Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash
The pandemic has really taken its toll, and has had me questioning whether I have anything to say that would be of value in such uncertain and frightening times. As people suffered and died over the past year-plus, writing about city building didn’t seem to matter much. And it wasn’t all that clear what kind of cities we’d have in Covid’s aftermath.
Even now, as things are starting to trend in a better direction, it’s difficult to say what the future of cities will bring.
But it seems the pandemic has caused folks to start looking more critically at their built environments and where improvements are sorely needed. And that’s, at least, a start.
With all of that at the front of my mind, I took some time to reflect on whether I should start the newsletter back up, and how I could best serve you folks who are reading this if I did. I decided to give things a reboot, and came up with a tweak to the format I used in the past.
I’ll still be offering my perspective and insights on urban planning issues both broadly and in the Rust Belt specifically, but think it will be more valuable if I also highlight what other people who are much smarter than me are writing and doing as well.
So every Friday I’m going to send this newsletter out with:
Something I wrote, and;
A few things I read, watched, or learned that I found value in and think are worth sharing.
This is an experiment. I hope you find this little email to be in some small way informative, thought-provoking, and valuable. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.
And if this is your first time reading Rust Belt Future, I hope you will consider subscribing by clicking the button below.
Something I Wrote
I’m coming up on my 13th planniversary (starting my career as an urban planner), and I’ve been assessing the principles that guide my work. So I wrote a little bit about them over on Medium. You can check out the article here.
Representative line from the piece: It shouldn’t be about what Ms. Urban Designer or Mr. Traffic Engineer thinks is the answer. There shouldn’t be ego involved in the simple job of making places better for the people who are there.
Some Things Worth Checking Out
While researching for a blog post at my website, I learned, thanks to Michael Manville in The Atlantic, that of the $274 million cost to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, $100 million of it was the underground parking garage. That’s insane!
Relatedly, a lot of urbanists seem to be shouting on social media for the elimination of single family zoning these past few months. And that’s a good discussion to be having! But, as Emily Hamilton noted at CityLab, simply getting rid of single family zoning won’t necessarily lead to more housing development or better affordability. Corresponding attention must also be paid to changing parking, lot size, and building size requirements as well.
Another blog post on my website had me reading about a data analysis conducted by Yelp that looked at how open streets policies enacted during the pandemic have impacted the restaurant industry. According to Laura Bliss at CityLab, it turns out that taking space from cars and giving it to people for outdoor dining was good for business. Shocking!
The Red Line Greenway opened a week ago in Cleveland, and it’s an absolute game-changer for active transportation and public transit links in the city. Now the city just needs to do something with its abysmal lakefront.
Detroit broke ground on the Joe Louis Greenway this week. It’s a great time for greenways!
An incredible story from Belt Magazine about the town of Valmeyer, Illinois, which was destroyed by flooding from the Mississippi River back in 1993. The people of Valmeyer rebuilt the town a mile away on higher ground.
I also learned, while scrolling Twitter, that back in the 1970s, Amsterdam used to look a lot like most cities in the United States, crammed full of cars and traffic. Hard to believe when you see the place now. Evidence that a transformation is entirely possible!
Thanks for reading!
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