Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Cityscapes of Canaletto

Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) (1697-1768). Venetian painter, the most famous view-painter of the 18th century. He began work painting theatrical scenery (his father's profession), but he turned to topography during a visit to Rome in 1719-20, when he was influenced by the work of Giovanni Paolo Panini. By 1723 he was painting dramatic and picturesque views of Venice, marked by strong contrasts of light and shade and free handling.

The Washington Posts asks, "What is a City?"

In a review and critique of the National Capital Planning Commission's position on a proposed mixed-use alley rendering, which some members felt the alley did not have the federal style or did not feel like Washington, the Post asks, What is a City--in a rendering?

An excerpt of the article:

"Free-associate on the subject, and the words that come to mind are usually about people, motion, business, crowds and chance encounters. Artists who do architectural renderings create the feel of a city through the strange use of spectral people overlaid on the streetscape, colorful, almost transparent renderings of bodies in motion. Cars are reduced to a blur of headlights and taillights, a fantasy of the automobile as motion, without any suggestion of traffic jams, honking horns or near-miss pedestrian encounters."

To read more, click here.

Richard Florida's take on Philly's Economic Future

Older readers of this blog may remember an earlier post made about the University of Toronto's professor, Richard Florida and his theory on the "Creative Class."

Well Professor Florida is once again making waves by declaring that today, a city's vibrancy is becoming the top factor for people making the critical decision of where they want to live. On a March 30th Philadelphia Inquierer article, Richard Florida describes why he believes Philly's economic future is bright.

Here is a excerpt of the article:

"Our moves are crucial to our lives, affecting everything from our job opportunities and career options to our investments, the friends we make, the people we date, the mates we choose, and the way we raise our families. Our choice of place to live is the most important decision we ever make - largely because it influences and shapes all the others...

...The quality of place matters a lot more than you might think. People expect their communities to provide basic services and public safety, and most places do. So while very important, they're not a huge competitive advantage. But we found that the higher people rate the beauty of their community, the higher the level of community satisfaction. Philadelphia's green spaces, parks and trails, historic buildings, and access to the outdoors are attractive to people of all income groups, races and ethnicities, and education levels."

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

For the Baltimoreans: Hillendale Community Plan Kick-Off

The Greater Hillendale Community Plan

Are there things you want to see happen in Hillendale?

What would you like to change, preserve, or create?

Want to help improve your Community?

Then come get involved in the Greater Hillendale Community Plan!

First meeting will be Wednesday, April 2nd, 6:30pm at Halstead Academy in the Cafeteria, 1111 Halstead Road Baltimore, MD 21234

Contact us for more details:

Michael Lynch: 410-887-2909,

Donnell Zeigler: 410-887-3480,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dems to debate strictly on "City Issues"

From the Washington Times:

"Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, whose city is a key battleground in the state's Democratic primary, is inviting the candidates to answer residents' questions at a town-hall meeting — an exchange with ordinary people that he says Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton's and Barack Obama's campaigns lack...

... Philadelphia voters need answers about urban issues, including school funding, re-entry programs for convicts, jobs initiatives and plans for federal grant programs for policing and community development, the mayor said."

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Teaching Urban culture through Hip Hop

From the Temple Times:

"If we, as students, are educated about American culture in general, why not also be educated about hip- hop culture? Hip-hop is often more accessible.

Here at Temple, the urban education department is paying attention to using music as a teaching tool. Marc Lamont Hill has taught several classes on hip-hop and urban culture. As a senior, I regret not being able to take one of his classes, where students often listen to lyrics and debate their meaning.

“That’s a common misconception about the class,” Hill said. “Hip-hop studies are rigorous and academically rich. One-third is music and the rest is reading.”

To read more, click here

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Inner-City Staple…The Corner Liquor Store

In many cities across the nation, numerous council members, mayors and community activists have tried to place a ban on corner liquor stores or sandwich shops that sell beer. In some cities it is illegal to sell certain kind of liquors and certain alcoholic quantities of liquor because they are known to be popular with alcoholics and vagrants. Through out all their controversy and the litany of reasons of why they should be banned, such as they are havens for robberies, loitering, other illegal activity, gambling, being loud and other nuisance laws…the corner liquor store still remains.

