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green streets
thoughts, ideas + dialogues on urban revitalization, smart growth + neighborhood development
Curated by Lauren Moss
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MVRDV To Bring Human Scale Back to Montparnasse

MVRDV To Bring Human Scale Back to Montparnasse | green streets | Scoop.it

The City of Paris is ready to see a block in Montparnasse area restructured—this time not vertically, but horizontally. The aging structure, located in the 14th arrondissement, or district, has lost "urban connectivity", and Mayor Hidalgo's urban planner, Jean-Louis Missika, labeled it an eyesore. MVRDV, based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has plans to bring it back. It is as though the rest of the city's pulse has stopped reaching the quartier, which lacks the typical pedestrian bustle and overall neighborhood identity quintessential to the metropolis...

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The Neighborhood Data Portal Every City Needs

The Neighborhood Data Portal Every City Needs | green streets | Scoop.it
Los Angeles rolls out interactive neighborhood health profiles covering everything from crime stats to obesity rates.

As the open data movement has matured, public city-wide vital stats have come to feel more like a citizen's right than a civic innovation. This is where things should head next: Take all of that data, map it, connect the dots between public health, land use, economics, education, crime and housing. And portray those patterns – and the inequality they often reveal – down to the neighborhood level.


Los Angeles has recently done just this, rolling out a web tool as part of its Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles that maps a tremendous number of metrics about life in the region, at both the city and neighborhood scales. Just a sampling of the dozens of metrics, via the portal from the L.A. Department of City Planning, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and The California Endowment:

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Bjarke Ingels designs a new public park in Copenhagen that celebrates diversity

Bjarke Ingels designs a new public park in Copenhagen that celebrates diversity | green streets | Scoop.it

Superkilen is a new urban park that cuts through the heart of Copenhagen’s diverse Nørrebro neighborhood.

The kilometer-long “Super Park”, which consists of three themed parts–is dotted with various pop artifacts and cultural mementos “sourced” from the home countries of the area’s inhabitants. Here, you’re just as likely to stumble across manhole covers from Paris and Islamic tiled fountains from Morocco as you are (ironic) neon Communist signage from Moscow and curvy benches from Brazil.

Designed in collaboration with art group Superflex and Topotek 1 architects, BIG conceived of the park as a “fusion of architecture, landscape, and art”. The team was invited to participate in the 13.4 million euro project, which aims to revitalize the neighborhood while forging a global identity capable of unifying the city’s urban fabric.


View more images and read about how the designers were able to achieve a “maximum freedom of expression”, which, according to Bjarke Ingels, transforms “public procedure into proactive proposition we curated a park for the people by the people.”

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D.C. unveils plans for new green neighborhood

D.C. unveils plans for new green neighborhood | green streets | Scoop.it
Rainwater will be caught by acres of green roofs (including rooftop farms), green streets, trees, and planters. Permeable surfaces will grow to cover 35 percent of the area, while the tree canopy will reach 40 percent.

After two years of internal debate among 17 different federal agencies and the Washington, D.C., government, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) released its long-awaited plans for a new Southwest Eco-District this week. The plan is designed to undo the worst damage of the massive “urban renewal” projects inflicted on L’Enfant neighborhood over the past decades. When it is completed, still decades out, it will transform the almost pedestrian-free area just south of the National Mall into a highly sustainable, people-friendly cultural and business destination.

The project will go a long way toward “breathing new life into the city,” NCPC Chair L. Preston Bryant, Jr. said at a hearing Thursday. “We have a once in a generation opportunity to make this happen.”

The 110-acre, 15 square-block project is meant to showcase “high performance buildings and landscapes,” while creating space for 19,000 new federal workers, says Elizabeth Miller, the landscape architect who is guiding the project. At the same time, the plan will take aim at the incredible lack of public access — the barriers, the highways, and grade changes — that keep people away...

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America's Greatest Main Streets...

