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Participant of Peerby, and the new sharing economy, in the Netherlands / Consumentenbond

“We are still making and selling too much stuff,” said James Slezak, the founder of Peers, a sharing economy advocacy organization, at the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C. This is a “waste of wealth” because more people could simply rent or borrow what they need in our burgeoning “sharing economy.” Why buy a car when you can simply order up a ride on an app? Why book a hotel room when you can stay in someone’s spare bedroom for much less? And why buy something when someone next door has what you need and will lend it to you for free? According to the proponents of the sharing economy, there are so many untapped opportunities to both make money and help other people. This new sharing economy then has huge implications for cities.

Slezak said the average car spends 90 percent of its engine switched off. And then, even when it’s in use, a big percentage of the time the car is idle, stuck in traffic or circling for parking. Why not share a car so it’s used more efficiently? Firms like Uber and Lyft enable this through a “less centralized model of ownership.” The same can be said for places to stay. Some people only use their apartments — or rooms in their apartments — some of the time. On Airbnb, users can rent out that extra space and make some money, while providing someone with a low-cost place to stay. “Instead of saying we have 600,000 hotel rooms, cities should say they have 600,000 apartments available.”

Still, many cities are only tip-toeing into the sharing economy, as there are many issues to work out. For one, how should sharers be regulated, given they are providing a form of service? The companies themselves still seem to be wading through these issues, too. Slezak said some questions still need to be answered, like: “What’s the impact on local communities? What’s the impact on people with jobs in the old model economy? Will the new sharing economy be equitable? What if someone has nothing to share?”

As Sharon Feigon, head of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, explained, at its best, sharing “increases options and helps us do things in a more efficient way.” But, there are definitely winners and losers. NYC taxi drivers, who can spend up to $1 million for a medallion, are fending off unregulated drivers taking their business. In San Francisco, the city is having a hard time finding cab drivers because drivers see Uber or Lyft as better opportunities.

She is focused on ensuring all ages — not just Millennials — benefit from sharing. This may be getting harder as the sharing economy is increasingly driven by a new set of corporations, whereas in the past sharing was a mostly non-profit endeavor. The private company Uber, with 1.2 million car sharers, is now worth $18 billion. Many other car sharing services have been purchased by established car rental companies (Avis, Hertz, etc).

For Daan Weddephol, founder of Peerby, sharing has great social value, but it won’t be lucrative for him unless he can convince everyone to do it. Peerby enables users of their web site to share “power tools, camping gear, things you only use once in a while.” Weddepohl said “80 percent of things we own could be shared. We have all this overcapacity that we can put into a system.”

Peerby matches those who need something with someone close by willing to lend it. “We fulfill 85 percent of requests in 30 minutes.” The web site makes money by offering optional insurance for damage or loss.

In Amsterdam, where the service started, there are already 60,000 users sharing one million objects. The service has spread throughout Europe and is now being piloted in multiple major U.S. cities. The goal is to launch the service in 50 U.S. cities by 2015.

Weddepohl seems the growing sharing economy as a return to the spirit of Medieval times, when communities were strong and sharing was done as a matter of practice. In that spirit, Peerby enables urbanites to “meet new people and connect.” The service improves sustainability because it means reduced greenhouse gas emissions from product consumption. The challenge, he said, is to create enough scale. With margins so small on the high-social value, but low-monetary value transactions, “we need many transactions to make money.”

Airbnb, if you haven’t heard, is a “platform for renting space in your home,” said Anita Roth, Airbnb. Already more than half a million worldwide have provided rooms for 11 million visitors. Roth said “the services allows people to move to a new city more easily and cheaply and enjoy new experiences.” It’s changing the “nature of hosting.”

To convince cities to create supportive regulations for Airbnb, the company has undertaken a series of economic impact studies. The company has found that 75 percent of Airbnb rooms are outside the main urban center. As a result, “tourism dollars are spread through the city.” Visitors spend about “50 percent of their total budget in the neighborhood” they are staying in.

The social benefits — amorphous yet valuable things like “cross cultural connections” or “increased neighborhood engagement” — are proving more difficult to measure, but Roth said they exist. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Airbnb played a role in helping people find new temporary housing. She said these kinds of social services only improve the resilience of a community.

While Airbnb ran right into New York City’s tough hotel laws, Roth said other cities are more open to letting people rent their apartments. Amsterdam, which was “skeptical at first,” has since “realized all the benefits and become a sharing city.” The city has changed its laws so people can legally rent our their apartment for up to two months a year. They have created regulations to address concerns and have done a lot to educate locals about how to rent out their apartment correctly, with fliers that have info about who to call if there’s a problem.