As planners, how would we regulate out or zone out a land use which is a fundamental right for a business owner to legally operate that land use provided they follow the code? Should planners even be involved in land use matters that are an issue one in neighborhood but not for another (such as a more upscale neighborhood that sold wine)?

What are your thoughts?

Hip Hop & CIty Planning Series

Reaganomics and Hip Hop

Through the 1950’s into the 1970’s the Federal Government had given out hundreds of millions of dollars to cities though Urban Renewal acts to revitalize downtowns and remove blight. By the end of the 1970’s Federal funding began to dry up leaving many social services agencies and programs, which were vital to the redevelopment of inner-city neighborhoods, scrambling to find new funding or substantially cutting back services.

By 1980, a new change in America’s presidential administration ushered in a new philosophy of government spending and monetary distribution. Ronald Reagan, who had ran a campaign to reduce government spending and therefore the tax burden on the average American citizen, brought forth a new economic policy of Supply Side Economics, which was eventually dubbed “Reaganomics.”

Reaganomics which was also known as the “Trickle Down Theory” sought to deregulate federal policy that hampered businesses to create a more free wide open economic market that would allow American businesses and corporations to generate more profit and larger investments which would in turn be funneled back down to the average worker. Unfortunately for the average worker and the poor, they only saw a trickle of the large amounts of wealth that American corporations generated and largely kept to themselves.

In this post I will show how Reaganomics shaped Hip Hop by exploring the impacts of the reduction of social service agencies and the effects of Hip Hop’s imitation of the lifestyles of the rich.

Though social service agencies had began to see reduced funding in the 1970’s, many government programs saw almost their entire budget taken away under the Reagan Administration forcing many agencies to shut down. Programs providing services such as job training for unemployed city youth, college loans for struggling working class families, day care assistance for single parent homes were cut off from funding leaving many inner-city residents without a prop to help them out of blighted neighborhoods which often times provided inferior education, inferior housing and a lack of available jobs.

The impacts of the lack of services that many had previously benefited from had a particularly hard hit to inner city youth. With out jobs or access to jobs, many cities faced record levels of crimes as gangs began to flourish and taken over neighborhoods garnering national attention from Boston to Los Angeles. In New York City, many boroughs were plagues with youth gangs including the South Bronx, the birthplace of Hip Hop. One of the fore fathers of Hip Hop, Africa Bambaataa, who was a gang leader of the Black Spades gang in the Bronx River Projects decided to use his leadership for something positive after making a trip to Africa. Instead of having rival gangs battle each other through violence he organized parties that had rival gangs battle each other through b-boying (break-dancing), dj’ing and emceeing (rapping). These battles through the use of Hip Hop music helped provide a deterrent to gang violence and these battles though Hip Hop are still prevalent in the culture today.

While Hip Hop started on the loftiest of goals of providing an outlet to inner-city kids to end gang violence, the rampant materialism of the overall larger culture would soon penetrate though to Hip Hop culture and pervert its original intentions as those who rose up through Hip Hop tried to justify their value and importance through material possessions. Reaganomics had a huge fundamental shift in economic distribution as supply side economics soon began to be viewed as a zero sum gain for the poor. While the poverty rate for minorities grew every single year in the 1980’s, many corporate employees and upper management white collar workers saw unprecedented wealth and their lifestyles were documented on such shows as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

While undoubtedly many of those in Hip Hop who boasted about material wealth took their cues from an increasing number of rich inner-city drug dealers, all of them were imitating the lives they saw on shows like the just mentioned Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. While no one imagined the trickle down theory would lead to inner-city kids to obtain expensive cars, clothes and jewelry of the rich, what did trickle down to the inner-city was drugs and guns. Jobs, better schooling and economic opportunity did not trickle down to these neighborhoods. In fact, the impending drug epidemic of the mid 1980’s would soon almost sever any connection the inner-city had with investment coming from the mainstream. By the early 1990’s the illegal drug market had become almost the only market that survived and thrived in the inner-city. This would soon have an effect on Hip Hop which no longer just boasted about materialism but soon began speaking on taking others material possessions by any means necessary to survive.