America's Greatest Main Streets... | green streets | Scoop.it

Cheers to these small towns for great Main Streets, where you can admire architecture, sample the local flavor, and find a lost America.

Driving across America, it’s all too easy to lose your mooring amid the commercial thicket of the same old fast-food outlets and big-box stores.

But push on a mile or two beyond the interstate exit, and you may discover a town that’s anchored by a distinctive Main Street—one with grand architecture, eclectic small businesses, and community-oriented features like a park or theater. Often it thrives thanks to locals who have made a conscientious effort to fight the general decline of Main Street...

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No vacancy: Unleashing the potential of empty urban land

No vacancy: Unleashing the potential of empty urban land | green streets | Scoop.it

A group of volunteers in Brooklyn mapped all the vacant city-owned properties in the borough, and discovered a remarkable amount of unused real estate...

Less than a year old, 596 Acres is the work of a small core of volunteers, including Paula Z. Segal, a lawyer and lead facilitator for the group. Segal first got interested in the city-owned vacant lots because of a site known as Myrtle Village Green, near where she lived at the time.

Researching the site, Segal learned how much data was available on vacant city land that had not yet been locked down by developers — and she got excited about the potential uses for that space. She presented some of her findings at the Festival of Ideas for the New City last year, and that’s where she met Eric Breisford, a programmer who, like her, is involved in a variety of other projects having to do with access to public space, public data, and decent food. The duo quickly got to work on making the data more accessible in both digital and paper formats.

Together they worked to get a map printed that showed the data they had gathered, and an online version as well. They researched a few lots in greater detail, then wheatpasted the printed maps to foam core boards along with explanations of “what’s going on here,” and posted those at a few lots around Brooklyn...

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Transforming a derelict city building into vertical gardens for nearby residents | Switchboard, from NRDC

Transforming a derelict city building into vertical gardens for nearby residents | Switchboard, from NRDC | green streets | Scoop.it
Aspiring interior designer Lucie Sadakova has come up with a striking concept to bring more green space and nourishment into a scruffy part of London. And, despite being in a sense all about an outdoor activity, it is in fact an interior transformation, a proposed adaptive reuse of an old building way past its prime.

For her final degree project at university, Sadakova designed a concept she calls Multileveled Vertical Urban Allotments, which in plain English means hollowing out the guts of an old warehouse, opening up its roof and (enlarged) windows to the elements, and filling the space with a sort of stacked series of green plots that could be gardened by nearby residents...


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Why the Places We Live Make Us Happy

Why the Places We Live Make Us Happy | green streets | Scoop.it
The strange factors that impact whether we're content where we live.

In an article titled "Understanding the Pursuit of Happiness in Ten Major Cities," the authors concluded that good urbanism contributes positively to happiness:

We find that the design and conditions of cities are associated with the happiness of residents in 10 urban areas. Cities that provide easy access to convenient public transportation and to cultural and leisure amenities promote happiness. Cities that are affordable and serve as good places to raise children also have happier residents. We suggest that such places foster the types of social connections that can improve happiness and ultimately enhance the attractiveness of living in the city.

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Will downtown comebacks, entrepreneurs reverse commercial sprawl?

Will downtown comebacks, entrepreneurs reverse commercial sprawl? | green streets | Scoop.it

Given the decline in demand for sprawl housing, it is inevitable that demand for commercial sprawl will decline as well. There is little question that for an abundance of reasons future development in America – both commercial and residential – is going to be more urban, more walkable, and less sprawling. The communities that prosper most as the 21st century matures will be the ones that recognize these shifts and welcome them with the right kind of planning, development, and amenities.

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The next small thing: How sustainable neighborhoods could reshape cities

The next small thing: How sustainable neighborhoods could reshape cities | green streets | Scoop.it
Residents and planners around the country are dreaming up innovative ways to create eco-friendly, self-reliant communities. But turning ideas into reality is a tall order.

