Friday, December 21, 2007

Baltimore...A city on the rise?

The Baltimore Sun reports that a recent academic study shows Baltimore City's population is growing and is becoming wealthier and more educated. Here is the December 21st article.

Ranking the metro area The Greater Baltimore Committee's State of the Region report ranks 20 metro areas, including Baltimore, in 105 categories. Here is how the Baltimore area ranked on eight of them, with 1 being the best and 20 the worst:

1. Academic research-and-development spending
2. Percent growth in personal income per person
3. Minority-owned firms as a share of total companies
3. Improvement in the violent-crime rate
4. Median household income
17. Manufacturing job growth
18. Average travel time to work
19. Violent-crime rate

So what is your opinion? Do you think Baltimore City is on the rise? Does this report show a true glimpse of the city of just the further conitunation of the divide between the wealthy and the underclass?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Pictures: The 1968 Baltimore Riots

The assassination death of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968 sparked riots in more than 100 American cities.

The Baltimore riot started on Saturday, April 6th (timeline), then Maryland Governor, Spirow Agnew, called out thousands of National Guard troops and 500 Maryland State Police to quell the disturbance. When it was determined that the state forces could not control the riot, Agnew requested Federal troops from President Lyndon B. Johnson.

By the time the riot was over, 6 people would be dead, 700 injured, 4,500 arrested and over a thousand fires set. More than a thousand businesses had been looted or burned, many of which never reopened. Total property damage was estimated at $13.5 million (1968$).

Decades after the riot, many inner-city neighborhoods in Baltimore and across the nation are still trying to recover from the impact of the riots that occurred almost 4 decades prior. For many cities, the King Riots triggered massive white flight and continued disinvestment in the inner city.

Here are some images of the 1968 Baltimore Riots. Let us know what your opinions are of the impacts that riots had on American inner-cities.

Click here for footage of the riot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Music Videos about Cities

Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray Soundtrack) - "Good Morning Baltimore"

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - "Chicago"

Boyz II Men - "Motown Philly"
(Notice all the Temple U. banners in the background)

A Tribe Called Quest - Award Tour
"Goin' each and every place with the mic in their hand, Chinatown, Spokane, London, Tokyo"

Kiss - "Detroit, Rock City"

Gil Scott-Heron - "We Almost Lost Detroit"
(A song against nuclear power plants and a near meltdown of a Michigan plant in the 1970s)

The Presidential Race and City Politics

Have you heard any of your favorite 2008 Presidential candidates talk much about the issues of the city? Well, we have not either. With 80% of America's population in urbanized areas it's rather odd that the candidates which include the former mayors of New York City and Cleveland have not addressed urban problems.

Here is a December 14th New York Times article about the candidates lack of concern for cities.

What do you think?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Republicans and the City

The 2004 Presidential voting map above shows that almost every urban metropolitan county is blue or Democrat. One of the major metropolitan counties that is not blue is Dallas, Texas (Cowboys Fans).

Over the past several decades, the GOP has not acted to kindly to cities. From Reaganomics which cut off significant funding to services which primarily served cities, to Federal drug laws which unfairly treat the poor, to the "pulling up oneself up by the bootstraps" mentality which fails to look at the inherent economic inequalities of the urban poor.

In almost every major metropolitan region the blue city is surrounded by the red suburban counties. Now we know that most city residents vote Democrat but is there any other reasons why it seems like Republicans have a rocky relationship with cities?

What is your opinion?

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Creative Class and the Gayborhood

Richard Florida, an economist and Urban Studies professor believes the best way to revitalize decaying cities is to invest in the "Creative Class." Prof. Florida has been to dozens of cities, speaking to hundreds of city officials and planners about how to save their cities.

Florida's theory asserts that metropolitan regions with high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, musicians, gay men, and a group he describes as "high bohmians", correlate with a higher level of economic development. Florida suggests that attracting and retaining high-quality talent, versus a singular focus on infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, would be a better primary use of a city's regeneration resources for long-term prosperity.
Among the city planning realm, Florida has sparked a wave of interest and criticism on his views of city revitalization.

Some cities have taken Florida's message to heart, Philadelphia for example fully embraces it's gayborhood and actively promotes it's downtown known as Center City to be hip, trendy and cool. The city has recently hosted Gay Pride weeks promoting a nine block stretch of Center City known as the "Gayborhood" and is trying to capitalize the $54 billion gay travel market.

What's your opinion of Richard Florida's theory? Do you believe investing in the creative class will revitalize cities?

"The Wire" and The Post Industrial CIty

Critically acclaimed HBO TV series "The Wire" chronicles the gritty street environment of the underclass in the post industrial era of Baltimore. While this show has done an excellent job in detailing all the complexities of the drug trade and how it intertwines with local neighborhoods, law enforcement and elected government, "The Wire" has also provided a great social commentary on how a city can decay.

David Simon, the show creator explains "The Wire" as:
"...really about the American city, and about how we live together. It's about how institutions have an effect on individuals, and how... whether you're a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge [or] lawyer, you are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution you've committed to."

This quote really sums up the over-arching premise of the show. The institutions of the city, be it private industry, government, or illegal street trade puts individuals in situations where they may have to compromise their morality or principals for the overall good for their specific institution, no matter how much reverberating damage their actions may cause.

For any city planner working in a major metropalitan region, we understand that the nuts and bolts of modern city planning will not be a cure in hleping the plight of a city's underclass. While there are structural causes that help enable the continuation of the cycle of poverty in cities, there are also widespread societal problems that City Planning as a profession could never solve by itself.