And there are so many more companies entering the sharing marketplace, with different degrees of success. Weddepohl thinks there is ultimately a limit to this new sharing economy — “you can’t share paper clips” — and the balance of what you can share or not share is coming near. These new services will need to partner with city governments to scale up these services in a way that also addresses cities’ concerns. Services offered by sharing companies need to be regulated, but they should also widely available — if only for the potentially positive economic and social impacts on all those neighborhoods beyond downtown.

la

Metro’s Union Station / Metro via The Los Angeles Times.

Homeless Welcome in San Jose’s Latest St. James Park Reboot San Jose Mercury News (CA), 9/24/14
“Designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, St. James Park hosted the best and worst of San Jose history in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

An Alliance of Dance and DesignThe New York Times, 9/25/14
“In 1966, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the dance pioneer Anna Halprin invited 40 young people to Northern California to participate in a roving summer workshop.”

Metro’s Union Station Master Plan a Significant Shift Los Angeles Times, 9/26/14
“With landscape architect Mia Lehrer, the architects have proposed a new civic plaza—what they call a ‘forecourt’—at the foot of the building, filling the area between the building and Alameda Street and replacing a surface parking lot.”

Inside North America’s First Islamic Art MuseumAl Jazeera, 9/26/14
“Rows of serviceberry trees lead visitors into a garden quartered by water channels, five reflecting pools, long walkways, and pebbled paths—the work of Lebanese-Serbian landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.”

Gender Studies: These Five Anonymous Women Helped Build New York City Curbed National, 9/29/14
“As NYC’s Chief of Tree Plantings, a position she nabbed in 1936, landscape architect Clara Coffey brought greenery to the Hutchinson River Parkway and swapped out the fences and hedges of the Park Avenue Malls with flowerbeds and kwanzan cherry trees.

blacks-in-green

Green Village Building in Chicago / Blacks in Green (BIG)

Equitable urban revitalization means new development doesn’t displace existing communities. If we agree with this definition, what’s occuring in Washington, D.C. and many other American cities can’t be viewed as fair, said a number of African American community activists at the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C. Many blocks in historic African American communities are becoming fraught, contested ground as they rapidly redevelop and gentrify, with huge numbers of African Americans getting pushed out to due to higher rents and property taxes. The solution seems to be more community empowerment from the bottom, and more thoughtful, respectful urban planning from the top.

For Naomi Davis, CEO of Blacks in Green (BIG), city leaders need to take a more inclusive approach, because “what’s good for the African diaspora is good for everyone.” She said “increasing household income in inner-city communities helps both rich and poor people.” To boost the long-term sustainability of these communities, Davis calls for creating “green villages” that will transform waste to wealth, create new jobs, celebrate culture, and circulate wealth among local businesses. These green villages can only be built by respecting the local culture. Given culture is highly local, “true, long-term community sustainability must be built mile by mile.” And it has to be a bottom-up process: “We can’t wait for the government to save us.”

As an example, Davis described her work in West Woodlawn, “in the hood” in Chicago. There, she engaged community members in creating a new master plan, with layers of greening programs. A new orchard has come out of “the dust of 30 years of disinvestment.” 2012 was the “year of the tree canopy,” so West Woodlawn undertook a major campaign of adding new street and park trees. 2013 was the year of the backyard garden and using “private land to feed ourselves.” There are now orchards, gardens, root cellars everywhere.

For Dominic Moulden, Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE) D.C., “gentrification is a crime. It’s violence couched in white supremacy and aimed at uprooting black communities.” His group, a “multi-issue, multi-class, multi-ethnic” coalition, aims to critique the urban development culture of D.C.

He said many of the white tenants moving into historically African American communities seek “authentic local culture, but end up destroying it, which is a violation of our civil and human rights.” Moulden argued that African American communities — like plants that have suddenly moved — are undergoing “root shock.” With a decaying local ecosystem, social networks are failing.

Moulden says the answer is “to develop people and then place.” That way, “the community controls the plan.” As part of this goal, his group is trying to stop what he sees as illegal gentrification. They sued an African American church in Shaw for trying to displace its 50 residents in large, affordable housing units. ONE D.C. also played a role in ensuring the new Marriott Marquis hotel next to the convention center spent $2 million to train local workers and hired 700 local D.C. residents as Union employees with “living wages.” Moulden said “that’s equitable development.”

Wadi Muhammad, 270 Strategies, discussed changes he has seen in Roxbury, one of the historically African American communities in Boston. As that area gentrifies, swarms of college students are moving there. There has been nearly $100 million in investment there in recent years, leading to a new luxury condo where studios go for $2,500 a month. Muhammad said Roxbury is now for the extremely rich or poor. “Where do those in the middle go?” The community is working on a new master plan, with a long-term vision for sustainability.

