrow Wilson House.

On the last weekend of June, the Heritage Montgomery (Montgomery County, Maryland) sponsors Heritage Days, which provide open access to museums and sites across the county, with a special focus on events in the Upper County Agriculture Reserve.

Doors Open Events.  Doors Open is a program like that of the DKMC, but extended to the entire city. 

In North America, Toronto and New York City are two of the cities that offer such programs, although the original concept comes from Europe. 

The Toronto event led to the creation of a similar initiative for the entire Province of Ontario, Doors Open Ontario.  Baltimore's Tourism Day is comparable.  New York's version is called Open House New York and is in October.

Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day Live!.  Nationally, the Smithsonian Magazine sponsors Museum Day Live! where you can get free passes to two museums, chosen from a long list of participating museums.  But usually going to any of the sites is quite a zoo.  This year it's Saturday September 23rd.

DC needs its own Open House/Doors Open event to promote local cultural institutions.  Building on the DMKC Museum Walk the first weekend in June, at a minimum DC needs to create its own Doors Open event to promote local cultural institutions separate from the national institutions, to build local audiences for local culture, and to improve equitable access to cultural institutions on the part of audiences which may be income limited.

Conclusion.  Ideally a DC Doors Open initiative should be paired with a CityResidentCulturePass program.

I wonder if either concept is suggested in the DC Cultural Master Plan draft?

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When brand promises collide: Atlanta Falcons stadium and Chick-Fil-A

Corrected due to major error.  I mixed up the Braves baseball team stadium and the new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons football team.  This error was pointed out in the comment by Alex B., below.  While the text has changed to reflect the correction, the comment text remains.

I have "always" had a problem with the concept of branding because I come out of the nonprofit world, where the focus is on "mission and identity." 

But the reality is that branding is merely a tool used to present and market an organization in a very comprehensive way.  Branding is about identity.

Sure, lots of nonprofit organizations don't use branding very well or look to the private sector to lead their efforts, e.g., Smithsonian's now cancelled initiative with Target, but some organizations including government agencies are leaders in using branding to shape the way they organize and deliver services to spark positive changes. 

Some examples include the way that the Salt Lake City Libraries are branded as "City Library," the Idea Store libraries-adult education centers in the Tower Hamlets Borough in London, or how the Department of Transportation in Tempe Arizona is branded as "Tempe in Motion," or TIM.

In DC, the way that the DC Water and Sewer Authority has rebranded as DC Water and the DC Department of Transportation as d. are other examples, although I would argue in both instances, the brand is more about the logo rather than an extension into every element in how the agencies organize to deliver and market their services.

Government agencies have a lot of opportunity to do a better job through what I call "action planning," which is distinguished from more traditional planning processes by employing the design method, including branding and identity systems, and by integrating program delivery (implementation) into the system.
Slide, action planning as systems integration
I have gotten into "arguments" about this on nonprofit boards that I have served on, in terms of ensuring that what we do is congruent with what is supposed to be the identity and "promise" of the organization.

Those arguments are based on my thinking that boards are the "brand managers" of an organization.  I expressed this concept in the commercial district revitalization framework plans for Brunswick, Georgia and Cambridge, Maryland in 2008 and 2009, writing that:
... elected officials need to take their responsibilities as stewards and managers of a community's image very seriously: 
Just as the study team believes that “we are all destination managers now,” elected and appointed officials in particular and in association with other community stakeholders serve as a community’s “brand managers”—whether or not they choose to think of their roles in this manner. 
That means that decision-making on land use and zoning, business issues, infrastructure development (roads, sewers, water, utilities, transit), technology (broadband Internet, etc.) and quality of place factors (arts, culture, historic preservation and heritage, education, public schools and libraries, urban design, etc.) must be consistent and focused on making the right decisions, the decisions that collectively achieve and support the realization of the community’s desired vision and positioning.
Something else I read termed this as making "brand deposits" or "brand withdrawals," how the decisions and actions concerning a brand either make positive contributions and build the brand or the actions are negative and diminish the value of the brand, its reputation, aspirational qualities, etc.

Atlanta.  This comes up in an interesting way in Atlanta with the new Atlanta Falcons football stadium--the Mercedes Benz Stadium--and one of their food vendors, the Chick-Fil-A chicken fast food chain.  Chick-Fil-A is owned by a religious family and ever since the company's founding in the 1940s they have chosen to be closed on Sundays.

Chick-Fil-A has chosen to keep that policy in force in the stadium, even in the face of the reality that most football games are played on Sundays ("Chick-fil-A addresses decision to close Sundays at Mercedes-Benz Stadium," Atlanta Journal-Constitution; "The Falcons' new stadium has a Chick-fil-A, which won't be open for most Falcon games," Chicago Tribune).  That ought to have been a deal breaker in terms of the expectations of the Atlanta Falcons. 

Besides making the point that the business being open during all events should have been an item in the contract between the managers of the stadiums and the "tenants" (similar to the point I make about cities, stadiums and arenas, and access to transportation being an element of the initial contract, not something to bring up later, especially when the government entity usually has little leverage and must rely on the "goodwill" of the counterparty), this is an illustration of the collision of two very different brand promises.

While I respect the choice of Chick-Fil-A to run their business the way they want and there is no question they have been very successful at doing so ("How Chick-fil-A went from cult favorite to fast food behemoth," Eater; "Chick-fil-A Shifts Brand Strategy from Kows to Customer Experiences," Top Right Partners), the Atlanta Falcons should have represented equally their brand promise which means that all food vendors are operational when the stadiums are open, and not entered into a contract with Chick-Fil-A.

Is an opportunity being created for another firm to step in?  But it could be that this is what we might call a "Reese's Pieces" movement. 

In the movie "E.T." the scriptwriters wrote a scene where E.T. is lured by the children placing a trail of "M&M" candies.  But Mars Corporation didn't want to participate. 

Hershey Chocolate stepped in the breach, and the publicity garnered from this product placement made Reese's Pieces--a line extension of the already successful peanut butter cups--equally successful.  M&M's decision ended up creating a viable competitor when one hadn't existed previously ("Did You Know Spielberg Originally Wanted M&Ms for E.T.?," Moviefone).

