Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking and distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, will give a talk on Monday, April 21 from 8 to 10 AM at AIA’s Miami Center for Architecture & Design, 100 NE 1 Ave, Miami, FL 33132. Shoup is the godfather of the scientific study of parking, and has spoken widely about the benefits of eliminating required parking for mobility and urbanism. Shoup writes: “This doesn’t mean, however, that developers won’t provide off-street parking. It simply means that urban planners won’t tell developers exactly how many parking spaces they must provide before they can get a building permit. Developers will provide the parking spaces they think buyers demand.” Continental breakfast will be served. Supported by the Knight Foundation, AIA Miami, APA Gold Coast Section, and Townhouse Center. Capacity is limited, register now and tell your friends!
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From ULI vice president David Mulvihill: “Jim Heid and I am very pleased to announce that the 2014 edition of the
Executive Small Scale Development program is being held this year in Austin, TX on March 24-25. We hope you can join us in Austin, one of the country’s coolest towns and hottest markets where small developers and edgy projects are helping reshape the landscape.
“You will hear case studies from around the country about how other small firms are reworking inner suburban assets into lively third places; creatively using temporary buildings to brand place and test markets; or re-thinking how projects are organized and financed. Specific skill trainings in marketing and finance will also be provided as part of the program curriculum.”
From the event website: “Join other entrepreneurial developers who are focused on infill and smaller-scale projects for this unique ULI program.” Register here.
TownhouseCenter.org has received more than 75,000 views since the summer of 2010! Thank you very much, readers. And don’t miss the free Lean Urbanism webinar registration at the bottom of this post.
From Miami Herald writer Andres Viglucci: “Miami planner Andres Duany learned how to subvert the rules when he mapped out Seaside. Now, armed with a $600,000 Knight Foundation grant, he’s taking aim at the rising tide of bureaucracy and red tape that he says prevent young builders and entrepreneurs from starting small-bore development enterprises to energize neighborhoods. He’s calling this Lean Urbanism.
“‘To get a building built is fantastically complicated. The codes are rigamarole. There is no way you can figure them out yourself. So everything is left to big corporations and big developers,’ Duany said. The idea behind the three-year grant is to develop and disseminate strategies and tools to work around overly restrictive rules, and lower the entry bar for Millenials and immigrants in particular, he said.
“The Miami-based Knight Foundation sees Lean Urbanism as a key piece in its strategy for fostering an entrepreneurial ‘ecosystem’ in its hometown and elsewhere. The first year of the grant program, which will be run by Duany’s nonprofit, the Little Havana-based Center for Applied Transect Studies, will be dedicated to research and development of strategies, said Carol Coletta, the foundation’s vice president for community and national initiatives. The second year will see the launch of pilot projects. The third year will be focused on rolling out the toolbox and publicizing the projects nationally.
“Miami is ripe for the strategy, Duany said. Overly restrictive regulations have stymied small-scale efforts to revitalize poor neighborhoods like West Coconut Grove and Little Havana even as big developers have dominated the city’s downtown revival.” Full article here.
Coletta added in a separate Knight Blog post: “Getting more people into city-building is fundamental to making communities that work for the 21st century. It is all about making small possible in our communities. Duany especially worries that bloated regulation on building and development is burdening a younger generation of urbanists and immigrants with so much expense that it makes small, incremental growth impossible.” Full post here.
Coletta and Duany will host a live webinar, “Lean Urbanism: Building Successful Cities,” on Tuesday, March 4, from noon to 1 p.m. ET. Register here.
[Re-blogged from Knight Blog] Andrew Frey is executive director of Townhouse Center, a not-for-profit that promotes fine-grain urban neighborhoods. Below, he writes about a studio course in architecture at Florida International University, produced in collaboration with Townhouse Center, that is receiving $60,000 in new support from Knight Foundation. Photo credit: Bas Fisher Invitational.
Make a list of your three favorite urban neighborhoods in the world, complete neighborhoods with residents, jobs and stores. Maybe Little Havana in Miami, the North End in Boston and the West Village in New York. Maybe the historic centers of Savannah, Ga., Cartagena, Colombia, and Penang, Malayasia. Now in your favorite neighborhoods, picture the buildings they are made of: most likely many small buildings, each low- or mid-rise, and mixed-use.