To add some additional perspective, David Hyra, a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., said we must be careful what we wish for with “the new wave of urban revitalization,” less we further destroy the communities there now. One product of revitalization is new people moving in. “And all these newcomers into inner-city communities are expressing preferences that are different from those of the existing communities.”

For example, newcomers in D.C. seem to want more bike lanes, while long-time residents are less positive about them. The majority of new bike infrastructure in D.C. has come into the historically African American U. Street and Shaw neighborhoods of D.C., creating a flash point with the old-timers. For them, these lanes are sign that a neighborhood has gentrified. “In the last D.C. Mayoral debate, none of the candidates would admit they used the bike lanes, even though I know some of them are bikers,” Hyra laughed.

In addition, it seems African Americans also avoid D.C.’s bikeshare system as well. “88 percent of bikeshare users are white; just 5 percent are African American.”

While newcomers to African American communities typically want more bike lanes and dog parks, they don’t understand these amenities may be perceived as a “threat to long-term African American residents.” Walter Fauntroy, with the New Bethel Baptist Church, who was credited as saving Shaw from urban renewal in the 60s, recently told Hyra his feelings about the new wave of urban revitalization in Shaw: “I’ve given up, quite frankly.”

To combat further gentrification, Hyra said, “we need to preserve affordable housing and community political representation and minimize cultural displacement.”

awards2014

ASLA 2014 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol / image: Timothy Hursley

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces the winners of the 2014 Professional Awards. The awards honor top public, commercial, residential, institutional, planning, communications, and research projects from across the U.S. and around the world. This year, 34 projects won awards out of more than 600 entries.

The October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) features the winning projects and is available online for free viewing. October’s LAM will be featured on the end-caps of the magazine sections in nearly 600 Barnes & Noble stores beginning October 14.

The awards will be presented at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver on Monday, November 24, at 12 noon, at the Colorado Convention Center.  The 2014 awards program is sponsored by Victor Stanley.

The professional awards jury included: James Burnett, FASLA, Office of James Burnett, Jury Chair; Catherine Barner, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy; Alain DeVergie, FASLA, U.S. Department of State; Kona Gray, ASLA, EDSA; David Hocker, ASLA, Hocker Design Group; Keith LeBlanc, FASLA, Keith LeBlanc Landscape Architecture; Anne Raver, Journalist; Jerry van Eyck, ASLA, !melk; and Thaisa Way, ASLA, University of Washington.

General Design Category

Award of Excellence
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, Seattle (see image above)
by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Honor Awards
Slow Down: Liupanshui Minghu Wetland Park, Liupanshui, Ghizhou Province, China
by Turenscape for the Liupanshui City Government

Gebran Tueni Memorial, Beirut, Lebanon
by Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture for Solidere (Société Libanaise de Développement et Reconstruction)

Segment 5, Hudson River Park A Resourceful and Resilient Space for a Park-Starved Neighborhood, New York City
by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. for the Hudson River Park Trust

Salem State University – Marsh Hall, Salem, Mass.
by WagnerHodgson Landscape Architecture for the Massachusetts State College Building Authority  & Salem State University

Urban Outfitters Headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia
by D.I.R.T. Studio for URBN Inc.

Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, Grand Teton National Park, WY
by Hershberger Design for D.R. Horne & Company

Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, Queens, NY
by Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi for the New York City Economic Development Corporation/City of New York

Low Maintenance Eco-Campus: Vanke Research Center, Shenzhen, China
by Z+T Studio for Dongguan Vanke Building Technique Research Co., Ltd.

Shoemaker Green
by Andropogon Associates, Ltd., for the University of Pennsylvania

Residential Design Category

residential2014

ASLA 2014 Professional Residential Design Award of Excellence. Woodland Rain Gardens. Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects / image: Chipper Hatter, Hatter Photographics

Award of Excellence
Woodland Rain Gardens, Caddo Parish, La.
by Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects

Honor Awards
Hill Country Prospect, Centreport, Texas
by Studio Outside for Sara Story Design

Vineyard Retreat, Napa Valley, Calif.
by Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture

Le Petit Chalet, Southwest Harbor, Maine
by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Sky Garden, Miami Beach, Fla.
by Raymond Jungles Inc.

West Texas Ranch, Marfa, Texas
by Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Inc.

GM House, Bragança Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil
by Alex Hanazaki Paisagismo

City House in a Garden, Chicago
by McKay Landscape Architects

Analysis & Planning Category

analysis2014

ASLA 2014 Professional Analysis & Planning Award of Excellence. Midtown Detroit Techtown District. Sasaki Associates / image: Sasaki Associates.