Why not "force" stadiums to boost local independent businesses rather than chains?  This is a tricky issue because communities funding stadiums and arenas have different objectives than either professional teams or the leagues, which in turn can have different sponsorship arrangements that clash with support of local business.  (Although recently, the Chicago White Sox developed a tiered sponsorship arrangement, carving out a separate "local craft beer sponsor," from national beer sponsorship relationships in association with a change in agreements. See "White Sox split with Miller, ink beer deal with Modelo Especial," Crain's Chicago Business.)

And the reality is that many sports stadiums and arenas, like the Washington Nationals baseball team, are doing a lot in this realm, even if it tends to be more typical that these become licensing arrangements with a master food service contractor.

Food is now recognized as a major element of the game day experience ("Enhancing the Fan Experience in an Ever Changing Industry," Faithful Gould). A report ("Sports and Entertainment Venues: What do Fans Really Want") based on the ongoing Fan Experience Study by Oracle Hospitality ranks food and beverage as the foremost element of attending an sports event.

While Popeye's is associated with New Orleans and KFC with Kentucky, there are great independent fried chicken purveyors in Greater Atlanta that could leverage a "we are open when the stadium is open" marketing approach to build their business -- outside of the stadium and within it, were the team to choose another vendor.

The Eater article "Where to eat fried chicken in Atlanta" lists sixteen exemplary choices.

Sure Chick-Fil-A is considered an iconic Southern food business and is even based in Georgia, but the reality is their fried chicken isn't any better than KFC or Popeyes.

... although it is interesting to see a professional sports team be on the losing end of this kind of battle, rather than local governments, which are more typically the entity that gets the short end of the stick in such negotiations.

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My joke about President Trump

Is that he represents the "id" of a certain segment of wealthy. But I guess it's a lot worse than I thought.

Social Distortion's song, "Don't Drag Me Down," seems particularly apt at the moment, given the President's ardent defense of white supremacists. Although according to some reports, many younger supremacists "self-radicalize" ("'He didn't learn this at home': What do you do if your child sides with Neo-Nazis," Washington Post). For those who are brought up in a hateful environment, sometimes they can change ("The white flight of Derek Black," Washington Post),but it's likely to be pretty rare, as President Trump proves to us.

"Don't Drag Me Down"

Children are taught to hate
Parents just couldn't wait
Some are rich and some are poor
Others will just suffer more
Have you ever been ashamed
And felt society try to keep you down, I begin to watch things change
And see them turn around
Turn around
They'll try to keep you down
Turn around [x2]
Don't drag me down

Ignorance is like a gun in hand
Reach out to the promised land
Your history books are full of lies
Media-blitz gonna dry your eyes
Have you ever been afraid
And felt society try to keep you down, I begin to watch things change
And see them turn around

Turn around
They'll try to keep you down
Turn around [x2]
Don't drag me down

Ignorance is like a gun in hand, reach out to the promised land
Your history books
Are full of lies, media-blitz gonna dry your eyes
You're eighteen
Wanna be a man
Your granddaddy's in
The Klu Klux Klan
Taking two steps foward
And four steps back
Gonna go to the White House
And paint it black

[x2] Turn around
They'll try to keep you down
Turn around [x2]
Don't drag me

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

There should be a "1% for placemaking" program associated with road projects (separate from incorporating sustainable mobility infrastructure)

wave pattern in sidewalk Biscayne Blvd Miami, Ricardo Burle MarxThe wave pattern in the sidewalks of Biscayne Boulevard, Miami by Ricardo Burle Marx, is similar to what he did along Copacabana Beach in Brazil.

Transportation architecture as civic architecture. The basic point is that it shouldn't be that hard to take the extra time and money to make transportation infrastructure simultaneous recognize its responsibility to function as civic architecture in a manner that enhances communities, rather than merely facilitate the movement of people and goods.

The most current discussion of the concept is developed in "Town-city management: we are all asset managers now."

In keeping with my various writings on "transportation infrastructure as an element of civic architecture," there used to be the "Transportation Enhancements" program funded by the US Highway Trust Fund.  But that program was eliminated by the Republican Congress in the passage of the most recent transportation funding act.

An article in Public Roads magazine, "Making the Journey a Destination," discussed this program, which put aside funding for lots of good stuff:
  • Provision of facilities for pedestrians and bicycles
  • Provision of safety and educational activities for pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Acquisition of scenic easements and scenic or historic sites (including historic battlefields)
  • Scenic or historic highway programs (including the provision of tourist and welcome center facilities)
  • Landscaping and other scenic beautification
  • Historic preservation
  • Rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures, or facilities (including historic railroad facilities and canals)
  • Preservation of abandoned railway corridors (including the conversion and use of the corridors for pedestrian or bicycle trails)
  • Inventory, control, and removal of outdoor advertising
  • Archaeological planning and research
  • Environmental mitigation to address water pollution due to highway runoff or reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality while maintaining habitat connectivity
  • Establishment of transportation museum
Hive (Bleecker Street) (2012) © Leo Villareal, Bleecker Street/Lafayette Street Station, 6, B, D, F, M lines, MTA New York City Transit.

Percent for art programs.  During the Great Depression, the federal building program instituted a program that put one percent of the total budget for a project into "art and decoration." 

Today, the federal building programs maintains this initiative as "Art in Architecture" at one-half of one percent of a project.  Since the initial federal program, many cities and states have adopted similar programs.

Art funding for transportation projects. Many transit agencies have similar programs (Best Practices for Integrating Art into Capital Projects, booklet and report) American Public Transportation Association) and often public art--murals especially and sculpture--is incorporated into road, streetscape, and bridge projects. But it is more miss than hit when it comes to road projects.

Roadside Landscaping.  Many jurisdictions provide some landscaping for beautification and vegetation management purposes, either at the city, county, or state scale. 

The genesis for many of these programs was in the "parkway" approach to building long distance roads, although this way of building roads was supplanted by the creation of the Interstate Highway system ("Historic Roads in the National Park System," NPS). From the report:
The idea of parkways grew out of 19th century efforts to create beautify cities by creating grand, landscaped boulevards for the purpose of recreational pleasure afforded by walking, riding, driving carriages, and the social interaction that went along with it. Characteristics of these roads included limited-rights-of-way, careful plantings and landscape articulation, exclusion of commercial vehicles, and limited access. Often these boulevards were the approach roads to city parks, or connecting roads between them.
Perhaps in response to the often grim freeway landscape, in 1965 Congress passed the Highway Beautification Act, spearheaded by Lady Bird Johnson ("How the Highway Beautification Act Became a Law," FHWA), although a primary element of that law had to do with billboards.