Compared to your three favorites, every urban neighborhood in Miami deserves to be just as remarkable in its own way. Focusing on key steps can dramatically increase the probability of greatness, for example, most vibrant urban neighborhoods are made of many small mixed-use buildings, not large towers. Unfortunately, few of these small buildings have been built in Miami in recent decades, and the development community is out of practice: developers, architects, contractors, etc.
To help Miami build great urban neighborhoods, one of the key steps is that the next generation of architects relearn how to design small mixed-use buildings. Knight Foundation support made such a course possible at the FIU Department of Architecture in the spring semester of 2013, and the results were encouraging, enough so that the foundation recently extended its support for an additional two years: the current semester and spring semester of 2015.
Directed by Department of Architecture Chair Jason Chandler in collaboration with Townhouse Center, the course leads each student through documenting an existing small mixed-use building in Miami, visiting Savannah for a long weekend to study and draw urban prototype buildings different from Miami, and, for the remainder of the semester, designing a new small mixed-use building. The best student work is curated into an exhibit and book (paperback or free e-book).
Knight Foundation’s new support will also give us more capacity. The course will expand from 75 students to 125, and add an additional day in Savannah. The Department of Architecture is also requiring the course for all first-year master’s degree students, demonstrating FIU’s commitment to building great urban neighborhoods in Miami. After three years, the course will have trained more than 300 young architects for the challenges and opportunities of small mixed-use buildings.
The course builds on other collaborations between the Knight Foundation and Townhouse Center to promote better urban neighborhoods in Miami, such as the South Florida’s Best Block photo competition and the Hi-Res Miami free building plans. Best Block, presented with the Miami Herald and WLRN, generated broad community debate about what makes a great urban block. Hi-Res Miami is award-winning Interface Studio Architects’ design for the typical small site in Miami, which anyone can download and share.
Why is it important to promote fine-grain urban neighborhoods? Convenience and economic opportunity are part of it, but it also helps people develop deeper attachments to their cities. Charles Montgomery writes in “Happy City” that people feel happier and more engaged on crowded, messy blocks than they do near large buildings with blank facades. And Richard Sennett writes that “The Holy Grail” is to build “mixed-use environments in order that the inhabitants develop a more complex understanding of one another.” Any way you say it, it’s a formula for successful communities.
Frey is also a development manager at CC Residential, a developer of luxury rental apartment communities.
From PreservationNation writers Mike Powe and Jeana Wiser: “When you picture the heart of a thriving city, what image comes to mind? You might picture a New York avenue, lined with spectacular, towering skyscrapers. A better image? Look to the neighborhoods just beyond the shadows of downtown’s corporate and condo towers, in the modest (yet bustling!) blocks of older, smaller buildings.
“Just as skyscrapers have their advocates, they also have their critics. Just last week, Treehugger’s Lloyd Alter presented a strong counterargument against growing cities into the clouds, suggesting that new towers often serve as inefficient, expensive homes that often succumb to issues of vacancy.
“Richard Florida has also suggested that skyscrapers often mute the ‘spontaneous encounters that provide cities with so much of their social, intellectual, and commercial energy’. Meanwhile, Tim Halbur, communications director for the Congress for the New Urbanism, points out that while skyscrapers may boost a city’s supply of rentable space, they also pull life away from the street.
“As Jane Jacobs argued more than fifty years ago, smaller buildings are tremendously valuable places for small, local businesses, and they set the stage for Jacobs’ ‘ballet of the good city sidewalk’. Human-scaled neighborhoods reward walkers with interesting window displays and a variety of small businesses to consider (see the work of Jan Gehl for more information). Small-scale blocks have diverse spaces that see incredible intensity of use throughout the workday and into weeknights and weekends.
“This spring, the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab will release a report that builds upon extensive city mapping and analysis to demonstrate the important role that smaller buildings and mixed-vintage commercial corridors play in fostering vibrant communities. We will show, with data, just how right Jane Jacobs was: Older, smaller buildings and diverse urban fabric play a critical role in supporting robust local economies, distinctive local businesses, and unforgettable places where people connect and unwind.” Full post here.
Yesterday the final Seven50 Southeast Florida Prosperity Plan was presented, read it on the website: “[Seven50 is] a framework that provides the seven counties of southeast Florida the ability to focus on major issues that go beyond city limits, county lines, state limits and national borders. These issues include: economic development, transportation, education, food supply, energy, leadership, climate resilience and more.” The plan includes Guest Essays including one from Townhouse Center, reproduced below.