Award of Excellence
Midtown Detroit Techtown District, Detroit
by Sasaki Associates Inc. for Midtown Detroit

Honor Awards
The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock, Little Rock, Ark.
by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Marlon Blackwell Architect for the City of Little Rock, Ark.

Devastation to Resilience: The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, Houston
by Design Workshop Inc., Aspen, and  Reed/Hilderbrand for the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Zidell Yards District-Scale Green Infrastructure Scenarios, Portland, Ore.
by GreenWorks, PC, for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and ZRZ Realty

Yerba Buena Street Life Plan, San Francisco
by CMG Landscape Architecture for the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District

Unified Ground: Union Square – National Mall Competition, Washington, D.C.
by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol for the Trust for the National Mall

Communications Category

kiley

ASLA 2014 Professional Communications Award of Excellence. The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley / image: TCLF


Award of Excellence

The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley
by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Honor Awards
Freehand Drawing and Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers
by James Richards, FASLA, published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Monk’s Garden: A Visual Record of Design Thinking and Landscape Making
by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Garden, Park, Community, Farm
by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, published by Princeton Architectural Press

Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes
by Louise A. Mozingo, ASLA, published by MIT Press

Research Category

research

ASLA 2014 Professional Research Award of Excellence. Finding Connections to the Outdoors for Youth and Families in Larimer County, Colo. Design Workshop Inc. / image: Design Workshop

Award of Excellence
Finding Connections to the Outdoors for Youth and Families in Larimer County, Colo.
by Design Workshop Inc. for Great Outdoors Colorado and Larimer County, Colo.

Honor Awards
Exhuming the Modern: The Lost Bench of James C. Rose
by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc.

A New Norris House and Landscape
by the University of Tennessee College of Architecture & Design

The Phenology Project
by Landscape Performance LAB, Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture

The Landmark Award

landmark

Landmark Award. Norman B. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square. Halvorson Design Partnership Inc / image: Ed Wonsek

Norman B. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square, Boston
by Halvorson Design Partnership Inc. for the Friends of Post Office Square Inc.

2014student

ASLA Student Analysis & Planning Award of Excellence. Meridian of Fertility. Reid Fellenbaum, University of Michigan / image: Reid Fellenbaum.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces the winners of the 2014 Student Awards. This year, 21 submissions received awards, out of more than 500 entries from 77 schools.

The October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) features the winning projects and is available online for free viewing. October’s LAM will be featured on the end-caps of the magazine sections in nearly 600 Barnes & Noble stores beginning October 14.

The awards will be presented at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver on Monday, November 24, at 12 noon, at the Colorado Convention Center.  The 2014 awards program is sponsored by Victor Stanley.

The student awards jury included: Gina Ford, ASLA, Sasaki, Jury Chair; Rebecca Barnes, FAIA, University of Washington; Dennis Carmichael, FASLA, Parker Rodriguez; Sandra Y. Clinton, FASLA, Clinton & Associates; Bernard Dahl, FASLA, Purdue University; Christian Gabriel, ASLA, U.S. General Services Administration; Eric Kramer, ASLA, Reed Hilderbrand; Willett Moss, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture; and Brian Sawyer, ASLA, Sawyer/Berson.

General Design Category

Honor Awards
16th Street Station
by Erik Jensen, Associate ASLA, graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley

34,000 Tons of Miracles
by an undergraduate student team from Pusan National University, South Korea

Residential Design Category

Honor Awards
The Edgerly: The Next Generation of a Community Anchor
by a graduate student team from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Spaces of Exception: Housing as a Common Framework
by a graduate student team from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Analysis & Planning Category

Award of Excellence
Meridian of Fertility (see image above)
by Reid Fellenbaum, Student Affiliate ASLA, graduate student at the University of Michigan

Honor Awards
The Wild Anacostia: Cultivating a Thick Edge Typology through Everyday Experience
by Kate Hayes, Associate ASLA, graduate student at the University of Virginia

Migratory Lands Demonstration Project
by Emily Chen, Student ASLA, graduate student at Washington University, St. Louis

The Plexus Spine of North Philly
by Jacqueline Martinez, Student ASLA, graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania

Markings
by a graduate student team from the University of Texas at Austin

Bigger Darby: A Landscape Approach for a Coherent & Resilient Watershed
by an undergraduate and graduate student team from The Ohio State University

Beyond Turf: Reinterpreting the Ecological Management of Vacant Landscapes
by Alexander Ochoa, Student ASLA, an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University

Communications Category

Honor Awards
Adaptive Streets: Strategies for Transforming the Urban Right-of-Way
by a graduate student team from the University of Washington