-- Benefits and Risks of Urban Roadside Landscape, NACTO
-- Use of native vegetation in roadside landscaping: a historical review
-- Synthesis of New Methods for Sustainable Roadside Landscapes

In Providence, Rhode Island, the State DOT doesn't have enough money to repaint a tagged mural.  According to the Providence Journal ("‘I did my best’: David Macaulay saddened, but not surprised, by demise of R.I. highway mural"), an intricate mural based on the drawings of David Macauley and designed as a response to tagging was so damaged by a recent incident that they won't be replacing it, because they haven't maintained the program that first created the mural.  From the article:
Macaulay’s whimsical vision depicted a row of arches with statues of famous Rhode Islanders, including Moses Brown and General Ambrose Burnside, several invented characters and a playful dog who appeared to have knocked down one of the statues while chasing a pigeon.

But quite quickly, the Macaulay mural was tagged with graffiti — and then repaired — the year it was created under the initiative of then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee. The governor’s team had commissioned local artists and raised private donations to pay for several murals along major highways leading into the state. ...

Macaulay’s trompe l’oeil work in Providence was tagged again this winter, and then again in spring, state Department of Transportation spokesman Charles St. Martin explained Monday.

This time, the DOT couldn’t clean up the artwork as it did the last time.

Back then, the DOT still had under contract the agency whose muralists had painted Macaulay’s original design onto the curved wall near the highway, St. Martin said. This time, the graffiti was “pretty extensive over the entire structure,” St. Martin said, and the DOT no longer has a muralist on standby.
That's a programmatic failure, and maybe a lack of money, but rather than be resigned to painting the graffiti over, why not address the need to provide operating funding to maintain murals and other placemaking elements of road projects?

David Macaulay mural, Providence

Tagged David Macaulay mural, Providence

David Macaulay mural painted over, Providence

Why not create a "percent for placemaking" "highway" (transportation) program?  Rather than just focus on public art, although "art" can be interpreted pretty expansively and includes street furnishings, pavement treatments, and other elements, "percent for art" programs should be repositioned as "percent for placemaking" programs, and systematically address treatments that include murals and sculptures, but go beyond it.  Places that don't have such programs should be encouraged to create them.

Basically, eligible projects should include most of what had been part of the former transportation enhancements program, with the addition of public art elements.

Murals on highway pillars, WichitaPeople walk Sunday on a bike path underneath Interstate 135 near freshly painted murals done by the group ICT Army of Artists. (May 1, 2016)Photo: Daniel Salazar The Wichita Eagle.

But it should be done in a systematic fashion, especially with road projects, so elements treated as utilitarian elements like freeway abutments can be made more aesthetically attractive.

Include maintenance as a part of the program.  The incident in Providence indicates that there should be funding set aside not just for creating placemaking elements but also for maintaining them.  The way to do so would be to include funding for maintenance as part of "percent for placemaking" programs.

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Quote of the day: cycling licensure-motor vehicle operator competence

The article reports that based on a survey of people in Greater Toronto, people believed--especially those older than 65--that requiring bicyclists to be licensed would significantly improve road safety.

Andrew Clark of the Toronto Globe & Mail disagrees.  From "Bike licensing fixes traffic problems about as well as mercury cures syphilis":
The best strategy for getting cyclists to obey the rules of the road is to change those rules so they are compatible with how cycling works and to encourage better habits through education (as they have in countries such as the Netherlands). Are there idiots who cycle? Yes, many. They’re an insufferable bike-short-wearing nuisance, but they’re nothing compared with the menace of some motorists.

If we are serious about using licensing to help alleviate road issues, then we should be considering mandatory retesting for drivers. At present, you get your licence and that’s it. As long as you don’t break the law you’re good to go until you’re in your 80s. During those years we can develop a few bad habits. We do rolling stops and get lax with our mirror checks; even the best driver can get rusty. If you selected 100 drivers at random and had them take the driving exam again, a significant number would fail. Why not require drivers to retake their driver’s exam every 10 to 15 years? It would lessen all the sloppy and dangerous driving we see on the roads.
Yes, I agree that the Idaho Stop should be legalized ("Failure to pass the Idaho Stop as an indicator of lack of commitment to DC's Sustainability Plan by DC's elected officials (Updated)").

And I believe that there should be a short mandatory "refresher test" every time we renew our drivers licenses. I think, based on research, the "refresher test" should focus attention on those driving actions we know to be problematic, from dealing with pedestrians and cyclists to distracted driving, what particular signs mean, etc. ("Proposals for bicycle improvements at the state level in Maryland," item #4).

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Monday, August 07, 2017

Waste diversion is better to start from incrementally

The Washington Post reports, "Composting and curbside pickup in Washington's five-year plan," that DC plans to institute curbside yard waste and composting pick up by 2022.

But DC is way behind.  In "A way for DC to begin adding yard waste collection as a separate element of waste collection and reduction programming" and "More on zero waste practice and DC," I discuss a wide variety of initiatives DC could undertake to divert a significant amount of waste from the waste stream, and few seem to be being pursued.

From "Solid waste management update":
Maryland just released the draft of the state's Zero Waste Plan, with aggressive goals for significant diversion and reduction within the waste stream by 2040.  The plan has 56 action steps.   Steps include banning unrecyclable materials, 90% diversion of food waste, and significant take up of recycling in multiunit buildings.
While a goal for a program to launch in five years seemingly isn't particularly ambitious, it's pretty ambitious compared to where the city is at today with solid waste practice:

- people toss into trash a lot of waste that can be diverted from the waste stream
- especially recyclables (cans, bottles, cardboard, paper)
- but also other reusable items (furniture, construction materials, etc.)
- the city isn't diverting yard waste at present, even though the outer city generates a considerable amount of such waste
- there is no real program to promote on-site composting in the outer city, where many households have lots of a large enough size to do so
- diverting recyclables from trash receptacles in the public space is hit or miss, with a lot of recyclables tossed into the trash
- most multiunit buildings do little in the way of recycling and diversion
- most food service establishments could do a lot better job of recycling and capturing food waste for composting
- the city hasn't created new building regulations that could systematically support diversion ("Reformulating building regulations to systematically support sustainability")
- a lot of the trash dumped by individuals at the Fort Totten Waste Transfer Station is divertible, if they were required to sort what they dump

In short, DC is very much behind better practice, let alone best practice, although from a Gerschenkronian perspective (summary of Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective) there can be advantages in being so far behind. 