“Seven50 is a regional plan, a big plan. The most vibrant urban neighborhoods, like Boston’s North End or New York’s West Village or Miami’s Little Havana, are made of many small buildings. What do big plans and small buildings have to do with each other? Plenty!
“A regional plan can help small buildings by recommending certain policies. For example, to reduce development pressure on natural and agricultural areas, a regional plan might recommend that local governments directly create incentives or remove obstacles to building on small urban vacant lots, which are often plentiful but seen as costly or inefficient.
“Or another example, less direct but equally significant: to make passenger rail more financially sustainable, a regional plan might recommend that local governments stop requiring that new buildings include off-street parking. This policy also helps small buildings because parking requirements disproportionately burden small properties.
“Conversely, small buildings can help a regional plan achieve its goals. Small buildings add up to urban neighborhoods that are dense and mixed-use, which support walking, biking, car sharing, and mass transit. These neighborhoods promote public health and use water and sewer infrastructure more efficiently. Neighborhoods made of many small buildings (as opposed to a few big ones) help spread the wealth created by revitalization.
“In fact, small buildings aren’t just helpful, they are necessary for some of the highest goals of a regional plan. What are your ideas for how Seven50 can help small buildings?”
From GreenSource writer David Sokol: “As it experiences its first population growth in decades, Philadelphia is undergoing another wave of rowhouse construction. Contextual yet decidedly modern compositions are filling the gaps and derelict spaces between the city’s existing rowhouses.
“‘The rowhouse typology is very much relevant and alive today, although the essence of it has evolved over time,’ says architect Louis Chang, whose firm, Fishtank PHL, has completed approximately 25 rowhouse units since its inception in 2009.
“A survey of finished and upcoming developments illustrates how the current incarnation of this building type includes all points in the income spectrum. Last year, the Philadelphia Housing Authority opened the new Norris Apartments, a 51-unit mixed-income project that qualifies as the authority’s first LEED-certified project. Other projects target higher-end consumers, including the modularly constructed rental North 28 and the green-roofed, geothermally heated Weccacoe Flats. The Icehouse earned LEED Platinum and Gold ratings for its first phase with a scheme by Continuum Architecture.
“‘Rowhouses are a great place to test innovations, especially in order to achieve optimum building performance’, Chang says, pointing to Fishtank’s custom rainscreen on its Red House project as an example. Philadelphia is ‘a remarkable lab’, agrees Interface Studio Architects (ISA) founder Brian Phillips. ISA’s recent series of LEED-certified houses in the subsidized Sheridan Street project for Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha is further evidence of the rowhouse as a medium for experimenting with a green agenda.
“ISA’s longstanding collaboration with the local developer Postgreen translates its affordable right-sizing of urban homes to the private sector. ISA created 100K House, prototype designs that aim for the namesake construction price by limiting geometry to the simplest forms, cladding the plain boxes in only one material, and embracing the square footages of the average American house of yore. Since the first two 100Ks were completed in early 2009, Postgreen has built many more versions.
“‘Philly is a city of modest incomes. Making super-green infill houses takes fundamental advantage of site conditions but also puts money in people’s pockets’, Phillips says.
“Tim McDonald, who, with his brother Patrick, founded the firm Onion Flats in 1997, expands upon these fundamental advantages. ‘The row just makes sense on so many levels: spatial and energy efficiency; affordability; our interest in dense, walkable urban communities; simplicity in construction. We also love the challenge that these thin slices of urban space offer us as architects.’
“The company also uses sustainable rowhouses to refine its maverick approach to project delivery. Two recently completed three-unit projects, the subsidized Belfield Townhomes and the first phase of a private development called the Stables, are fabricated by a patent-pending modular construction system and achieve net zero capability.
“Scalability is what catapults an interesting local phenomenon to the national stage. Success in the City of Brotherly Love promises to lower the barriers to creative green housing everywhere.” Full article here.
From Preservation Nation writers Ric Cochrane and Jeana Wiser: “Small businesses are the backbones of communities throughout the country, exemplified by the countless individual stories and creative passions that together make Main Streets unique. Although places are as different as people, one thing remains true anywhere you look: Small businesses and Main Streets are underserved and often overlooked when compared to large chains and strip-mall suburbs.
