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[13 Dec 2013 | No Comment | ]
Does your community suffer from power pole blight?

I don’t know about your community, but here in Greater Lansing there seems to be an intense love affair between public utilities and power poles. “Holy pincushions, Batman, you’d think they’d all been raised by a family of porcupine.”
In some places, the primary roadway corridors look like a long, linear parade of power pole blight.  Sadly, all too often this leaves communities in the region with disjointed and unpleasant streetscape aesthetics to overcome. I know Greater lansing is not alone, as I have seen power pole blight across many parts …

Architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Education, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, Sprawl, The Environment, Urban Planning »

[29 Oct 2013 | No Comment | ]
Ten Lessons from Boulder, Colorado

 
I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for Rust Belt communities from the lovely city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have unique attributes.
Here are what I would quantify as the top ten. Many of these are remarkably similar to the ten lessons from European industrial cities published earlier this month.

Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy …

Architecture, Art, Economic Development, Editorial, Featured, Good Ideas, Politics, Public Transportation, Urban Planning »

[8 Oct 2013 | No Comment | ]
Ten Lessons from European Industrial Cities

I have had the distinct privilege and honor of visiting the great cities of Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Manchester, England in the past four years. All three of these industrial revolution-era urban centers can provide America’s Rust Belt will valuable insights about overcoming past malaise and degradation to chart a new economic paradigm. Here are ten lesson I have learned from visiting them and observing what makes all three so vibrant:

Architecture, Featured »

[19 Aug 2013 | No Comment | ]
The St. Louis Place Neighborhood, Virtual + Real Life Architecture Tour

The St. Louis Place neighborhood on St. Louis’ north side offers an array of nearly every condition found in the city’s body: elegant Gilded Age architecture, ravaged abandoned buildings (including some struck by brick thieves), vacant lots, infill construction of all kinds, the city’s only mud-walled building and experimental agriculture of all scales. The neighborhood’s core was platted in 1850, when the city limit was still to the east. By 1900, St. Louis Place was a dense mixed-use walking neighborhood, settled mainly by German-Americans.

Architecture, Crime, Economic Development, Featured, Great Lakes, Politics, Public Transportation, Race Relations, Real Estate, Sports, Sprawl, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty »

[5 Aug 2013 | No Comment | ]
Shared Responsibility for Detroit’s Woes

As a Michigander for the past 21 years, I’ve heard my share of Detroit criticisms, jokes, and put downs, both from within and outside the Great Lakes State. While fingers can be  pointed at the lack of past civic and political leadership in Detroit, our collective actions (or lack thereof) can certainly share in the responsibility. Some may scoff at such a notion, but here’re a few reasons why:

As a nation we elected leaders who adopted a tax code and laws that advocated, promoted, and accelerated flight from cities and …

Architecture, Art, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Public Transportation, Real Estate, The Environment, Urban Farming, Urban Planning »

[20 May 2013 | No Comment | ]
Repurposing “streets with no name”

In a number of cities, there are certain derelict streets that are nearly denuded of dwellings or businesses. Desolate and forlorn, these streets resemble something out of a post war apocalypse. Detroit may be the poster child du jour of such stark and sad emptiness, but there are many other examples across the Rust Belt and elsewhere. What to do with neglected streets has long been a source of planning discussion and conjecture.  In some instances entire abandoned neighborhoods have or are being converted to urban agriculture or community gardens.  …

Architecture, Economic Development, Editorial, Featured, Headline, Politics, Real Estate, The Media, Urban Planning »

[9 May 2013 | No Comment | ]
Gaming the Economic Development System

Once again, it appears that “build it and celebrate it” no matter the past sins (or future consequences) reigns supreme among economic developers. While hyping an announcement of more jobs and new construction in Greater Lansing, the fact that the insurance company in question challenged its property taxes using the “functionally obsolete building” scheme in 2010 was conveniently overlooked (see article in City Pulse).

Source: freep.com

If you are not familiar with the “functionally obsolete” tax game that is being employed most often by big box retailers, the claim that is made is …

Architecture, Art, Economic Development, Featured, Travel Guides, Urban Planning »

[12 Mar 2013 | No Comment | ]
The Epicenter of Craft Beer Brewing

In 2012, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina tied in a nationwide vote as Beer City, USA. The Grand Rapids consolidated metropolitan area has no less than 19 craft breweries dotting its scenic West Michigan landscape and at least one more set to open soon.  According to experiencegr.com these include:
·         B.O.B.’s Brewery
·         Brewery Vivant
·         Founders Brewing Co.
·         Harmony Brewing Co.
·         The Hideout Brewing Co.
·         HopCat
·         Grand  Rapids Brewing Co.
·         Jaden James Brewery
·         Michigan Beer Cellar (Sparta)
·         The Mitten Brewing Co.
·         New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland)
·         Old Boys’ Brewhouse (Spring Lake)
·         …

Architecture, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, The Environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning »

[6 Feb 2013 | No Comment | ]
Western Michigan University installs solar-powered charging stations

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo recently installed a bank of 15 solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in one of its parking lots at Miller Auditorium. What a great idea for making green driving greener.

Source: openpr.com

Utilizing the sun for recharging eliminates the need for electric infrastructure upgrades, uses Mother Nature as the power source instead of fossil fuels, and in theory eliminates the need for the property owner and/or the vehicle owner would have to pay a utility for the electric charge since it is derived from sunlight.
Here is a brief …

Architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Featured »

[6 Nov 2012 | No Comment | ]
2012 Economic Study has Good News for Rust Belt Metros

According to the report “100 Leading Locations for 2012” by Area Development Online, 34 metropolitan areas of the Rust Belt made the Top 100, including the pre-eminent architectural showplace of Columbus, Indiana which was ranked number one.
Below is a list of those Rust Belt metropolitan areas that made the Top 100 in 2012. Congratulations to each of them, especially Columbus, Indiana.
1. Columbus, Indiana
9. Morgantown, West Virginia
12. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
16. Dubuque, Iowa
17. State College, Pennsylvania
20. Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey
24. Holland-Grand Haven, Michigan
29. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa
30. Ames, Iowa
33. Baltimore, Maryland
34. Williamsport, Pennsylvania
37. Sandusky, Ohio
38. Ann Arbor, …