Theoretically, it allows you to jump ahead of being behind, to the best of best practice.  But I don't see that happening.

DC's solid waste planning process is constrained.  One problem is that "DC's" solid waste diversion planning is constrained because DPW is primarily concerned with the trash it picks up, mostly from households, not commercial and multiunit residential buildings.  This shapes how it plans.

And serious "reeducation" is required for current programs, let alone new programs.  From the Post article:
Brenda Platt, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance — a District-based national nonprofit that has pushed for composting programs — said the success of a wide-scale composting program depends on education. She urged the city to establish more programs in schools to teach children the importance of composting, while ensuring residents understand how it helps the environment and how to get involved.
Yes, education is an issue. But it's an issue now, with solid waste practice more generally, let alone for the adoption of significantly new practice.

Interim measures to adopt now.  Important interim measures can be adopted now to get the city to a better place concerning actual diversion of waste, working towards 2022 as more a midpoint on better practice, rather than the start of it.

1.  Institute yard waste diversion in the outer city "now" (something I suggested maybe 10 years ago, but is standard practice in states such as Maryland). I would start by testing it in one ward, like Ward 4, and then rolling it out to other wards as the program is implemented, tested, and refined.

2.  Promote on-site composting in the outer city "now."

Montgomery County promotes yard waste diversion on site as well as through regular pick up. We developed our personal on site composting program based on materials and website based information provided by Montgomery County. Last time I checked, similar information was not available on the website.

While the new drop-off program is a good thing (something that was initiated in Manhattan decades ago by the Lower East Side Ecology Center), plenty of households could do this on-site, reducing the demand for government-provided services.

For example, my household has been doing on-site composting since 2009 and over time as I've become even more hardcore, in a typical week we generate less than 2 gallons of "trash" but a full bin of recycling.

3.  Institute city-wide "education" programs to discourage people from tossing recyclables into the trash stream.

This is a major program, partly because when people are given large trash cans, they are less inclined to sort  ("Why don’t Austinites recycle more? The answer might be simple," Austin American-Statesman)

4.  Institute city-wide "education" programs to discourage people from tossing into recycling stuff that isn't recyclable, from dog feces to light bulbs to all kinds of weird s***. 

I did read the city's Solid Waste Study which was released a few months back with the intent to write about it, but it wasn't particularly scintillating.  We can do a lot better, especially on this dimension.

5.  Then add composting pick up pilots, working to add curbside composting to one "center city" ward "now" -- meaning before 2022, to test the viability in the urban core, as well as curbside composting to one "outer city" ward "now", to test the viability there too, all the while massively promoting on-site composting.

6. Create best practice recycling and diversion programs for multiunit residential properties.

Because DPW doesn't pick up from these properties, and in fact generates revenue from such properties as tipping fees, there isn't much going on in terms of solid waste diversion with apartment, condominium, and cooperative properties, especially older properties controlled by regional rather than national firms.

7.  To accomplish this, DC should start out by identifying one multi-property firm to work worth to develop best practice across various types of properties.  As such a program is created and refined, other properties can be added to the program.

Mayfair on the Green condominiums.

Toronto has some significant best practice examples that DC can learn from ("Toronto Green Multiunit Building Challenge"). Toronto's multiunit buildings recycle and compost 27% of their waste, while single family residents divert 65%.

The example of the Mayfair on the Green complex in Scarborough demonstrates that significant improvement is possible ("Best practice multiunit residential zero waste project in Scarborough").

The complex now diverts 85% of their waste, stream, after instituting changes to collection practices accompanied by a heavy and ongoing education and participation campaign.

8.  Require the sortation of divertible "trash" dropped off by individuals at the trash transfer stations.  Nothing prevents DPW from doing this now, as I have testified/written about for some time.

Instituting new programs in 2022, without improving current practice, and testing in the interim isn't likely to significantly improve outcomes.  Unless somehow the city believes that by adding curbside composting all of a sudden those households that are laggard will start not just composting but modifying their currently less sustainable behaviors as it relates to the waste stream, adding new programs will only have some benefit.

Households committed to sustainable practice are primed to do the right thing. 

But the vast majority of households aren't committed to sustainable behavior and therefore have to be educated, incentivized, and or "punished" in order to adopt new sustainable waste diversion practices.

Set real metrics for measurement of success, improvement, and progress for 2018-2022, including:

1. Increasing recycling
2. Reducing the number of recyclable/divertible items tossed in the regular waste stream
3. Bringing yard waste diversion online in the Outer City
4. Reducing the amount of unrecyclable items tossed into recycling bins
5. Participation in urban composting programs (drop off at farmers markets, on-site, curbside)
6. Development of recycling and diversion best practice for multiunit residential buildings

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Friday, August 04, 2017

I don't see much to celebrate in the legacy of Cool Disco Dan

cool disco danCool Disco Dan, Danny Hogg, was a graffiti tagger in DC, very active in the 1980s, and he recently died ("'A folk hero': D.C. street art legend Cool 'Disco' Dan dies at 47," Washington Post).

There is a documentary on him, which ran recently on one of the HDTV channels of ABC7 in Washington.  In honor of his death, the Anacostia Community Museum is showing the documentary later today.
Friday 2pm- 4pm
Joe Pattisal’s 2014 documentary film, The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan, narrated by DC native, Henry Rollins and featuring testimonials from Marion Barry, Chuck Brown, DC Scorpio, Reverend Walter Fauntroy and other influential voices from the 1980s.
As a person concerned with commercial district revitalization, I am torn about graffiti. Graffiti is seen as a detriment by many in terms of perceptions of community safety.

There is a difference between mere "tagging" and artistic expression/commentary/innovation. Graffiti tagging is different from murals and other similar kinds of public art, although I can let slide some graffiti, if put more on interstitial spaces, it is particularly creative or commentary.

If it isn't anything but a tag/name, how does it contribute to community, rather than an individualist expression that mars the built environment?

See this 2003 Post report, "2 Charged With Graffiti: Md. Men Spray-Painted in Much of D.C., Officials Say," on graffiti damage on H Street NE.

The same issue came up with "the work" of Borf, which was focused on tagging, not political expression, although there was one particular daring example of the tagging of a highway sign on Constitution Avenue ("The Mess That's Hard To Miss," 2007).