The next installment of this series will focus on Hip Hop and the Crack Cocaine Era.

Urban Revival's First Book Review

Book Review: Party Crashing: How the Hip-Hop Generation Declared Political Independence by Keli Goff

As seen with the current Presidential campaign of Barack Obama there is a generational difference among African Americans when it comes to politics. As Party Crashing points out, today’s younger black voter has different values and beliefs then their older generation. Race is no longer the only issue for younger black voters, while it is still a major issue there are other factors which younger black voters feel are just as important such as the economy, the war in Iraq and the environment.

The book points out repeatedly that the same issues and struggles of say Harry Belafonte in 1960 would be the same as any other black person who may have been a maid or a bus driver. No matter one stature back then, everyone faced the same amount of discrimination. Today, someone like Lebron James would not have the same issues and struggles in common with a bus driver. The black experience today is more varied than ever and everyone today does not share the same experience.

The book also points out the rise of the young black independent voter and how the Democratic Party is beginning to lose control of this demographic that for decades had been part of their base. While no one foresees large numbers of black voters heading back to the Republican Party where the black vote started before the Civil Rights Era, many young black voters feel that they have been taken advantage of by the Democratic Party and the book cites several examples of this.

Another interesting facet that the books points out is the declining influence of older Civil Rights Era stalwarts have on younger black voters. As pointed out in the book many Civil Rights leaders are having a tough time connecting with younger voters and many outright resent the new crop of younger black politicians who did not go through their experience. As time moves on it will be interesting to see who will become the new political face for Black America…will it be Barack Obama, the great uniter? For some older members of the black community who feel uniters will assimilate black struggle, that is a scary thought.


For those interested in the future of young black voters or the future of a large segment of voters who will most likely shape urban policy, agendas and laws I encourage them to read this insightful book by Keli Goff.

Welcome to San Antonio

Pics taken during the 2006 American Planning Association National Conference

A bad pic of the Alamo and an old high-rise office building across the street

The Riverwalk

The Sewage Drain...I mean The Riverwalk again

A parade

Riverwalk parade

My crummy motel block...never go to a hotel that has "Limited" in it's title

Rio - City of Splendour (1936)

An interesting video of Rio De Janeiro in 1936. It would have been been great if the short documentary had shown Rio's favelas ala the movies City of God and City of Men to show a true portrait of the city.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A New Tool for Planners?

The Global Planners Network has recently created a tool to help help future global planners assess their skill sets in dealing with the challenges of providing basic services such as sanitation, clean water, clean air and adequate health care in an increasing global urban environment.

"A ‘Self-Diagnostic Tool to Assess Planning Capacity’ has been developed by the UK’s Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Commonwealth Association of Planners, to help planning organisations across the world to assess their capacity to respond to the challenges of urban growth.

By assessing their skills-base, organisational capacity, leadership and working methods it is hoped planning organisations will find themselves better placed to cope with the challenges that lie ahead.

To read more, click here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Proposed Philly Skyscraper would be taller than the Empire State Building

Image of the proposed skyscraper

The Philadelphia Business Journal is reporting that a developer is proposing a 1,500 foot skyscraper on 18th and Arch Street. The new Comcast Center, which currently the city's largest skyscraper stands at 1,000 feet. Philadelphia is definitely booming with skyscrapers with several office and condo towers being built within the last fiver years and even more being proposed. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the owners of the parcels along the south side of Market East may soon be proposing more high rise offices and condos.