While cities have been leaders in the effort to combat climate change, much of the action within cities occurs at the neighborhood level. "The neighborhood is a geography, a scale that resonates with people," says Rob Bennett, executive director of the nonprofit Portland Sustainability Institute. "Neighborhoods have always been a powerful and important part of how we view city-building, and how we view ourselves as citizens."

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Designing an Olympic Village with a green afterlife for Rio 2016

Designing an Olympic Village with a green afterlife for Rio 2016 | green streets | Scoop.it
The winning design of the Olympic Village for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio call for a green neighborhood to replace the village when the games end.

To host the Olympics cities must make a hefty investment in new Olympic-specific infrastructure. These Olympic villages are intended to accommodate a surge of people during the 16-day event, but then the space goes empty.

So when Rio de Janeiro was considering designs for their Olympic village for the 2016 Summer Olympics they were looking for one with an eye towards the city’s post-Olympic future. The winning design, by the British firm AECOM, does just that. The design will transform the area into a green neighborhood by 2029.

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Making Pittsburgh New by Keeping it Old

Making Pittsburgh New by Keeping it Old | green streets | Scoop.it
In 1997, Arthur Ziegler, founder and head of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, was vigorously leading the opposition to a plan by then-Mayor Tom Murphy to demolish 64 historic buildings in five square blocks of the city’s downtown in order to build a standard enclosed shopping mall.

Eventually, the proposed mall fell under the weight of its own ill-conceived vision when Nordstrom pulled out as a potential anchor. Ziegler’s PHLF had offered an alternative proposal that would have demolished three blocks of mostly nondescript buildings, leaving the rest to be restored by individual owners with retail on the ground floor and apartments or offices above. Murphy rejected this idea.

Now, two mayors, two governors and 15 years later, Ziegler and PHLF have been hired by the city to oversee the redevelopment of those 64 buildings in an effort to advance economic revitalization of the downtown.

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Shifting the Suburban Paradigm

Shifting the Suburban Paradigm | green streets | Scoop.it
Transforming the single-family home by paying attention to what residents, and communities, really need.

How does it work on the street? In the neighborhood? How is it served by transit? Is it adaptable, allowing for the housing of extended families or the hosting of an entrepreneurial endeavor? Can the owner build an accessory dwelling to do so? (Most zoning, homeowners’ associations and CCRs don’t allow for it currently.) What needs to happen to zoning, to financing, to our very notions of resale value to change the suburban condition — and by extension, the American Dream as we know it?

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Can San Diego Seed A Neighborhood With Pop-Up Cargotecture?

Can San Diego Seed A Neighborhood With Pop-Up Cargotecture? | green streets | Scoop.it

With plenty of vacant land and blocks of underdeveloped warehouses, the East Village district of downtown San Diego has the makings of the next great neighborhood. Situated between the Gaslamp quarter and Golden Hill, the East Village is bursting with location but dwindling on population. Lately, though, the neighborhood has been showing signs of growth. 

To spark pedestrian street life in this formerly industrial part of town, the partners at the collaborative Design TEMPO have launched a Kickstarter campaign to transform a vacant city-owned lot into a free-for-all public space featuring shipping-container retail, a beer garden, food trucks, a dog run, a movie screen, movable furniture, and green space. Dubbed RAD LAB—for Research Architecture and Development Laboratory—the project takes after Envelope A+D's popular Proxy development in San Francisco's Hayes Valley (and, to a lesser extent, London's shipping-container mall, Boxpark Shoreditch).

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Zero-Energy Districts: Energy Strategies and Sustainable Opportunities

Zero-Energy Districts: Energy Strategies and Sustainable Opportunities | green streets | Scoop.it

An ambitious experiment in sustainable Fort Collins, Colorado, supporting development of the nation’s first major urban zero-energy district (ZED) is already hinting at important lessons for future implementation possibilities.