I dealt with a similar problem as a Main Street manager in Brookland in 2007, when multiple buildings were tagged similarly, including the former Newton Theater, now landmarked.

Banksy, now that's another story. cf. the documentary on the competition between "Banksy" and "Robbo," called Graffit Wars."
Emailing: banksy3gal
Banksy graffiti painted on the border wall demarcating the West Bank-Israel border.

In fact today there are new reports of Banksy painting again on this wall, showing President Trump's love of walls ("Trump graffiti on West Bank barrier mocks love of walls: Artwork resembles work of elusive artist Banksy; one image has US president wearing a skullcap, vowing to construct ‘a brother’ for the barrier," Times of Israel).

Or the "graffiti crews" that have migrated to large scale public art projects infused by graffiti, e.g., a neighborhood scale mural in Bogota, Colombia.

I don't see much value or anything heroic in the work of Cool Disco Dan from that perspective.

It does remind me of the narrative of "Chopper" in the A.D. 2000/Judge Dredd comic series from the early 1980s, of graffiti being a way to make a mark in an otherwise atomized society.

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Feedspot ranks Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space blog a Top 100 Urban Planning Blog/Website

While my writing production is down significantly compared to earlier times--

(1) I figure a lot of the time I've already written about particular topics and as the Talking Heads sang in the song "Psychokiller," "say something once, why say it again?"

(the crazy thing is sometimes when I am looking up backfile pieces and I come across stuff I have no recollection of writing and I am surprised at how good some of the writing is)

(2) because of that I set a much higher expectation for what I write now, and so each piece typically is much more involved and detailed and takes a lot longer to research and write

(3) meaning I write less and/or have many many unfinished written or outlined pieces

I have been blogging regularly since February 2005 (I started the blog in November 2004 but then I didn't write anything) and have more than 10,000 entries, with thousands of photos--many not my own--and millions of words.

It's always nice to be recognized, which the aggregator Feedspot does, in naming this blog one of the Top 100 Urban Planning blogs and websites.

Since many of the blogs/websites listed are produced by organizations and/or more than one person, it's heady company.

Plus the list is somewhat international, not limited to the United States or the English language.

Being ranked #64 isn't so bad.

Jarrett Walker/Human Transit is ranked #12; Aaron Renn/Urbanophile is ranked #19, and Gordon Price/Price Tags #43.

It's definitely august company!


National Farmers Market Week, August 6-12 and the food sector

-- Farmers Market Coalition resource page for National Farmers Market Week

According to the USDA press release:
On Friday, Aug. 11, USDA’s flagship Farmers Market in Washington is hosting several special events on the National Mall at 12th Street and Jefferson from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. and adding a special Night Market from 4 p.m.–8 p.m. Special guests include the Farmers Market Coalition, the official chef of the Washington Capitals Robert Wood, and the U.S. Army Band.
Infographic from the Farmers Market Coalition.

Farmers markets.  I have a past blog entry on reasons why communities create farmers markets here, "The reason(s) why a farmers market is created shapes the type and mix of vendors allowed to sell."

The Neighborhood Notes blog in Portland has a good entry on creating successful farmers markets, "Ingredients of a successful farmers market," which references this market study of farmers markets, Portland Farmers Markets/Direct-Market Economic Analysis: Characteristics of Successful Farmers Markets.

Farmers markets as a retail activation device.  One of the disconnects in a city like DC is that farmers markets are used as a way to "get people to come to our commercial district" as an activation (and placemaking) device, with less interest on the overall functioning of "the food system."

In practice it means that DC has "way too many farmers markets" in terms of them all being able to be successful and thrive, especially on the most popular day--Saturday.   For example, on Saturdays within a couple square miles there are four markets at 14th and U Streets NW, 14th and Park Road (Columbia Heights), Petworth at Georgia Avenue and Upshur Street, and at 14th Street and Colorado Avenue.

Contrast this to Baltimore, which has fewer markets, but each one is much bigger, with greater variety, and less expensive food, compared to DC markets.  But you do have to travel farther to get to those markets.  On the other hand, each market tends to be "much better" than the typical DC farmers market.

Similarly, Salt Lake City only has a couple farmers markets (granted the city is half the population of DC), but the Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday has to be one of the best in the United States, in the top 10--and that means, compared to markets in Southern California, Portland, and New York City.  No farmers market in DC functions at that level. 

"Concentration"--just having a couple markets rather than many dozens makes that possible.

I sit on the board of DC's public market, Eastern Market, and I am constantly amazed at all the new competition that the market continually faces, from new supermarkets to new farmers markets--one just opened up in the Capitol Riverfront district on Sundays, and one is likely to open at The Wharf development in Southwest next year.  And EventsDC, which controls the RFK stadium campus, proposes to create a "food hall," there, less than one mile from Eastern Market.

I noticed that FreshFarm Markets moved its Thursday Penn Quarter Market from a closed block of 8th Street NW to the large sidewalk plaza on F Street in front of the Smithsonian Reynolds Center arts museums, becoming much more central and visible.

Food security.  In the past I wrote that "I wish that DC did more focused food security and food market planning and coordination than it does," although now there is a Food Policy Council in DC.  Interestingly to me, I don't think they've ever reached out to DC's public market, Eastern Market.

Toronto's Food Policy Council is a good model for what can be done in this arena, although many other communities have set up similar food policy councils, following the example of Toronto.

Community Foodworks is a DC nonprofit that is active in this area, running a number of farmers markets, a farm, and outreach activities.  They publish "food access" brochures for many of the city's wards, but they don't seem to be available online.

One of the "problems" in food security planning is that oddly enough, some times it doesn't include supermarkets in the planning.

When Aldi, a "hard discount" store, first opened in DC, I found illuminating one of the quotes in an article from the Washington Post, "Grocery store openings boost underserved communities in D.C. region."
"I’ve been praying that they’d bring a store like Aldi’s or Wal-Mart to this neighborhood because that’s where we spend our money,” Davis said. “The stores where consumers spend most of their money is outside of D.C. This is going to improve everything in the neighborhood.”

City officials said having a branch of Aldi, which is known for low prices, will help meet several needs. 
It made me realize that in planning for a community's retail mix, we don't necessarily aim to cover all price points in a retail category, and that facilitating access to lower cost food--including supermarkets not just farmers markets (although in DC, farmers markets tend to offer high priced food, not low priced food, e.g., a couple weeks ago at the Takoma Farmers Market, granted an organic-focused market, one vendor marked pints of raspberries for $10 each)--ought to be a part of retail planning.