SNACKs
by a graduate student team from the University of Virginia

Research Category

Honor Awards
A Spatial Analysis of the Uncharted Territory of Growing Old
by a graduate student team from the University of Virginia

Student Collaboration

collab

ASLA Student Collaboration Award of Excellence. Harvest Home. Students at George Washington University / images: Adele Ashkar, Nick Gringold, Ryan McKibben, Julie Melear, Sharon Metcalf

Award of Excellence
Harvest Home
by a graduate student team from George Washington University

Honor Awards
The Prairie Club + Redefined
by an undergraduate student team from Ball State University

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: History, Design and the American People
by an undergraduate student team from Ball State University

Gardens, Greenspace and Health in Eliseo Collazos, Lima, Peru
by a graduate student team from the University of Washington

Community Service

community

ASLA 2014 Student Community Service Award of Excellence. Ratang Bana Aids Orphanage Playscape. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo / image: California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo

Award of Excellence
Ratang Bana Aids Orphanage Playscape
by an undergraduate student team from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Honor Awards
Creating Home, A Healing Garden for Veterans and Their Families
by an undergraduate student team from the University of Washington

The Hastings-on-Hudson Community Street Tree Inventory
by Brett Schneiderman, Student ASLA, graduate student at Cornell University

arts

Dogpatch Arts Plaza / CMG Landscape Architecture

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? At the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C., two urban innovators in San Francisco, the home of so many game-changing technologies, have come up with a truly brilliant idea: the Green Benefits District (GBD), a sort of green business improvement district, designed to facilitate community investment in new tree-lined streets, parks, and gardens. Michael Yarne, with Up Urban and Build Inc. and the creator of the concept, said the GBD in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco will also aim to improve the management and upkeep of neighborhood public spaces, which they say is currently done poorly by the city government. The GBD will be like the “Uber of public space,” meaning they are adding another layer of more convenient services on top of the existing baseline service. A GBD is needed because the city government is “stuck in the 1970s.” But the GBD clearly has higher aims than just better services: Yarne sees a future with local, distributed renewable energy systems and more.

With the help of Scott Cataffa, ASLA, a partner at CMG Landscape Architecture, Yarne is in the middle of a two-year process to prototype the GBD concept. It seems creating a new assessment district in California is not an easy thing, as you first need a BID lawyer, then need to get 30 percent of the proposed assessed district to agree to a petition, and then 51 percent of the “weighted property owners” to back the idea through a ballot. Only then will the state and city governments allow you to use tax revenue to meet local ends.

Dogpatch and NW Potrero Hill, which covers some 700 acres and contains 100,000 people, has a “rich industrial heritage.” Through a survey, Yarne and his team learned the area actually has 13 sub-neighborhoods. Some of these maintain a “gritty, marginalized identity.” In contrast, some neighborhoods have a high level of “social capital,” which enables more coordinated action. Yarne decided to start in the area with higher social capital, with a history of local environmental activism and ownership of public spaces. There, a “plucky, can-do” group of locals have wrangled the state government to let them build a park where where was once transportation infrastructure. But all their efforts are “taxing.” This community clearly wants “parks and open space preserved,” but what’s the best way to do this? The neighborhood decided to pool resources into a new GBD.

The GBD will “coordinate property owners and build trust.” It will be a non-profit, public benefit corporation with an elected board and annual oversight by the city legislature. The new GBD will be “small enough to enable trust to grow and will operate in a hyper transparent manner.” It will “use an experimental ‘it’s OK to fail’ approach and aim to create long-term revenue.” Trust, he said, is the new “green,” because, without it, community action is impossible. Trust building will happen on the ground, in person, but also through a new app that will enable all GBD members to see in near real-time all reports, decisions, and expenditures.

“Like Facebook, the app will encourage GBD members to create a profile to encourage community accountability.” There will be something like the “See, Click, Fix” app, which will enable community members to report problems. The app will define the “party responsible for fixing, set the fix date, and the cost of the fix.” Yarne said listing the cost of the fix was important, because people don’t really have a clue as to cost of public services. All of the issues will be mapped, so the GBD member can see problem areas. For example, they could learn that vandalism occurs near the train stations. Like other techno-utopians in San Francisco, Yarne believes the app will “empower the community by demystifying work that’s happening.”

Landscape architect Scott Cataffa has been helping the nascent GBD map all their assets and discover where the opportunities are. Cataffa said a map of the community found only 2 percent of it is open space.  The community is already maintaining about half of the public spaces in the district, but the audit is helping the community figure out who owns what. With a list of more than 50 possible opportunities in hand, the GBD team is now figuring out what role they should play in creating new green public spaces and other sustainable features. They created a checklist to help label each project, with potential roles such as “lead, initiate, assist, or advocate.”

