Sunday, July 20, 2008

The End of White Flight

The Wall Street Journal recently printed an article about the End of White Flight based on the small increases of whites returning to cities and the fairly significant decreases of blacks in cities moving to the suburbs. The article covers the many challenges cities have to face with a changing population such as changing social norms, loss of heritage, conflict in cultural traditions and the redistricting of school students. Other challenges that cities face is the rising rate of poverty among the city's poor neighborhoods as the black middle class moves and take jobs to the suburbs and affluent whites come to other impoverished neighborhood and price the poor out.

The End of White Flight will continue to have major impacts on how cities are viewed and planned as the shift of whites moving toward cities and blacks moving to the suburbs will significantly change the spatial dynamics of cities. Old cultural traditions will end and be furiously fought for and new ones will arise in unfamiliar places.

To read the rest of the article, click here. And please respond and tell us your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rust Belt Cities stay losing...Population

The census report for population growth was recently released and as the New York Times reports, many older cities continue to see their ups and downs. The only major East Coast or Rust Belt city to see a significant net increase was New York City. However it should be noted that since 2000, NYC has lost over 200, 000 residents.

As the trend has been since the 1970's Americans continue to move to the Sun Belt and suburban locales. Small to medium sized cities in the South and West have now become major cities as seen with Phoenix and San Antonio, which are now the nation's 5th and 7th largest cities. Houston, the nation's 4th largest city has now ballooned to 2.2 million people and Atlanta is one of the largest Metropolitan regions in the country. Surprisingly, Washington D.C., the nation's capital is no longer within the top 25 largest cities in the country.

As planners, this should be rather distressing. In my opinion many of the "cities" out west are just amorphous jurisdictions that happen to capture an urbanized place and it's suburban surroundings. In no way can these cities be compared to the traditional cities in the east or even the instant growth cities we see in China and in other parts of Asia. These blobs of cities are uniquely American and given the sheer land mass of their size have the lowest populations densities of any city found in the world. By Comparison, Phoenix, the 4th largest American city which has approximately 75,000 more residents then the 5th largest city, Philadelphia, is over 2.5 times the larger then Philly in total square footage. In order for Philadelphia to be of the the same square footage as Phoenix it would have to absorb it's entire neighboring county.

One does not have to tell you that the need for sustainable neighborhoods and cities is greater than ever. One has to look no further then the local newspaper to look at inflated gas prices, the mortgage crisis and a weakening infrastructure that we have to change the way we develop cities. It's not only up to the planners but it also up to the people to reform their ideologies of desirability and realize the desires of a green pastures and McMansions is not a sustainable way of life.

To read more of the New York Times article, click here. And as always, please leave a comment.

Baltimore Coummunity College seeking to sell Campus for Revenue

Main BCCC Campus Building

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) is seeking to sell it's downtown campus to developers for revenue for additional space elsewhere. The possible development of this site would have a major impact not only on the continuing redevelopment of Baltimore but on public education itself. The selling of University land for prime real estate is starting to become a national trend. The University of South Carolina recently announced that it is constructing two condo buildings with unit prices that range between $750K and 1.5M and the University of Pennsylvania is helping to redevelop a Philadelphia riverfront with a development price tag well over $1 Billion dollars.

Back to Baltimore, while allowing 2.2 acre campus site to possibly redevelop would bring more night time and weekend activity to the area it can not be understated that the popular campus itself brought a lot of students to the area as well. A major concern for the BCCC or for any city community college would be location for all it's residents and students. Preferably one would like to have a community college near downtown or within close proximity, tucking a the location of the campus to East Baltimore as BCCC is proposing to, really isn't accomplishing that goal.

Hopefully, the new location of the campus will be placed near a proposed Red Line metro stop giving all students a chance to get to the campus using major transit. As many Baltimore transit riders will tell you, commuting from east to west and vice versa on transit is a horrible and long commute. As for the redevelopment of the site, one hopes that a developer will propose something that will positively connect Power Plant Live with the new development along Pratt Street and the existing development along the Harbor.

To read the entire Baltimore Sun article, click here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Cityscapes of John Atkinson Grimshaw

John Atkinson Grimshaw (b. 1836) was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.
In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold. Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style. He painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features. The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow Liverpool. Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London.