Satisfying multiple market segments with one farmers market.  One problem with organic-food oriented farmers markets is that as a rule the items are expensive, and I personally can't stomach "paying that much for food," when I know I can buy nonorganic items for 1/4 the price--although I happily buy specialty organic items that are unique.

You don't see this at most farmers markets, but a few of the vendors at the Takoma Farmers Market on Sundays sell "seconds" produce at a deep discount.  A couple vendors are the deepest, selling their defective tomatoes, cucumbers, stone fruit, and apples for up to 75% off, while the other vendors might discount items by 33% to 50%.

I buy that defective produce knowing that for some recipes "perfect" ingredients are not required, especially tomatoes for making gazpacho and in recipes where the tomatoes are cut up finely, apples and peaches for pies and other sweets, etc.

In the supermarket world, this type of sales and pricing is called "salvage" ("Salvage Grocery Stores: The Next Big Thing In Food Isn't Even New," Modern Farmer).

Separately, there is a trend of more chain supermarkets selling "ugly produce" at a discount to standard produce, both to reduce food waste and to round out their pricing and segment strategies ("'Ugly' fresh produce gets hipper for grocers, but there's one problem -- supply," CNBC).  Technically, "baby carrots" are produced by grinding down "ugly" carrots, as a way to make sellable produce out of what otherwise would be wasted.

More farmers markets, especially the highest-priced ones, should do this.

Markets as opportunities for nexus on environmental issuesThis year, contracting with Compost Cab, DC has set up food scraps/compost drop off programs at a market in each ward, for example in Ward 1, it's the Columbia Heights market on Saturdays, and in Ward 6, it's at Eastern Market.

(Granted it's something I suggested that DC do for many years, but I shouldn't be too critical that it takes 4-8 years for programs to be initiated, should I?)

Maybe the next step could be pizza box composting at farmers markets.  Most people just toss them into recycle bins, but because they are soiled they aren't recyclable ("wish recycled") and if not diverted, make recyclable paper and cardboard less usable.

Nevertheless, millions of pizza boxes are put in recycle bins
North Carolina State University has created a program to capture pizza boxes in a separate process ("Pizza Box Composting Gets College Try: Campus arms race to go green nets creative efforts to deal with the greasy containers," Wall Street Journal) which is easier for them to do compared to individual households because they can focus on dormitory buildings.  From the article:
College students love pizza. They also love recycling.  But their pizza boxes are virtually unrecyclable, thanks to the cheesy, greasy residue left behind on the cardboard bottoms.  What’s a poor school to do?
At North Carolina State University, the answer is the Pizza Box Composting Project—dumpsters placed at eight locations around campus that since early last year have helped turn approximately 16,000 grease-stained boxes into fertilizer.
(Because I hate tearing up pizza boxes for composting, I prefer that we make pizza from scratch.  The problem is that when the urge for pizza arises, we don't usually have fresh pizza dough ready for cooking.  Yes, I used to just toss pizza boxes into recycling, knowing that the firm that processes DC's recycling has a chipper in their facility for pizza boxes, separate from the recycling stream.)

Trends in the food sector

Food Halls are exploding.  Speaking of "retail activation," food halls, which are a variant of public markets but usually focused on prepared foods, with maybe a bit of selling of fresh food, are exploding as the retail sector declines generally and real estate developers and property managers need to absorb space.

-- "How artisan food halls are transforming malls," JLL Real Views
-- The Successful Integration of Food & Beverage Within Retail Real Estate, International Council of Shopping Centers

Home delivery/meal kits.  Affecting farmers markets is the growing demand for home delivery of food, as well as "meal kits," where preparable meals are purchased--usually delivered, but more and more supermarkets are offering them as well.

I realized that meal kits need to be considered not in terms of being more expensive than buying "fresh food," but in terms of being cheaper than restaurant meals.  So the issue isn't that the average meal is double the cost of fresh food, but $5-$8 cheaper than a restaurant meal, and more gourmet than the average home cooked meal.  Plus now Blue Apron is positioning itself as "farm-to-table."

Hard discounting/Lidl and Aldi.  Lidl is a competitor to Aldi, another "hard discounter," in Germany where both are based, and around the world.  Hard discounters offer mostly private branded goods and generally lower costs on produce--20% to 40% cheaper than traditional markets and generally cheaper than Walmart (although they are aiming to be price competitive at locations where they compete).

Aldi has been active in the US market for a couple decades and is currently expanding ("German grocery chain Aldi expands stores," Fortune Magazine), while Lidl has just entered the market and aims to grow fast. Lidl aims to differentiate by being a bit more "upscale" ("German grocer promises high quality, low prices; US supermarkets take notice," CNBC).

By comparison, the Aldi shopping experience can be grim, but people accept it in return for significant savings.  (I buy produce and certain basic goods at Aldi, but over the years have found that most of their private label "more processed" items don't measure up.)

In the UK, Lidl and Aldi have significantly reshaped the supermarket industry there, putting great pressure on those firms. 

While it is reported that Walmart is responding to Lidl I think that the real issue is over time, Lidl especially will put pressure on traditional supermarkets, which have gone through rounds of shrinkage in the face of waves of competition first from Walmart and then from the larger more successful chains, especially Kroger, which operates nationally, but from superior regionally focused chains too, like HEB in Texas, Giant-Eagle in Pennsylvania, Publix in the South, and Meijer, first in Michigan and now expanding.

Amazon-Whole Foods and supermarkets as a real estate product.  This is more about Amazon purchasing a system that can support its Amazon Fresh grocery service than it is fixing Whole Foods and lowering their cost basis, although their cost basis is likely to be improved as a result of being exposed to Amazon's pricing discipline.  Amazon likely doesn't care about expanding Whole Foods.  They don't need to be "nationwide," just present in those areas that have a preponderance of Amazon Prime members, so they can use the stores to support home delivery of food (along with other Amazon products).

It will put more pressure on supermarkets though, which except for weaker companies (e.g., Marsh Supermarkets in Indiana just went out of business, a wholesaler with stores--Strack & Van Til, just went out of business in Illinois, etc.) tends to be one of the strongest segments of today's declining retail property sector.

