Vox Civitatis the Sustainable City News weblog
Sunday, March 28th
Saturday, March 20th
Lund, Sweden: 60% Cycle or Use Transit for Daily TravelJust found this BBC video snippet on the town of Lund, Sweden, which can boast that 45% of its residents bicycle for transport, with another 15% using transit:
(Note that it is preceded by a commercial...BBC is television, after all.)
However, I must warn you against a subtly-embedded bit of anti-transit propaganda, and high hypocrisy as well: the narrator mentions increased "transit subsidies" and money spent on bicycle infrastructure, but of course ignores the immense costs--financial as well as social and environmental--of providing those vast swathes of asphalt required for driving and parking cars....
Sunday, March 14th
A Look at Southlake Town CenterI returned to Southlake Town Center in the daylight in order to take some photos of this "new urban" development. Perhaps most impressive is the townhouse-style residential buildings which line two sides of a hilly park, which if you blink, remind me of Alamo Square or Alta Plaza in San Francisco. The town also has an impressive-looking city hall/library and lots of retail. The buildings look nothing short of great and they are arranged well on an irregular street plan. There are several smaller parks with fountains and other public spaces. The townhomes are for sale units bringing in the concept of individual ownership that's often absent from these types of developments. On the downside, it's clear all these stores can't be supported by the surrounding housing, but it looks as though more housing is on the horizon and anyway the downtown did kill the catalog business, didn't it? This development doesn't seem to incorporate rental housing, however and there doesn't seem to be any blending across property lines of retail and residential. The parking could also be hidden a little better and more transit options would be nice. Make no mistake, few new urban developments are better and Southlake Town Center is very adaptable should the automobile go the way of the horse-nd-buggy. All you'd need is a light rail line.
Friday, March 12th
What's Old is New in the Mid Cities
Living in the Mid-Cities above Dallas I'm noticing a great number of buildings from the last decade or so that look identical to those that might have been constructed in the 1890s. There's a City Hall/library at the new village of Southlake that looks better than many actual 1890s city halls in the Northeast. The handsome row of buildings above is set to be constructed in Grapevine, Texas, which is a historic town that seems to be making history by remaking itself. I can't wait to see this come to form.
FROM THE RELEASE: The Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) has set a groundbreaking event for its new headquarters and museum complex on Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2010 at 10 a.m., at the corner of Hudgins and Main Streets in Grapevine. The beginning of the 15-month construction project will be marked symbolically on Texas Independence Day.
The historic infill structure represents the architectural period of significance from the 1870s through 1915, and will anchor the southern entrance to the Grapevine Historic District. The complex consists of six storefronts, each representative of a significant period in Grapevine development.
Architexas, a nationally recognized preservation architecture firm, has designed the structure, and T.S. Byrne Construction, who has performed many major restoration projects in Tarrant County, will provide construction management.
The building will provide offices for the staff of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, which currently employs 55 full-time staff members. The staff currently offices in six structures around town, and this facility will bring the CVB team under one roof. They will occupy approximately 35% of the structure, with the majority of space utilized by museums, galleries, and meeting/function space. The 40,000-sq. ft. structure will also house the Grapevine Visitor Information Center.
This project, built entirely from funds provided by hotel occupancy taxes, provides Grapevine citizens with a direct benefit from tourism revenue. This public facility will greatly enhance Grapevine's artistic and museum offerings for its citizens and visitors alike.
Undoubtedly the most popular and exciting aspect of the new complex will be a clock tower extending some 120-feet above Main Street, and housing two glockenspiel-like Grapevine Prairie frontiersmen, who will emerge each day at noon and 6 p.m. to settle a dispute. Scores of visitors and residents are expected to gather daily to witness this exciting tribute to Texas history.
Grapevine officials took great care in ensuring the new complex would be responsibly "green" throughout. The previous building that had stood on this spot was carefully deconstructed, and much of its building materials were used elsewhere, such as the interior sheetrock being used by Habitat for Humanity. Rainwater will be harvested from the new building's roof and used for supplemental purposes. Careful design of window placement throughout the facility will provide extensive natural light throughout the structure, while shielding the building and its occupants from winter cold and summer heat, reducing the energy consumption of the building.
The new complex is expected to attract many visitors, and will be instrumental in building existing businesses on South Main Street, and also lead to new businesses being introduced.
An architectural rendering of the new building will be on display at the groundbreaking event. The project is slated to be complete in spring of 2011.
Thursday, March 4th
The Legacy of a Town CenterI noticed Legacy Town Center on the map a few days ago. Setting out on foot, I was unable to get there (see my blog post). Reaching the "town" the way most people do, by car, I found it to have enough of what one might expect in a place to live, far more than most of what has been built in the last decade.
Legacy Town Center came about pretty much because skilled workers didn't what to live without a "there." A company called Electronic Data Systems responded not by moving, but by creating a town center near the office. "These new-economy employees work around the clock and appreciate the convenience of the town center," according to an item on the EPA's web site. Other companies responded. The town center help Hewlett Packard make the decision to locate nearby.
Wednesday, March 3rd
Renewing New YorkThis superb short from Streetfilms speaks for itself, tracing the history of Park Avenue from the time when it was a real park to its dismal, car-clogged present, and showing what New York is doing now to reinvent itself as a city for humans rather than a traffic sump.
Active Community Transportation ActOregon's Rep. Earl Blumenauer has introduced the Active Community Transportation Act, which would greatly enhance the livability of cities, towns, and neighborhoods by funding infrastructure enhancements for walking and cycling. According to a press release from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:
Americans are hungry for safe and convenient opportunities to walk or bicycle to work, school, shops, transit and other daily destinations. Nearly half of the trips taken in the United States today are within a 20-minute bicycle ride, and half of those trips are within a 20-minute walk. Further, 90 percent of transit trips begin with walking or bicycling. There is huge potential for an increased role for active transportation to these nearby destinations. No wonder respondents in a national poll said they would spend 15 times current levels on walking and bicycling (currently, less than two percent of all transportation dollars) at the expense of what they view as lopsided spending on roads. To this end, the ACT Act is strategically targeted to maximize mode shift by providing "intensive, concentrated funding of active transportation systems rather than discrete piecemeal projects."Read the details, and learn how to help, here.
Tuesday, March 2nd
One George Bush You Don't CrossI'm staying at a hotel North of Dallas and decided to take a look at the Google map to see if there was anyplace I could walk to. I noticed something called Legacy Town Center just on the other side of the George Bush Turnpike. The handy walk calculator suggested the distance was a little more than two miles. The weather was cooperating, so I decided to head out. The problem came a couple feet from the hotel door when I realized, contrary to the maps suggestion, there was no way to walk along the George Bush Turnpike the necessary distance to cross under it and off to Legacy Town Center.
None-the-less I persisted. I noticed a rail line that crossed under the freeway and so headed for it, all the way collecting a good deal of Texas mud on my shoes, so much it felt as if I was wearing exercise weights. Once on the other side of George Bush (ok, technically I did cross George Bush) I could either follow the tracks to a housing subdivision or follow the freeway to the cross street. I fugured there wouldn't be a way to go through the yards of the homes backing onto the tracks, so I tried following the highway. I was stopped by a drainage ditch and had no choice but to return. I imagine this place gets a walk score of zero.
A side note, the George Bush Turnpike is fully automated. Cameras record your license number and the owner of the vehicle is billed for passage.