One proposal by CMG would create a new amphitheatre and outdoor art gallery in an unused, city-owned dead-end between two large industrial buildings. Through the audit, they also found that the very wide rights of way, which were designed for industrial use, create opportunities to create new linear parks. So they propose creating a new linear park — or green street — running from the new amphitheatre to a larger park. Cataffa said “we are looking at the right of way as a place to turn grey to green.” Other ideas being cooked up include putting a solar farm on top a freeway that cuts through the district, and creating a (black) waste water recycling system.

If they are allowed to assess the community for the GBD, Yarne says they will raise about $400,000 in their first year from taxes of about 9.46 cents per square foot of commercial and residential space and parking lots. Some non-profits would get a 50 percent discount on that tax, as would some struggling industrial site owners. Yarne expects their available funds to double over the coming years given lots of new residential complexes are coming online. He said, already, the GBD can change perceptions of new development from an unwelcome sign of gentrification into new opportunities to green.

barryfarm

Barry Farm / The Huffington Post

Cities are the place to be these days, which means big changes for the historic communities that have populated urban cores. While much of the urban renewal experiments of the 1940s through the 1960s have been deemed disasters, word is still out on the new wave of “urban revitalization” that began in the 1990s and continues through to today in most of America’s cities. The supporters of revitalization say rising tides lift all boats. As wealth has come back to cities, everyone benefits. But critics of revitalization simply call it gentrification, and, as one speaker at the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C. said, “gentrification is a crime.” Furthermore, new discussions of turning existing urban neighborhoods into “ecodistricts” may just be gentrification in a green dress. How can cities encourage growth but also provide a sense of continuity? How can over-taxed city planning departments accommodate the forces of change while also respecting local communities and cultures?

According to Charles Hostovsky, a professor of urban planning at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the speed of revitalization in D.C. has been extraordinarily rapid. Every neighborhood has cranes, signifying new development. There has been a corresponding shift in the demographics of the city. In 1970, the city was 77 percent African American. Today, it’s just 49 percent. “The number of people who have been displaced equals a small town.” Indeed: in the past decade, approximately 50,000 young, white Millennials have moved into the city while 35,000 African Americans have left.

Reyna Alorro, who works for the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning, said revitalization has even spread east of the Anacostia River, perhaps the last hold out to gentrification. There, the city is supporting the redevelopment of Barry Farm, 25 acres of public housing, into a new mixed-income, mixed-use development that they hope will be an example of equitable revitalization. As HUD Hope IV funds have diminished since 2005, the District has started its own program of revamping public housing. “We want to target the areas with blight, crime, high unemployment and turn them into mixed income communities.” The theory is that reducing the concentration of the poor in communities, and relieving their isolation, will improve their conditions.

Barry Farm, a historic African American community founded by freed slaves, currently has some 400 units, with 1,200 people. The population of the housing development is 93 percent single mothers; some 86 percent are unemployed. “This is not a friendly, welcoming site.” There is only one over-priced corner store, with a bullet-proof glass wall separating the store owners from customers.

The $550 million redevelopment plan, said Kelly Smyser, DC Housing Authority, will create 1,400 public and affordable apartments at the same site. New apartments will face each other, creating open public thoroughfares that enable “eyes on the street.” There will also be a recreation center, with an indoor pool, basketball courts, and computer labs, as well as a charter school. The nearby Anacostia Metro station will get a full upgrade, with improved access to the station from the development. “We want to bring opportunity to residents. We will make the connection to Metro easier and safer.”

The District government calls this project “revitalization without gentrification,” as all current residents will be allowed to come back to the new development. “There will be zero displacement.” The city also promises it will undertake a program of “build first before demolition.” To increase the diversity of the development, some 300 of the new units will be affordable housing, rentals, or for sale. The city also wants to encourage small businesses to locate in Barry Farms. They are creating “live-work” sites that will enable people to live above their stores. “We need to get rid of the bullet proof glass.”

The neighborhood is rightly concerned about how they can preserve the best of the local culture with all the change. One example of this is the Goodman League, a basketball tournament that happens in the neighborhood every year. “People have a good time, barbequing, sitting in lawn chairs. There are no beefs on the court.” The basketball courts where this happen will remain untouched.

While Smyser was convinced this upgrade will benefit the community, one conference attendee seemed equally as convinced that with the District’s multimillion dollar investment, the city will simply be opening the neighborhood to opportunistic developers and further gentrification. Word is still out on how this urban redevelopment story will play out.