While these articles are older, they support the point, although there will be a sorting between stronger and weaker strip centers.

-- "Strip Malls turn heads," Realtor Magazine
-- "Most likely to succeed: Strip centers anchored by grocery stores," Real Estate Journal

This article is new, about a shopping center in Bowie, Maryland:

-- "At Hilltop Plaza, Fortified Property Group And Rappaport Find A Neighborhood Stronghold," Bisnow

For example in Southeastern Virginia, Wegmans and Publix have entered the market and this is leading to consolidation and closures of supermarkets by existing companies.

This sorting will impact strip centers as those with the more competitive supermarkets will do better than those with weaker players.

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Speaking of beautiful theater buildings: Midwest Theater, Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Midwest Theatre, Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Flickr photo by Robby Virus.

It turns out it's even cooler than I realized, based on this Flickr video.   You have to click on the photo to get access to the video.  It's worth it--the lights move up the façade/marquee projection.

Midwest Theater - Scottsbluff, Nebraska

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Revisiting the Olympics selection process

Not because they read my blog entries:

-- "Big sporting events (World Cup/Olympics), economic development and trickle down economics," 2014
-- "(Not enough time for a) 2024 DC-Baltimore Olympic Bid (to make sense)," 2014
-- "Rio Olympics," 2016
-- "Washington-Baltimore Olympics Bid for 2024," 2012
-- "More thinking on "return on investment" from different types of sports facilities and DC, and an Olympics in DC," 2015

but it appears that the International Olympics Committee is moving more towards the recommendations I made for improving the process of selecting host cities and mounting the games by providing more time to cities to prepare after the games are awarded and before they are held,  providing some (but in the great scheme not nearly enough) money to the host city in the interim, and sharing some of the risks, rather than putting most all the financial risk on the host city.

The current awards cycle was supposed to only award the 2024 Olympics. 

But after many cities in many nations were forced to drop out of the competition because of citizen opposition in the face of large costs and likely overruns, there were only two contestants, Paris and Los Angeles, both with strong bids.

Rather than have a loser, the IOC made the decision to award the 2028 Summer Olympics as well.  Paris and Los Angeles worked it out between them for the particulars, with Los Angeles choosing to go second, in 2028, giving them four more years to prepare.

I didn't know that the leader of the No Boston Olympics campaign has co-authored a book on the campaign and lessons learned.

Clearly the rise of citizen opposition, in fact Chris Dempsey, the guy (who had been a professional consultant for Bain & Company) who led the anti-Olympics campaign in Boston is now a consultant to citizen groups fighting these kinds of big projects ("Leader of No Boston Olympics tapped for transportation ," Boston Globe and "The inside story of No Boston Olympics," CommonWealth Magazine), forced the IOC to react and back down from its previously intransigence positions about the requirements it imposed on host cities.

From the Los Angeles Times article, "L.A. gains financial concessions in return for agreeing to host the 2028 Olympic Games":
After weeks of intense negotiations with the International Olympic Committee, Los Angeles officials have agreed to host the Summer Games in 2028 — instead of 2024 — in return for a deal they hope will generate hundreds of millions in additional savings and revenues.

It could also set a precedent as the IOC made concessions to L.A. that involved sponsorship sales, the retention of any potential surplus and upfront funding for youth sports programs throughout the city.  ...

Talks focused on four major issues, beginning with corporate dollars.

The IOC has estimated it will contribute $1.7 billion of its broadcast and sponsorship revenues to Paris 2024 organizers. L.A. sought a different arrangement that could boost its share to $2 billion or more in 2028.

Under normal circumstances, host cities begin preparations seven years in advance but do not receive most of the IOC contributions until two years before the Games.

For 2028, the IOC has agreed to give L.A. a $180-million advance that would cover the organizing committee’s costs for an extra four years and pump as much as $160 million into youth sports throughout the city. ...

If the Games finish at or under budget, the $487-million contingency would convert to a surplus — similar to the one left by the 1984 Los Angeles Games — and L.A. officials have struck a deal to keep most of that money.

The United States Olympic Committee would still take 20% of any surplus, but with the IOC waiving its customary 20%, the city could realize $100 million or more.

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EcoDistricts Council creates certification program

I have written about the EcoDistricts planning approach here.  

The National Capital Planning Commission used the concept in framing its plan for federal properties in the Southwest District of DC, and it was part of the initial discussions for the redevelopment of the deaccessioned Walter Reed campus and other areas of DC (Downtown, the University of District of Columbia, although I no longer seem to come across mention of this concept in DC planning circles. These days the buzzword is resiliency.

Below is a reprint of a press release (with some reformatting) from the EcoDistricts Council.  I am always a big fan of case studies of best practice with the aim of mining them for new insights and approaches.  Here are 10.

For more information on EcoDistricts Certified, the Ecodistricts Council is offering a webinar on Monday August 8th at 10am PST.


Groundbreaking Standard for Community Development Launches in 10 Cities
EcoDistricts Certified Requires Commitment to Equity, Sustainability

PORTLAND, Ore. – Eleven communities in 10 cities across North America today committed to a landmark new standard for community development that makes equity and sustainability fundamental requirements. By embracing the new standard – EcoDistricts Certified – neighborhoods from Seattle to Boston to Toronto will become the first certified EcoDistricts in the world.

EcoDistricts Certified is a cutting-edge, holistic, and rigorous framework for organizing and achieving important public policy, sustainability, and investment goals.  The result of seven years of research and industry engagement, EcoDistricts Certified projects

1) commit to equity, resilience and climate protection at the heart of every decision;
2) form collaborative governance that reflects community stakeholders;
3) create an implementation roadmap to guide projects and programs; and
4) track and measure impact over time. Each step is submitted to EcoDistricts’ 3rd-party verifiers to ensure transparency and accountability.

Here is the first set of projects committed to EcoDistricts Certified:

Seaholm (Austin, Texas) is a 90-acre brownfield site in the heart of Austin’s vibrant downtown business district. Following the restoration of the iconic Seaholm power plant, the district is being redeveloped into a cultural hub that prioritizes district infrastructure, mobility options, green buildings, adaptive reuse of historic assets, habitat restoration, and local healthy food.

ATL Airport (Atlanta) is the busiest airport in the world and the largest employment hub in the state, with more than 65,000 jobs. The airport is committing to reduce waste, energy use, water use and carbon emissions on the 4,750 acre site and better align ATL’s Sustainable Management Plan with airport businesses and the surrounding community.

