Tag Archives: Planning

Lansing Area Logistics to "Go Green"

Source: gogreentrikesllc

Scheduled to launch in Greater Lansing on Earth Day, 2014 (Tuesday, April 22nd), Go Green Trikes, LLC (Facebook webpage link) is the brainchild of local green business entrepreneur, Yvonne LeFave. Utilizing heavy-duty electric-assisted cargo trikes capable of carrying loads of up to 600 pounds, Go Green Trikes will provide prompt and sustainable delivery services throughout the urban heart of Greater Lansing – essentially an area bounded by I-96 on the south and west, I-69 on the north and Van Atta Road to the east. Here’s a maplink of the service area.

These are not your childhood tricycles folks, but industrial-grade cargo trikes designed to efficiently serve businesses while avoiding the tangles associated with trucks and street traffic. They also allow for door-to-door delivery of goods without the hassle of blocking lanes and/or customers in the process.

According to Yvonne, Greater Lansing will be at the very forefront of this cutting-edge form of “last mile” delivery/logistics service. Within North America, cargo trike delivery services such as Go Green Trikes only operate currently in Portland, Oregon (B-line); Vancouver, British Columbia (Shift Urban Cargo Delivery); Boston (Metro Pedal Power); and New York City (Revolution Rickshaws). Needless to say, Greater Lansing will be in good company, while also being the smallest urban center to support such an exciting and sustainable business venture.

If early indications

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are a guide, it appears Go Green Trikes, LLC will be pedaling off to a successful start, as they already have three clients lined up to date. So, starting April 22nd, keep an eye out for Yvonne LeFave as she plies her way about area streets and bike trails. Kudos to her for setting a sustainble standard for all of us to strive for!

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, the environment, Urban Planning

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 viagra for sale overcome. I know Greater lansing is not alone, as I have seen power pole blight across many parts of the Rust Belt.

Seriously...in the middle of a roundabout?
Seriously…in the middle of a roundabout?

Attempts have been made to convince area utilities to remove portions of the visual blight and bury the power lines, but that is usually greeted with consternation and rebuttals on the costliness of such actions. If the community or property owners wish to pay for burying the lines, they would be glad to oblige. As a result, instead https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly of a modern and efficient electrical grid, numerous locations end up with a cobbled together third-world styled electrical grid that struggles to maintain service during ice, snow, and wind storm events.

One would think that after a certain number of repetitive power outages and emergency repairs to broken, damaged, and fallen power lines, electric utilities would initiate https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly routine burying programs on their own to reduce the number of outages and their firm’s long-term maintenance costs. Throw in discount viagra regular tree trimming efforts and eventually burying power lines doesn’t look so expensive anymore. Apparently the bean counters differ on that assessment.

Years ago, power utilities were often active participants in economic development, community enhancement, redevelopment, and revitalization efforts. It was seen as a way to increase the utility’s customer base. Today, some utilities can be a stubborn impediment to new initiatives and progressive streetscape design ideas. Whether this is a function of the short-term profit mindset or local firms being bought out or merging with multinationals is not entirely clear. Unfortunately, whatever the reason, local communities across the Rust Belt and other parts of the nation are left with paying the price of power pole/line blight with unsightly pincushionesque landscapes dotting the horizon.

No one is advocating for the burying of the entire power line infrastructure. That would be viagra for men impractical. But, in those areas where the power poles have become overbearing and omnipresent, or in places where redevelopment and revitalization efforts are trying to get underway, burying the power lines makes sense. As stakeholders in the community and https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly the Rust Belt generally, it is hoped the region’s utilities will join any and all localized efforts to achieve a more aesthetically pleasant streetscape and overall community vision.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Editorial, Featured, Good Ideas, Real Estate, the environment, Urban Planning

Ten Lessons from Boulder, Colorado

 

View of Boulder from the Flatiron Mountains - photo by author

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 your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
  • Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
  • Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
  • Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
  • There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
  • Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community – sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
  • Create third places and amenitiesdowntown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
  • Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
  • Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
  • People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Education, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Shared Responsibility for Detroit's Woes