Let's hope that these new skyscrapers do not continue the Curse of William Penn on the city's sports teams.
Here is an excerpt of the article:
"The structure is being called the American Commerce Center. It would have 1.3 million square feet of office space, a 300-room, high-end hotel and 315,000 square feet of retail space above and below street level. An underground garage would have 383 parking spaces...
...So far, Walnut Street has lined up tenants for the retail portion, Miller said. While he declined to give specifics, Miller said a high-end home store, restaurants ranging from moderate to high end, a gourmet food store, a health club as well as a movie theater have committed. The theater, based on a new concept emerging from Australia, would have eight screens that can seat 18 to 40 people each and offer light fare, spirits and first-run movies. The hotel flag is in negotiations and would be a full-service, five-star facility."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Dubious Distinction...the World's 25 Dirtiest Cities

Moscow, Russia

Last month, Forbes recently wrote an article about the world's dirtiest and polluted cities. Many of these cities face the same problems that European and American cities faced at the turn of the 20th centruy. The lack of planning of sanitation and sewage for booming cities in developing nations has reached near crisis mode for the general health of city residents and the environment.

Ironically the basis of city planning stems from the planning of sanitation, sewage and foul land uses to have their waste properly disposed of and placed away from the main living spaces of people. As planners, in developed nations we argue, theorize and conjecture on how to make our developed neighborhoods more walkable but we must always be aware of the city planning needs of developing nations to make city dwellers have the basic infrastructure needs to survive.
Many of the environmental hazards currently found in cities on these list could have been addressed if they were properly planned. While some developing nations may not have had the funds necessary to construct and maintain public infrastructure, I'm sure all can agree that haphazard planning has not worked in favor on the development growth of these cities.

An excerpt from the article:

"Economies suffer, too. Health care costs and lost productivity drag on business. Companies also face added costs in the form of remuneration packages when relocating employees and their families to some of these cities, noted Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer. Cost-benefit analysis certainly suggests making progress toward cleanup. According to a study done by WaterAid, for every $1 spent on improved sanitation, the benefit equals $9 resulting from decreased cost of health care and increased productivity."

What is your opinion?

Poverty Pimping...Tour Visits of the world's slums

A tour of a favela in Rio De Janeiro

The New York Times wrote an article this week about poverty tours and whether or not that they were tourism or voyeurism. The article mentioned that there were tours in such cities as Rio De Janeiro, Johannesburg and Mumbai that all had tours to the lighted sections of their cities.

While some tourists feel that they can get the real experience of the city's culture through poverty tours, I can't help but feel that for the most part, all tourists will experience is a culture of poverty which can be a distortion of a city's real culture. Just as only visiting hotels and museums will not let you experience a city's true culture neither will visiting it's slums.

Often times, impoverished neighborhoods are not apart of the mainstream culture and have their own separate trades, economies, lifestyles and housing based out of necessity then a cultural or historical tradition.

Here's an excerpt of the article:

Would you want people stopping outside of your front door every day, or maybe twice a day, snapping a few pictures of you and making some observations about your lifestyle?” asked David Fennell, a professor of tourism and environment at Brock University in Ontario. Slum tourism, he says, is just another example of tourism’s finding a new niche to exploit. The real purpose, he believes, is to make Westerners feel better about their station in life. “It affirms in my mind how lucky I am — or how unlucky they are,” he said.

What is your opinion of Poverty Tours?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The City of the Future

A tenemant building in Johannesburg

BusinessWeek recently ran an article about a book focusing on he ever expanding growth of mega cities called, The Endless City. The authors of the book hope that readers will view cities as sources of strength instead of isolating slums.

Here's an except of the artilce:

"The Endless City, a new book edited by the London School of Economics' Ricky Burdett and design curator Deyan Sudjic, aims to put urban expansion into perspective. The growth of cities, they argue, is not just a problem for local government agents or urban planners. Instead, urban growth is inseparable from major political and economic forces including globalization, immigration, employment, social exclusion, and sustainability (themes that track closely with the issues currently being debated in the runup to the U.S. Presidential election.)"

To read more, click here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Unfamiliar Skyline Series...Cities in the Middle East

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Ankara, Turkey

Dubai, United Arab Emirites

Dubai, United Arab Emirites

Beirut, Lebanon

Tehran, Iran

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Presentation of the Northwood Plaza Conceptual Designs & Survey Results

From the Northwood Plaza Working Group:

Presentation of the Northwood Plaza Conceptual Designs & Survey Results
The Northwood Plaza Design Team* is thrilled to present the conceptual designs resulting from the Community Design Workshop held in January, 2008. The workshop was well-attended and generated incredible ideas.