Whitby Harbor by Moonlight

Liverpool Docks

Liverpool from Wapping

Baiting the Lines

Hamstead Hill

St. Paul's Cathedral

Blackmon Street London

Unfamiliar Skyline Series...Cities of the Phillipines & Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia

Quezon City, Philippines

Manila City, Philippines

Davao City, Philippines

Surabaya, Indonesia

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Urban farming takes root in Detroit

This is pretty shocking, I might not have believed this story if were not for a youtube video a couple of years ago showing farmers and wildlife preserves in the middle of the city of Detroit!

I know things have gotten bad for the U.S. car capital but as a nation how do we allow a major city to fall into rumble like a not so ancient Roman ruin? While I'm glad they are using the land for something more prodcutive, I hope before they create anymore farms, that not one more development is planned on the fringes of the Deroit Metropolitan area and that infill development within city or at leat within it's beltway will be mandatory.

An Excerpt from the article:

...The idea is very simple: turn wasteland into free vegetable gardens and feed the poor people who live nearby.

...Providing free food on the doorstep brings people together and spreads collective wisdom, according to local city hall manager Gail Carr.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables are something that we all need. And we really, really need to educate our children in that area.

"If we don't, we're going to have a lost generation to many diseases such as diabetes," she said."

Click here for the entire BBC article.

Book Review: The Beautiful Stuggle

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about his childhood growing up in the crack-riddled era of the mid 1980's through early 1990's in the streets of Baltimore in his new book, The Beautiful Struggle: a father, twos sons and an unlikely road to manhood.

This an excellent memoir showing not just of a young man trying to stay on the right path in a tough inner-city environment but also shows a great transition from the author's father's generation of the Black pride and Black Panther movement of the 1970's to the collapse of inner-city neighborhoods caused by the crack epidemic as seen by the author's generation of the 1980's.

The author covers perfectly of how young men from the inner-city are bred to deal with their environment. I think the author rather pointy covers how young men are forced to gauge themselves and measure their actions and calculate how much emotion they could show because their environment was testing their manhood on a daily basis. One line that struck from the book is, "...even our smiles were measured." The author writes that in many neighborhoods the only possession young men felt they owned was respect. And respect in the crack epidemic era meant that it was tested daily and by taking that away was to take the only piece of humanity that justified a violent world which was hard to comprehend. As anyone knows or remembers sometimes that fight or just the basic demand for respect as a human being resulted in what appeared to be senseless acts of violence over who claimed a corner, tennis shoes or even a jacket.
Interestingly enough, Coates talked about "the mask" that young black men have to put on, especially from inner-city communities to deal with all the struggles and pitfalls that lay before them. This was interesting because a century before, W.E.B. Dubois also talked about"The Mask" black people had to wear in post-reconstruction America and to see that young black men still have to wear "the mask" albeit a much different one is still tragic.

The author also covers the rise of Hip Hop and it's golden era of the late 1980's. Without a doubt Hip Hop had a very profound affect on inner-cities across the country and the author covers how Hip Hop was very much of a positive for him and many others who began writing, emceeing and producing music. Coates writes about how Hip Hop had a noticeable affect on inner-city culture as it changed from party music to music of consciousness which heralded back the messages of his father's generation which had almost became lost because of how the crack epidemic completely took over the psyche of the inner-city.

Ultimately, the book is about a father, flawed and visionary at the same time, trying to raise his seven kids in a tough environment while trying to impart knowledge onto them of how to survive and be a freely independent conscious person in the world.

To find about about, The Beautiful Struggle, click here.

Hard Times At Douglass High

Hard Times at Douglass High: A report card on the no child left behind Act, was a pretty hard hitting look at the state (of emergency) of Americn inner-city schools.

There were a number of challenging aspects of the documentary raning from the social promotion of students who were 4-5 grade levels behind, to teachers who were being evaluated on the performance of students who were clearly ill prepared ofr their current grade levels, the shocking high percentage of non-certified teachers and the overall lack of resources.

I hope everyone gets a chance to see this documentary, whether it's on HBO, Netflix or renting the movie. This is an important documentary to watch not just for the sake of Baltimore City's future but for most of American's inner-city schools. Presently that future looks bleak, inner city students who do graduate are coming into the work world ill-prepared and as stated in a previous post on this blog, many of the students do not even make it to graduation. If we as a society do not act to correct this problem soon, planners will soon be planning cities for a permanant underclass that will be isolated from the mainstream.