TNT Eco Innovation District (Boston) spans 13 blocks of Codman Square, an historic area in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston that boasts a long history as one of the City’s major civic centers, but has historically been underserved and economically disadvantaged. The initiative marries transit-oriented green development, renewable energy, water conservation, sustainable food systems, and climate preparedness and includes projects such as retrofitting at least 50% of existing housing with new insulation, helping local businesses save money through energy efficiency programs, building new high-efficiency transit-oriented developments, and exploring local power generation models like community-shared solar.

RiNo Art District (Denver) is a 1-square-mile emerging former industrial area just north of downtown Denver that has seen the creative sector galvanize significant adaptive reuse and development projects. Through a unique operating model that includes a non-profit, a Business Improvement District and a General Improvement District, artists, developers, businesses and residents collectively invest in their neighborhood to retain the neighborhood’s character while driving innovation, inventive thinking, and collaborative solutions to the complex challenges brought on by rapid change.

Sun Valley EcoDistrict (Denver) will lead the redevelopment of Sun Valley, the lowest income neighborhood in Denver. The project recently received a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Millvale EcoDistrict (Pittsburgh) is a partnership between community organizations to drive new green infrastructure, water conservation, food, energy, transportation, equity, and economic strategies in the remaking of this classic borough and mill town. The team received two 2017 awards from the American Planning Association (APA) for their EcoDistrict strategy.

Lloyd EcoDistrict (Portland) launched the country’s first EcoDistrict in 2010 to drive prosperity, environmental quality, social welfare and collaboration between businesses, residents and public agencies in Portland’s dense inner eastside. The initiative includes unique partnerships between utilities, city agencies, businesses, building owners, the elderly community and other stakeholders, and ambitious targets such as a 60% reduction in energy demand, 100% access to car and bike-sharing programs, and 93% total waste generation reduction.

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict (Seattle) is a neighborhood-based sustainability initiative serving the most densely populated urban village in the Pacific Northwest. With an estimated 15,000 diverse households including nearly 1,300 low-income ones, work includes incorporating community priorities into development agreements, installing a first-of-its kind community solar array atop an affordable housing property, creating the nation’s first Renters’ Commission, piloting a pedestrian street closure series, piloting a low-cost transit pass program, and working with small businesses to promote resource conservation and reduce waste.

High Falls EcoDistrict (Rochester) is a 322-acre redevelopment project surrounding a 96-foot waterfall in the heart of downtown Rochester, and is a visible representation of Rochester’s commitment to being a green leader among mid-sized cities. The project will help grow the city and region sustainably, prepare for the impact of climate change and breathe new life into existing neighborhoods through innovation and green jobs – all while celebrating the neighborhood’s iconic waterfall as its own clean energy asset.

City Yards (Santa Monica), which houses Public Works operations, is considered an industrial eyesore to locals, and residents refer to it as one point in a “toxic triangle” along with the I-10 freeway and the former landfill. The City Yards Project and the EcoDistricts Protocol are together catalysts for the regeneration of Santa Monica’s eastern edge and the underserved Pico Neighborhood.

East Harbour (Toronto) is the largest commercial project currently planned in Canada. Located on a 60-acre site directly east of Toronto’s downtown core, once completed it will hold a 13-million square foot mix of office, retail and institutional developments, employ more than 50,000 workers, and house a new major multi-modal transit hub with significant local and regional connections. East Harbour will be a development catalyst for critical infrastructure projects in and around the area, and will transform a previously inaccessible site into a world-class hub for art, commerce, transit, and healthy living.

More details on these projects are available at: district-registry/

A New Standard, Just in Time

EcoDistricts Certified arrives at a time of unprecedented reinvestment in cities and when communities everywhere face an increasing number of interwoven challenges:
  • More than 75 million people are moving to cities every year in one of the world’s largest building booms, and experts expect cities around the globe will invest $41 trillion to upgrade infrastructure over the next 20 years.
  • 70 percent of cities in the U.S. already are dealing with the effects of climate change and nearly all are at risk, requiring cities to rethink the deployment of infrastructure, emergency services and neighborhood social networks.
  • Inequality in the U.S. has risen precipitously over the past 35 years, with the Great Recession exacerbating an already significant income gap that is contributing to massive pockets of disinvestment and gentrification.
  • American infrastructure is crumbling, warranting a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • Low income communities and communities of color are suffering disproportionate public health impacts, including a two- to three-times higher rate of asthma in some neighborhoods and significantly higher rates of obesity.
  • Pollution, development and population growth are placing severe stress on urban water supplies, and large cities are facing a rising demand for water in a time of scarcity and threats to the quality of the water supply.
“We created EcoDistricts Certified to transform the market. The planet and our most vulnerable can’t wait for another generation,” said Rob Bennett, CEO, EcoDistricts. “We’re spending billions of dollars in cities today and we need to get it right. This new standard is where an upfront investment in following a rigorous development framework yields exponential returns: Leaders get organized, projects happen faster, opportunities grow, people stay where they live, and others move there.”

EcoDistricts Accredited Professional

EcoDistricts is also announcing the first class of EcoDistricts Accredited Professionals (AP), the new credential demonstrating a commitment to equity and sustainability in neighborhoods, as well as expertise in the EcoDistricts standard.

“The EcoDistricts AP is the signature credential to show that you believe in processes that promotes equity, sustainability, and resilience at the district scale,” said Dominique Hargreaves, Executive Director of the US Green Building Council (L.A.) and an EcoDistricts Accredited Professional. “I enjoy studying rating systems and this is not a rating system – it is a paradigm shift that will produce positive impacts for new and existing communities.”

EcoDistricts Summit
On October 10-11, urban and community development leaders from around the world will meet in Atlanta at the annual EcoDistricts Summit to shape the future of neighborhoods. More than just a conference, the EcoDistricts Summit is a dynamic participatory event that brings together leading city-builders to design real-time solutions to complex neighborhood challenges. It provides a platform to build lasting relationships and learn about the latest trends, best practices, and projects influencing the market, including the first generation of EcoDistricts Certified neighborhoods.

About EcoDistricts

EcoDistricts is a nonprofit organization that advances a new standard for community development. Through its programs and certification standard, EcoDistricts helps build equitable, sustainable, and resilient neighborhoods for all.

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