“The Preservation Green Lab, a department of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, believes that specific attention paid to the opportunity that exists in small buildings, home to Main Street businesses, may help level the playing field.
“In a 2013 report, ‘Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings‘, the Green Lab quantified the energy and cost savings readily available to Main Street businesses. The report focused on the primary challenges to delivering energy efficiency to the so-called hard-to-reach (HTR) small buildings sector, and also strategies to help realize energy efficiency.
“Since the release of the Small Buildings report, the Green Lab has developed a national model for delivering energy efficiency to Main Street small businesses and buildings. The project, called America Saves!, received a $2 million Department of Energy matching award in July 2013 and has since received additional support for regional pilots in target markets.
“The ultimate objective of America Saves! is to use energy retrofits to increase the profitability of Main Street businesses and the capacity of Main Street organizations. For the first time, small businesses and small buildings are the focus of national energy efficiency efforts and resources. This is good news for Main Street.”
From Planetizen writer Tim Halbur: “Alissa Walker wrote a piece in Gizmodo with the headline ‘Tall is Good: How a Lack of Building Up is Keeping Our Cities Down‘. I agree, of course, that well-designed density creates a host of benefits, connecting people socially and economically, improving health, reducing energy use and pollution, etc.
“But whether skyscrapers are the one true solution for most American cities is still a matter of debate. The great architect Leon Krier, who influenced many New Urbanists, writes passionately in the recently released 2nd Edition of the Charter of the New Urbanism book that buildings should have ‘an unsurpassable maximum of five floors – in short, to walkable building heights’. James Howard Kunstler argues that skyscrapers will quickly become irreperable relics when peak oil and climate change transform our environment.
“As Alissa points out, most of our negative impressions of tall buildings are fueled by media depictions of dystopias and a history of sticking poor people in “towers in the park”, but that doesn’t mean that skyscrapers can’t be built that effectively meet the street. But I feel like an overemphasis on height is misplaced. New York is an anomaly – should Kansas City be focusing entirely on skyscrapers? And Alissa’s Los Angeles (where I also live), which has blocks and blocks of poorly-used, undervalued buildings and land – shouldn’t we be fixing the streetscapes and populating those 3-6 story structures before shooting new skyscrapers up?
“There are a lot of ways to structure a building envelope to house a significant number of people and a mix of uses without going up, up, up. What I think we really need are developers, architects and planners willing to embrace the on-the-ground conditions, build to meet the street in a lively and interactive manner that supports neighborhood commerce and social settings, and adds housing in inventive ways that support the needs of families of all sizes and income levels. More often the result would be a building with variety of levels, from 2-6 stories, that fit together into a community.” Full post here.
From Fast Company writer Charles Montgomery: “Rob McDowell lived in a hip, luxury condo with a sweeping view of Vancouver, but he was miserable. He could look over the other towers to the forested slopes of the North Shore Mountains.
“Whenever McDowell left his apartment, he would follow a hallway he shared with twenty people to an elevator he shared with nearly three hundred people. Standing a foot or two apart, well within the zone of personal space and unable to control the duration of the encounter, McDowell and his neighbors would studiously avoid eye contact.
“The city had forced the 501’s developer to build a row of town houses along the podium base of McDowell’s tower. The townhouses were a bit cramped, but their main doors all faced a garden and a volleyball court on the building’s third-story rooftop. McDowell noticed that the town house residents regularly played volleyball in the garden. He and his tower-living neighbors had every right to join in, but they never did.
“After some friends moved into the town houses, McDowell gave up his view and bought a unit next to them. Within weeks his social landscape was transformed. He got to know all his new neighbors. He joined in the weekend cocktail and volleyball sessions in the shared garden.”
“McDowell’s new neighbors were not inherently more likable or friendly than his tower neighbors. So what had drawn them together? The front doors of the town houses all led to semiprivate porches overlooking the podium garden. They provided regular opportunities for brief, easy contact. These porches were a soft zone, where you could hang out or retreat as you wished. Without realizing it, McDowell and his neighbors were testing out a law of social geometry identified by Danish urbanist Jan Gehl. In studying the way people in Denmark and Canada behave in their front yards, Gehl found that residents chat the most with passersby when yards are shallow enough to allow for conversation, but deep enough to allow for retreat. The perfect yard for conviviality? Exactly 10.6 feet deep.” Full article here.