Category Archives: Back of the Envelope

The Five Cs of Neighborhood Planning

I live in a city that is currently updating its Community Plans. This is an historically difficult planning job because Community Plans transcend both broad policy statements (such as the amorphous “New development should be in harmony with surrounding development…”) and specific development regulations (“Front yard setbacks shall be 25 feet deep from property line…”). An issue with updating Community-scaled plans is the personal sentiment people feel for their homes and the difficulty we have in expressing such emotion within conventional 2D planning documents. The source of most conflicts and confusion I see occurring during these updates is due to the confusion over the scale and size difference of a ‘Community’ versus a ‘Neighborhood’ unit.

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Filed under Back of the Envelope, Planning and Design, Public Policy, Theory and Practice

Get Your Offices into a Walkable Town Center!

Leveraging your Town Center for Economic Development

So far, this series has taken on three of the essential components of a healthy walkable town center: hotels, retail and multi-family residential. But, traditionally, our town centers were not simply a collection of residences and shops. They formed the commercial and civic centers of our towns and cities — an economic development engine that attracted the industries that gave all those homes and shops a reason (and means) for existing in the first place. Of course — and you know the story — as we moved into the suburbs in the post WWII era, we placed our offices into “office parks” in our campaign to separate the activities of our daily lives and reconnect them through compulsory car trips.

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Filed under Back of the Envelope, Development, Economic Development, Planning and Design, Sales and Marketing

Collaborative Placemaking Maps

The other day on an urbanism listserv, someone asked for parameters to qualify a new development as a walkable, mixed-used, livable place. While measures like CNT’s H+T Index, Walkscore, and IMI’s Walkability Index go a long way toward measuring, there isn’t a single source that awards the title of Livable New Place.

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Filed under Architecture, Back of the Envelope, Development, Planning and Design

Façade-ectomy: Preserving the Skin of the Past

Experiencing the most recent façade-ectomy in Winnipeg has left me asking again the much-debated question of the validity of preserving just the façade of a building.

A façade-ecotomy will likely:

  1. Lose historic, cultural, architectural significance
  2. Waste embodied energy
  3. Increase cost of construction over full demolition
  4. Increase tax revenues over doing nothing
  5. Decrease long term viability of new construction

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Filed under Architecture, Back of the Envelope, Development, Planning and Design

Get your Multi-Family into a Walkable Town Center!

Residences:  An Obvious Ingredient
One obvious yet undervalued ingredient of an effective mixed-use town center is the residential component. To emphasize its importance, I would go as far as to say that it is actually the substrate on which a healthy mixed-use environment is based. In a healthy, balanced region, with the exception of noxious uses, no land uses are set aside as a single use and all are integrated into a walkable neighborhood.

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Filed under Back of the Envelope, Development, Planning and Design, Sales and Marketing

Don’t Get Mixed Up on Mixed-Use

Taking a break from Geoff Dyer’s series on town centers this week with a refresher course on the simple elements of mixed-use development.

Citizens, politicians, and planning officials have embraced the need to allow for walkable neighborhoods across North America and mixed-use is an essential component for achieving walkability. However, the term mixed-use has held different meanings in different places over the past 40 years or so.

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Filed under Back of the Envelope, Development, Financing, Planning and Design