Source: greatbigcanvas.com

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 suburban sprawl. Many in this nation continue to support such policies. Granted, this affects every city, but that doesn’t mean it was beneficial for them unless they had scads of excess land for new subdivisions or the ability to annex freely.
  • As a nation, we collectively turned our backs on inner cities and the residents thereof many years ago, only seeing fit to reverse course when the notion of revitalization became profitable.
  • As a state, Michigan has some of the most arcane home rule laws that created thousands of 36 square mile “kingdumbs” (pun intended) that fight with each other like cats and dogs and seldom do the right thing.
  • This nation very nearly turned its collective back on the auto industry due to political self-interest.
  • As a state and nation we allowed expressways, poorly placed factories, urban renewal projects, sports stadiums, and other projects to carve up and displace perfectly healthy inner city neighborhoods, leaving a tattered and disjointed landscape.
  • Residents/politicians living in outstate Michigan from Detroit would short-sightedly say, act, and vote as if Detroit was not their problem too.
  • In Southeast Michigan, leaders and residents alike outside of Wayne County often could care less what happened south of Eight Mile.
Source: detroittransithistory.info
Source: detroittransithistory.info
  • One of the best interurban transit systems in the nation was torn up and replaced by diesel-belching buses that have as many endearing qualities as a lump of coal.
  • Corporations ran away from the city in the ’60s and ’70s…with some finally seeing the light of their actions and returning to Detroit in the ’00s and ’10s.
  • Half of Detroit’s professional sport franchises left for the ‘burbs with one, the Pistons, still playing practically closer to Flint than Detroit.
  • Far too many lenders and insurance companies red-lined inner city neighborhoods.
  • Shady lenders who offered inner city loans foreclosed on homeowners the first chance they got.
  • Absentee landlords let their properties decline into disrepair and blight.
  • Politicians shied away from making the tough decisions, and rhetoric replaced reason in far too many discussions and decisions concerning Detroit.
  • Too many people in Southeast Michigan acted like the city was an island unto itself, when, like it or not, their collective futures have been inexorably linked to Detroit’s fate.
  • Up until recent years, the national media tended to solely focus on the bad news  about Detroit. There are many great things about Detroit, and piling on does nothing to reverse problems: it only reinforces misperceptions and stereotypes.

Shall I go on?

– Rick Brown

 

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Filed under 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

Economic development soul-searching

The title of this post may be a bit controversial, but can also be sadly true. Far too often, it seems a blind eye is turned toward the sins of the past just to generate new economic investment. A perfect example is portrayed in the past week’s (April 17th edition) of City Pulse by an article entitled “A Tax Break Won’t Change This.” While tax breaks are being offered to GM for additional investment in Greater Lansing, a ginormous vacant parking lot blights the near south side of the city, not to mention additional deteriorated sites along Saginaw Highway on the west side of town. This case is not alone, as the Rust Belt is littered with leftovers of its industrial history – hence the nickname Rust Belt.  Is disregarding the fouled legacy of past sins what economic development is supposed to be all about? I certainly hope not.

Source: lansingcitypulse.com

Sadly, concerns about the past sins tend to get drowned out by the hype, hoopla, and hyperbole over new (or saved) jobs and investment. While those are important, they are NOT the only things that foster economic development and improve a community. Pleasant and safe neighborhoods, good schools, well-maintained infrastructure, quality public services, environmental stewardship, beautiful parks, inspired art, creative and new ideas, and many other community attributes also spur economic development. Vacant and blighted parking lots, abandoned industrial sites, polluted environment, underfunded schools and public services, and discarded communities are not the seeds necessary for sewing a healthy and vibrant economy. They are the seeds of our ultimate demise as a place where people want to live or work.

The economic development community needs to do some serious soul-searching and start to stand up for enhancing “community” in more ways than the perceived and spouted panacea of jobs which is so narrowly focused and aspired to. Otherwise, they/we are nothing more than a bunch of glorified used-car salespeople, and we know how well they rate in the court of public opinion.