Please join us next month for a presentation of conceptual designs for the Northwood Plaza, the results of the community planning survey that many of you completed online, and more lively discussion!

April 12th, 2008 from 10:00am to noon
Morgan State University
Theater, 1st floor of the Student Center

The Student Center is located between Hillen Road and Stadium Way, just north of Argonne Drive. The garage is accessible off of Stadium Way at a cost of 50 cents per hour. There is a bridge from the garage to the Student Center on the 3rd floor.

Please feel free to post or forward this information or to reply with questions. We hope to see you there!

How to Participate in the Developlment and Zoning Process in Baltimore County

  • Interested in development or zoning in your community?
  • Want to make sure you voice is heard?
  • Confused by the intricacies of the development Process?
Come out and attend the free seminars on Development and Zoning Process in Baltimore County

Who should attend?
Property Owners, Civic Association Members, Attorneys, Public Interest Advocates

Session 1: 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Development Plan Process
Catonsville Library - March 6/ Towson Library - March 12/ Noth Point Library - March 19

Session 2: 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Special Development Reviews
Catonsville Library - April 3/ Towson Library - April 21 / North Point Library - April 22

Session 3: 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Zoning Variances/Exceptions
Catsonsville Library - May 5/ Towson Library - May 14/ North Point Library - May 27

ULI Baltimore Presents: Form Based Codes: Understand Them and the Opportunities They Create

Friday, March 14, 2008
(7:30-8:00 am networking - 8:15 – 9:30 am program / presentation)
Johns Hopkins Downtown Center
10 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD

Through the leadership of Doug McCoach, the Baltimore Director of Planning, Baltimore is the process of overhauling the city's zoning requirements, through an initiative entitled Transform Baltimore. As part of this initiative, the Form Based Code is being considered for areas of the city. Join us on March 14th to better understand what the Form Based Code is, why Baltimore is considering the Form Based Code and the opportunities this code will have for developments within the City.

Doug McCoach, Director of Planning, City of Baltimore
Jeff Speck, National Form-based code expert
Jim Epstein, Chairman of EFO Capital Management, Inc.
Bob Eisenberg, President, Heritage Property Company

Stuart Sirota, AICP, CNU, Principal
TND Planning Group

Check ULI Baltimore's website for more info.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Robert McClintock's views of Baltimore

The vibrant and widely collected work of Baltimore based photo/digital artist Robert McClintock, is at once attention grabbing and immediately recognizable. His adopted home, the eclectic city of Baltimore, has been his visual inspiration for the past eleven years.
His popular collection of over 200 images titled “Baltimore Seen” spotlights representative landmarks, monuments, neighborhoods, and the well-loved restaurants and bars of greater Baltimore and may be viewed in his expanded, recently relocated gallery in the historic Baltimore waterfront neighborhood of Fell’s Point.
Bromo Lombard Tower

Upper Fells

Abell Ave Row House

Cab on the Block

Midtown - Charles Street North

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Towson Urban Core

York Road, in Downtown Towson

In a recent article called Street Sense, the Baltimore Sun wrote about the shops located in the Towson core to show that their are a variety of shops outside of the Mall.

For those not familiar with Towson, the large un-incorporated community is a suburb of Baltimore City sandwiched in between the city line and the Baltimore Beltway. While Towson only has 55,000 residents it is the seat of government for Baltimore County, boasts two major universities (including Towson University) and is the 2nd largest employment base outside of downtown Baltimore.

While Towson has a lot going for it, many of it's shops in the older and Historic urban core have been in decline since the local mall, Towson Town Center kept expanding to become a regional mall as it is today. While there have been several shops that have closed for business in Towson within the last several years, all is not lost for the community. A recent slew of development projects are slated for Towson which will dramatically increase the number of residents, commercial space and office space inside the core. The building boom in Towson could transform Towson the way that the building boom in the late 1960's into the 1970's took Towson from being a large town to a regional Urban Center.

For more about the shop in the Towson core, click here.