So the question being posed is, What can City Planners do to help address societal concerns in their profession?

It would be great to hear from all city planners on this. And if youre not a city planner then leave a comment on what you think city planners should do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Historic Day in Baltimore

From Right to left: Mayor Sheila Dixon, Comptroller Joan Pratt, Council President Stephanie Rawlings Blake and City State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, seated second to the left

For the first time in history, four women - more specifially - four African American women, hold the top four positions in a major American. The top four positions are the City's State Attorney (Patricia Jessamy), the Comptroller (Joan Pratt) and the City Council President (Stephanie Rawlings-Blake) and the Mayor (Sheila Dixon) who were both sworn in yesterday.

Let's hope the women will have better luck in planning the city then the men have in the past 150 years.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

An Inner City Staple...Chicken Wings & Fried Rice

All across the inner-cities of America, Chinese Food Carry Outs are often the predominant restaurants found in inner-city neighborhoods. These establishments, typically ran by foreighn-born families sometimes have a rocky relationship with their surrounding neighborhoods. Some residents decry that the money these establishments make do not filter back into the neighborhood. Others decry that these businesses recieve more preferential treatment then existing businesses held by owners from within the neighborhood. While other point out that theses carry out businesses are bad for the general health of the neighborhod.

For better or for worse, these establishments are the most willing to go into inner-city neighborhoods. With out these carry outs, many inner city neighborhoods would be left no eateries or restaraunts at all. And there is no mistaking that these places have left a lasting impression on inner city neighborhoods from coast to coast.

For many inner city residents, thier meal tonight will be a $3 combo of 4 chicken wings and fried rice.

What's your opinion of Chinese Food Carry Out in the inner city?

Hip Hop & City Planning Series

Like no other music before or after it, Hip Hop intrinsically belongs to the city. Hip Hop was birthed in the city, lives in the city and could not have been started anywhere else but the city.
Other musical genres have their meccas of their musical art, be it Jazz from New Orleans, Country in Nashville, the Blues of Memphis or the Rhythm of Motown...but while these cities that drew in artists from all over the map to help spread their genre's music, HIP HOP was started purely by city residents, for city residents with out any outside influences.

In short, Hip Hop is a product of the city. Similarly to the Blues, Hip Hop begun from the spirit of the havenots and the burdened. The economic conditions of people from both genres helped inspire the melodies, songs and messages of their plight, glory and spirit. However, Hip Hop as a genre itself was created from it's own economic conditions. The lack of money for instruments, music training or even music programs in city schools inspired city youth to come up with their own music and their own sound without instruments.

Hip Hop began when DJ's took the drum solo or break beat of a record from another genre and began scratching the record back and forth to extend the break beat into a grove. Once the beat was sampled, people began to make simple rhymes to them while the kids who danced to the break beats, who were called B-Boys created their own dance that we know of as Breakdancing. Along with graffiti, all the elements of the Hip Hop culture formed creating a new genre of music straight from the city.

What this series will look at is the influence that city planning and government programs had on cities that created the conditions that Hip Hop was created from. This series will look all the way back to Urban Renewal, and the affect that these programs had in creating housing projects as well as "Blight Removal" programs which targeted minority neighborhoods. This series will look back to the effects that "Reagonomics" had on cities and the poor. The dramatic impact of the crack cocaine era and its affects on Hip Hip will be explored and lastly the series will look at gentrification in cities today.

This should be an interesting series and as always we would love to hear people's responses and comments.

Envisioning Urbanism

Now we are not the greatest fans of Urbanism here, we like the concept but design wise, New Urbanism tends to make every place look the same. It would be nice to see a new urbanist project without cookie cutter designs and the standard template of stores such as Barnes & Nobles, Starbucks, Chile's & Old Navy...if your project is nice enough, maybe a Trader Joe's.

With that said, the website located below is pretty cool. The site shows pictures of unappealing streets and then gradually shows how new urbanist principles could be applied to make these streets into lively places.

The World's tallest buildings in 1884

Quick, name the architect, city and country to all these buildings...Go!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Megatropolis

Recent data as well as new articles are now showing that metropolitan regions on the east coast are now starting to merge with one another.

Some D.C. area workers now commute from as far as Baltimore or West Virgina for cheaper housing
Some Baltimore area workers now commute from as far as Southern Pennsylvania for cheaper housing
And now some New Yorkers have reached as far south as Philadelphia to find cheaper housing

This leaves one to wonder if we are looking at the beginnings of a future Megatropolis? A Megatropolis that would stretch from the southern Connecticut commuter towns and cities that feed New York City in the north and to the edge cities in northern Virgina that feed Washington D.C. to the south.

A November 15th article of this year in the Washington Post details Marylanders slow migration out of the state in an article titled "Housing Costs Driving Away Marylanders"

"High housing prices are pushing Maryland residents to move farther from Washington and, in some cases, to neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to a new study released by the Maryland Department of Planning."

An August 14, 2005 article in the New York Times wrote that artists who have been pushed out of Manhattan and now are being priced out of Brooklyn are now coming to Philadelphia in increasing numbers in an article titled "Philadelphia Story: The Next Borough"

"Philadelphians occasionally refer to their city - somewhat deprecatingly - as the "sixth borough" of New York, and with almost 8,000 commuters making the 75-minute train ride between the cities each weekday, the label seems not far off the mark."

What's your opinion?

Unfamiliar Skylines Series...Cities in Brazil

Belo Horizonte




Rio De Janeiro


Sao Paulo