Rick Brown

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Great Lakes, Headline, Politics, Real Estate, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

The Epicenter of Craft Beer Brewing

Source: experiencegr.com

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)

·         Perrin Brewing Co.

·         Pike 51 Brewing Co. (Hudsonville)

·         Rockford Brewing Co. (Rockford)

·         Saugatuck Brewing Co. (Douglas)

·         Schmohz Brewing, Co.

·         Waldorf Brew Pub (Hastings)

·         White Flame Brewing Co.  (Hudsonville)

As a result. Grand Rapids has been catapulted into the forefront of craft beer brewing on a worldwide scale and received the following additional accolades in 2012:

·         World’s 2nd best brewer (Founders) – per RateBeer.com

·         World’s 3rd best beer bar (Hop Cat) – per Beer Advocate

·         Top 10 vacation city for beer lovers (with Kalamazoo) – per The Street

·         Top 25 world beer city – per DrinkingMadeEasy.com

·         The National Homebrewers Conference will be held in Grand Rapids in June, 2014.

You only need visit Grand Rapids one time to feel the cultural and economic vibrancy that is taking place around its craft breweries and how that same vibe is literally foaming over into the community at large. This past Saturday, both Founders Brewing’s Tap Room and Harmony Brewing Company were absolutely packed. The region’s brewpubs, beer bars, and breweries are hopping (bad pun) every day of the week with or without  live entertainment, as they have become a significant economic engine in the community.

Founders Brewing - Source: experiencgr.com

It is quite a sight to behold as historic structures are lovingly restored and inner city neighborhoods teem with street life, commerce, traffic, and residents. Combined with the immense success of ArtPrize, private-sector philanthropic and foundation investments, cooperative regional planning efforts, and Michigan’s economic revival, the 1.3 million resident Grand Rapids region has become the place to be in Michigan and certainly the epicenter of the craft beer industry in the Rust Belt and the entire nation. There is a perceptible “can-do spirit” in Grand Rapids that you do not feel in all cities. The region doesn’t wait around for handouts or bailouts. Instead, it has picked itself up by its own bootstraps and charted a successful course towards economic prosperity. Is everything perfect? Of course not, but there is definitely visible and identifiable progress taking place.

New Holland Brewing - Source: michigan.org

Indianapolis, Columbus, and Minneapolis-St. Paul may get most national attention as vibrant Rust Belt cities, but Grand Rapids deserves to be included in this illustrious list.   Kudos to the city, the region, local leaders, and especially its citizens for showing us all how to get “hopping.”

Rick Brown

Source: experiencegr.com

 

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Six Rust Belt Economic Superstars for 2013

Source: fourtheconomy.com/initiatives/fourth-economy-index/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published annually by Fourth Economy Consulting of Pittsburgh, the Fourth Economy Index identifies those counties that are “ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.” The index is broken down into micro (<25,000 population) small (25,000-49,999), mid-sized (50,000-149,999), and large (150,000-499,999) counties based on population.  The following five metrics are utilized as foundations for determining future economic success:

·         Investment

·         Talent

·         Sustainability

·         Place

·         Diversity

Kalamazoo - Source: trialx.com

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a list of the Top 10 large counties as determined by the Fourth Economy Index – six of which are Rust Belt counties (shown in bold):

  1. Durham County (Durham), North Carolina
  2. Sedgwick County (Wichita), Kansas
  3. Guilford County (Greensboro), North Carolina
  4. Linn County (Cedar Rapids), Iowa
  5. Onondaga County (Syracuse), New York
  6. Dakota County (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  7. Lehigh County (Allentown), Pennsylvania
  8. Polk County (Des Moines), Iowa
  9. Kalamazoo County (Kalamazoo), Michigan
  10. Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee

It is interesting to note that none of the Top 10 are from the New England, South Central, Rocky Mountain, or Pacific Coast states. Congratulations to all those counties that made the Top 10, particularly those from the Rust Belt.

– Rick Brown

 

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