Hazel Edwards, a professor of planning at Catholic University, outlined some examples of successful revitalization without gentrification in other parts of the U.S. She pointed to Melrose Commons in South Bronx, where a group of local residents banded together in the early 1990s into a group called Nos Quedamos (We Stay) and fought back New York City government’s imposed urban renewal plan. With the help of an altruistic architect, Nos Quedamos forged their own urban design that respected the community’s unique cultural heritage. The plan and design resulted in 2,000 units of affordable housing. “There was no displacement in the community.”

In Portland, Oregon, Edwards told us about a project called Cully Main Street plan, which helped preserve one the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland, with some 40-50 percent people of color. They devised a plan to equitably bring in commercial activity to their main street while accommodating an influx of new white homeowners and preserving the neighborhood diversity.

Edwards said the key to revitalization without gentrification is “bringing residents and the community to the table often and at the beginning.” This kind of public planning process requires a great investment of time and resources by city governments, but without this investment, the only result may be inequitable, developer-led urban revitalization. “Cities have to form diverse, inclusive partnerships, foster openness, and collaborate on goals and outcomes.”

Quoting the urban leader and author, Kaid Benfield, she said, “we have to work towards a balanced solution,” and also track our progress to see whether we are living up to our goals.

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Stegastein / Johanna Hoffman

Regardless of how beautiful or strange a landscape is, we’ve all done it. After the initial shock of a cliff’s craggy façade or the undulating, raw rubble of lava rock flows wears off, we’ve been lulled into sensory complacency. Amazement only lasts for so long: being stunned becomes the norm.

This is why the 120 designed projects along Norway’s National Tourist Route are so significant. They are the result of a multi-decade investment of nearly $400 million by the Norwegian government to enhance overlooks, picnic areas, and rest stops along its scenic highways. Together, theses projects exemplify design’s power to highlight nature.

A result of our hunter-gatherer heritage, we humans are good at maintaining a narrow focus. Through different creative media – film, dance – we have developed ways to compensate. Filmmakers regularly use music to highlight the feeling of a character or the insight of a narrative moment. Musicians employ lighting during live performances to cue audiences to shifts in mood. Designers of Norway’s tourist routes show how landscape architecture can do the same for our appreciation of landscapes, expanding our narrow focus.

In Stegastein (see image at top), which was created in 2006 by Todd Saunders and Tommie Wihelmsen, laminated wood contrasts with the surrounding forested hillside in color and form, reinterpreting the steep movements of the region’s hillsides.

In Storseisundet Bridge, which was completed in 1989, the rising section of the scenic highway crafts a line against the jagged outcrops of the surrounding fjord. The contrast highlights the intense sinuosity of the Norwegian shore.

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Atlantic Road Bridge / Johanna Hoffman

Other projects use design to accentuate landscape dynamics otherwise difficult to identify.

For example, in Vedahaugane, completed in 2010 by L. J. Berge and Z. Jelnikar, the designers reveal complexity in the simple — both in the path’s design and the surrounding landscape — by using curved benches.

Vedahaugane_forasla_resized

Vedahaugane / Johanna Hoffman

And in Sohlbergplassen, created in 2005 by Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, the exuberance of the curves coupled with the linear nature of the concrete formwork highlight the tightness of the forest groves and dappled light falling through the trees.

Sohlbergplassen_forasla_resized

Sohlbergplassen / Johanna Hoffman

And then there are designs that use framing devices to enable new ways of relating to the space.

Gudbrandsjuvet, which was created in 2007 by Jensen & Skodvin, is a CorTen steel walkway that crisscrosses a canyon carved by a gushing waterfall, cultivating a sense of both spaciousness and fragility where there otherwise would be none. Designed to sway with use, the walkway one traverses has a sense delicacy, creating a new sense of vulnerability for visitors to the waterfall.

Gudbrandsjuvet_forasla

Gudbrandsjuvet / Johanna Hoffman

And lastly, at Trollstigen, which was designed by Reiulf Ramstad Architects in 2010, a cliff overlooks a cascading waterfall and deep valley. The handrails and benches on the steep rock outcrops make seemingly dangerous areas approachable.

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Trollsteigen / Johanna Hoffman

The main viewing platform provides spaces for both refuge and spectacle and prospect. The combination of these moments tells us extreme outdoor spaces are places to be appreciated rather than feared.

This guest post is by Johanna Hoffman, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture Graduate, University of California – Berkeley, College of Environmental Design. 

climatemarch
In the wake of the world’s largest global protest on climate change — with some 300,000 people marching in New York City and another 300,000 more marching in 2,000 locations across the world this past weekend, 120 world leaders met at the United Nations in an effort to build political momentum for a legally-binding global agreement on climate change next year in Paris. The meeting was the first large-scale meeting of world leaders on climate change in five years. The meeting occurs amid new reports that carbon dioxide emissions are at their highest levels yet, with 2.3 percent growth in emissions this past year, and the world is at its hottest since global temperatures have been recorded.