Along the Colorado Front Range, the resulting data illustrates how the strategic integration of energy generation, storage, and conservation activities can reduce an electricity grid’s overall energy load at critical peak-demand periods. As workplaces become increasingly energy-efficient, they will also have to generate and store more energy on site. With distributed generation, electricity will ultimately be delivered in a far cleaner fashion than is generally the case with the mostly coal-powered mega–power plants that now feed American power grids.


Working with the city-owned electricity supplier Fort Collins Utilities (FCU) and several locally based clean-energy specialists, participating employers were able to collectively reduce peak-load demand on a designated microgrid within the ZED’s boundaries by more than 20 percent during test periods that lasted more than four weeks...

Lauren Moss's insight:

An interesting case study on Zero Energy Districts, in practice... 

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San Francisco Embraces the Pop-Up for Neighborhood Revitalization

San Francisco Embraces the Pop-Up for Neighborhood Revitalization | green streets | Scoop.it

In San Francisco, pop-up incubator SQFT attempts to showcase the potential of temporary business for economic development.

Once a strategy for retailers to build brand awareness and coolness cred in a flashy spectacle (now you see us, now you don't), the pop-up shop has transformed into a tool of urban revitilization. In San Francisco, the city government has partnered with a pop-up incubator called SQFT to help activate a downtrodden neighborhood's potential with a jolt of temporary business inserted into retail deadspace. Today, SQFT celebrates its launch by bringing a slice of life to a string of blocks in San Francisco's Mid-Market with a pop-up library, yoga studio, and cafe, among other temporary businesses...

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Visualizing the "edible city" in three minutes

Visualizing the "edible city" in three minutes | green streets | Scoop.it

The American Society of Landscape Architects has produced another great video, this one about growing food in cities. I'm a big fan of ASLA's work, in part because of their terrific skill at public and professional communications.

This particular project contains both a short introduction to the subject of urban gardening and illustrations of a variety of types. Personally, I have come to prefer the word "gardening" over "farming" when it comes to growing food in cities, because... I like the idea of keeping cities compact to conserve land for real farms outside the urban-suburban footprint, while gardening at a lot or neighborhood scale inside the city boundary.

For me, the key test is whether in any particular instance city food-growing supports urban density and other aspects of urban life. If it does, I'm all in; if, instead, it conflicts, it's probably in the wrong place. Of course, everything is situational and subject to context.

The included video is full of great examples of how to produce food in ways highly compatible with cities and city living. Click on the link to enjoy the video...


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New Orleans school cultivates a generation of forward-thinking farmers

New Orleans school cultivates a generation of forward-thinking farmers | green streets | Scoop.it
Nat Turner and the hardworking young crew behind Our School at Blair Grocery are bringing healthy soil and fresh food to the Lower Ninth Ward.

 

Nat Turner, a former New York City public-school teacher, moved to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward on Thanksgiving Day, 2008. He didn’t know anything about gardening — “I could barely keep a cactus alive” — but he had a vision to start an urban farm that would be a vehicle for educating and empowering the neighborhood’s youth. He’d been making service trips to the Big Easy with students, but he wanted an opportunity to dig deeper, literally and figuratively, into the city’s revitalization.

His first goal, Turner says, “is to figure out how to make the Lower Ninth food secure.” It seems fitting, then, that in a neighborhood with no supermarket, Turner set up shop in a falling-down building that had once housed a black-owned family business called the B&G Grocery.

He filled a pink bathtub in the backyard with soil and planted scallions, which floated away when the bathtub flooded in a rainstorm. That was the beginning of Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG)...

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The Resurrection of the Corner Store

The Resurrection of the Corner Store | green streets | Scoop.it
Can clever zoning bring neighborhood stores back?

At its peak (1950), Washington was home to 800,000 people, around 30 percent more than its current population. So there is no question that the city can accommodate significant growth without a departure from its traditional character. That’s why allowing accessory dwellings and alley-facing homes makes so much sense. As Alpert notes, households today are smaller, so that in today’s market the way to add capacity is with more units, particularly small ones.