The UN summit may have raised pressure on countries to act, particularly China, which has long stated that it will move on climate change once the United States does. Well, the U.S. has acted, with President Obama moving to curtail emissions from coal power plants and taking other measures in order to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and make “further ambitious cuts by 2050,” reports the The New York Times. In response, a representative from China, whose leader, Xi Jinping, decided not to attend, said China will reduce its carbon intensity by 40 percent by 2050. The Guardian quotes Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, who said: “As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions.”

Former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore said the meeting was a “net positive.” “There is no question that a considerable amount of momentum was generated here. I think it was a tremendous boost to the whole movement that is towards the Paris agreement.”

Some European countries agreed to support the efforts of developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. France, which will host the big climate negotiations, announced $1 billion for a global climate change fund. South Korea and Switzerland pledged $100 million and other countries also agreed to contribute $100 million. Last year, Germany committed $1 billion as well. Critics say the $2.3 billion in commitments falls far short of the $15-20 billion needed.

Much of the heavy lifting on climate change will be done at the local levels. News on that front was promising. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new plan to cut his city’s emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Boston, San Francisco, and Stockholm have made similar pledges. If only all the world’s other cities, which account for 70 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, follow suit. There were also agreements among companies and non-profits to change business as usual. The Guardian reports that “more than 400 companies from 60 countries all signed on to support putting a price on carbon.” Furthermore, in two particularly environmentally damaging sectors — palm oil and paper manufacturing — some of the biggest firms agreed to stop “destructive logging by 2030, and restore an area of forest equivalent to the size of India.”

However, criticism abounded about the lack of concrete commitments among the world leaders. The Elders, a group of esteemed wise men and women from around the world, who even put out a full-page ad in The New York Times to support the global climate marches, were dismissive of the usual talk. One of The Elders, Graça Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela, said in her speech at the UN: “There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today. The scale is much more than we have achieved.” Of the protesters, she said: “can we genuinely say we are going to preserve their lives, and ensure their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit a planet which is safe and sustainable?”

sagamore

Eel Creek Boardwalk leading to salt marshes and the Long Island Sound, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site Oyster Bay, NY.

In the era of ubiquitous technology and low attention spans, how can we reshape the national parks experience? This is what the Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service (NPS) want to figure out through their new competition, National Parks Now, which aims to bring “multidisciplinary teams of young professionals” together to develop new ways to attract diverse audiences, tell new stories, and engage the “next generation of visitors.” This competition is happening just as the National Park Service celebrates its centennial.

The four historic sites that are the focus of the competition are in the Northeast:

  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (Oyster Bay, NY), the estate of President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA), one of the world’s most important monuments to the steam locomotive.
  • Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (Paterson, NJ), a historic birthplace of American textile manufacturing.
  • Weir Farm National Historic Site (Ridgefield, CT), the summer estate of the artist Julian Alden Weir.

According to the Van Alen Institute and the NPS, these sites are in the some of the country’s “densest and most diverse urban sites,” and offer “countless layers of the nation’s economic, ecological, and cultural history.” To unearth all of this history and make it more accessible to younger, smart-phone enabled visitors, the NPS seeks new forms of “learning tools, hands-on workshops, customizable self-led tours, site-specific leisure and exploration opportunities, digital narratives, short or long-term interactive installations, performance events, and outreach and engagement campaigns.”

Interestingly, the competition is part of a broader initiative at the Val Alen Institute to explore how “the form and organization of the built environment influences our need for escape.” The goal is to more deeply understand cities’ effect on us.

Each team will need to be multidisciplinary and feature young professionals. Team leaders must have obtained their professional degrees within the last ten years. Additional experts should also be among the recently graduated. The organizers encourage design professionals to also bring a young academic on board. Here are some ideal teams for the organizers:

  • Filmmaker, landscape architect, historian, ecologist, and artist working with a film class.
  • Web developer, art historian, architect, public relations, and arts management professional working with a new media interactive design development class and local preservation organization.
  • Sociologist, marketing/advertising professional, civil engineer, graphic designer, urban planner, and artist working with marketing students and a local community development group.

The organizers write that four winning teams (one for each park) will receive $15,000 to participate in a six-month, collaborative research and design process. At the end of that stage, each team will get another $10,000 to prototype their strategies, which will be implemented in the summer of 2015.

Pre-register by October 10 and get your submissions in by October 30.

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