I love the idea of bringing back corner stores and other small retail outlets in residential areas. Where legacy stores still exist today, they are much loved. The proposed rules governing what kinds, and when and where they are allowed, are apparently complex. There seems to be an attempt to favor existing clusters and corridors of retail establishments, for example; new ones would be allowed only at a certain distance from existing ones...

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Most Americans Want a Walkable Neighborhood, Not a Big House

Most Americans Want a Walkable Neighborhood, Not a Big House | green streets | Scoop.it
It turns out most of us value nearby stores and parks rather than McMansions. Luckily, that's probably where we're headed.

The symbol of American success often involves having the biggest house possible, but our outsized fantasies seem to be shifting. According to a new survey, more than three quarters of us consider having sidewalks and places to take a walk one of our top priorities when deciding where to live. Six in 10 people also said they would sacrifice a bigger house to live in a neighborhood that featured a mix of houses, stores, and businesses within an easy walk.

For once, our preferences align with our impending reality; in the future, we may not have a choice whether or not to downsize our lifestyles. The housing bust exposed that the McMansion phenomenon is unsustainable, which has forced us to re-examine our priorities. In another study in 2010, the ideal number of square footage people desired for their houses dropped dramatically. It's becoming increasingly clear that the American dream of buying a big old house will need to be revised for the youngest generation.

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Smaller, more sustainable living in neighborhoods that fit in

Smaller, more sustainable living in neighborhoods that fit in | green streets | Scoop.it

When talking about reducing the footprint of our living patterns on the landscape and the earth’s limited resources, I always stress that this does not necessarily mean high-rises or even multi-family living at all. Those can be perfectly accessible pathways to sustainability for people who prefer them, but one can also have sustainably designed neighborhoods of single-family homes on moderately sized lots. The lots can be even smaller without sacrificing access to the outdoors if ample shared green space is integrated into the setting. Ultimately, more sustainable living patterns need to be about a diversity of choices within a community, rather than the ghettoes of identically sized and styled housing products typically offered during the recent heyday of sprawl

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Rebuilding an affordable, sustainable community in Galveston

Rebuilding an affordable, sustainable community in Galveston | green streets | Scoop.it
Three years ago, Hurricane Ike wiped out much of Galveston, Texas, including over 500 affordable homes administered by the city’s Housing Authority. Faced with the task of starting over, the Authority began to rethink how it might improve upon its old public housing model.

With the help of McCormack Baron Salazar, a prominent national developer of economically integrated city neighborhoods, and Urban Strategies, a planning and management firm specializing in inclusive urban redevelopment, the result has been a process called Working Together for Galveston. The project’s vision statement is a model of learning from the past to create a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive future...

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Want calmer cities? Build socially sustainable communities...

Want calmer cities? Build socially sustainable communities... | green streets | Scoop.it

Environmental sustainability is now well recognized, though social sustainability – finding ways to make places work for people, that are inclusive and cohesive, and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances – is a new challenge.

There is strong evidence about the relationship between the quality of our local social relationships – the people we pass time with on the street, whether we can call on neighbors for help when we are ill – and how happy we are with where we live. The work that is needed to support this is the small scale, efforts of community development workers and local neighbourhood groups. However, this work is vulnerable to cuts in public spending, though corner cutting can have a stark long-term negative impact; the financial and social costs of neighbourhood failure are high and include raised levels of crime, unemployment and mental health problems...

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Policies for a Shareable City #7: Shareable Neighborhoods

Policies for a Shareable City #7: Shareable Neighborhoods | green streets | Scoop.it

What policies can a city adopt to help residents share and support each other? Shareable & the Sustainable Economies Law Center are engaging readers in a 20-part series. Each post will focus on a different topic and offer policy proposals for ways cities can support sharing and mutual aid.

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Mapping the trees of New York, one by one

Mapping the trees of New York, one by one | green streets | Scoop.it
A project to map the location and condition of each tree in NYC opens up doors for citizen stewardship, inviting New Yorkers to be unlikely forest workers.
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