Tag: Philadelphia

Placemaking done right: three successful approaches

soldotna
An improved storefront in Soldotna, AK. Photo courtesy of City of Soldotna.

It is often hard to quantify what makes a place memorable, successful or special, but to paraphrase an old adage, “You know it when you see it.” Some urban planners have described placemaking as the deliberate re-shaping of the built environment to facilitate social interaction and improve quality of life. While there is no universal blueprint for creating great places, there are successful examples worth noting, especially given the numerous benefits that come with great placemeking.

Placemaking improves the physical, psychological, health and public safety aspects of a community. Creating attractive places where people want to be increases foot traffic and helps support the local economy, which is critically important. Interesting places with more community interaction also reduce crime and instill a sense of identity to a neighborhood. So, how does good placemaking happen? The following examples from Philadelphia (PA), Soldotna (AK) and Orlando (FL) showcase three approaches on different scales, achieved by different means.

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Rina Cutler encourages cooperation between city and state DOTs at annual Complete Streets dinner

Rina CutlerRina Cutler addresses the National Complete Streets Coalition’s annual dinner.

Friends and partners of the National Complete Streets Coalition gathered in Washington, DC last night to celebrate the Complete Streets movement, to discuss the Coalition’s work over the last year and to recognize the annual support from the Coalition’s 50 partner organizations.

The evening’s featured guest was Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities for the city of Philadelphia. In her remarks, Cutler highlighted Philadelphia’s strategies for implementing Complete Streets. The idea of Complete Streets has grown from a minor issue endorsed by a small corps of local advocates into what Cutler described as a “citywide revolution” with widespread support.

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You are invited to the fourth annual Complete Streets dinner

Rina_CutlerRina Cutler, Philadelphia’s Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities, will be our featured guest

The National Complete Streets Coalition will host its annual dinner next month—and we hope you’ll join us!

This year, we’re honored to have Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities for Philadelphia, as our featured guest. Hailed as a Public Works Leader of the Year and one of COMTO’s Women Who Move the Nation, she recently led efforts to develop Philadelphia’s Complete Streets Design Handbook, a model for Complete Streets implementation. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter appointed Ms. Cutler to her current position in 2008, where she is responsible for coordination and oversight of all transportation functions and several city agencies.

The National Complete Streets Coalition’s annual dinners bring together the top minds working for Complete Streets across the country, including our national Steering Committee members, our well-known corps of workshop instructors, staff from our Partner organizations—and you! Together, we’ll celebrate recent Complete Streets successes nationally and locally and forge friendships with colleagues and peers over informal discussion.

We’ll be dining on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 in Washington, DC’s Woodley Park neighborhood. Seats are available for $150. Head table seats are available for $200. Click here to reserve your tickets online. Current and new Complete Streets Partners receive a significant discount, and Partners at the Silver level and above are eligible to receive complimentary seats.

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Brownfields grants double their benefit with new health center trend

An architect’s rendering of the future Spectrum Health Services building. Image via Spectrum Health Services.

Cleaning up contaminated land – known to environmental regulators as “brownfields” – has a long list of health benefits as a result of cleaner air, water and soil. Now, a cleaned up brownfield site might fix your sprained ankle, too.

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New Jersey isn’t capitalizing on demand for walkable places

The following was crossposted from Smart Growth America’s coalition partner, New Jersey Future.

A 2008 survey found that 77 percent of Millennials – the generation of 20-somethings – want to live where they are “close to each other, to services, to places to meet, and to work, and they would rather walk than drive.”

New Jersey, with its extensive rail transit network and “streetcar suburbs” with pedestrian-friendly downtowns that surround many of their stations, is well poised to take advantage of the rise in demand for this walkable urbanism.

The New Divide: Walkable vs. Drivable
New Jersey is an anomaly among the 50 states in that it is highly urbanized yet lacks a major center city to claim as its own. The state’s home-grown urban centers all live in the shadows of their much larger neighbors, New York and Philadelphia. In fact, New Jersey is widely perceived as consisting mainly of suburbs serving these two cities, even if many of its small towns do not fit the low-density, single-use stereotype of a “suburb.” The distinction, however, between city and suburb as the defining paradigm for describing the built environment is giving way to a new dichotomy: walkable urbanism versus drivable sub-urbanism. New Jersey is well positioned to take advantage of this change.

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Fighting blight in Pennsylvania: State House of Representatives passes land bank bill

In Pennsylvania today, more than 300,000 properties stand vacant. These properties cost municipalities millions of dollars each year in maintenance costs and even more in lost revenue. In Philadelphia alone – which has some 40,000 vacant properties – the City pays $20 million each year just to maintain those properties.

Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took a major step toward turning the state’s vacant properties back into homes and businesses. On Wednesday the House passed HB 1682, a bill that would allow counties and municipalities in Pennsylvania to create land banks. Land banks are entities that can hold and manage vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, making it faster, easier and cheaper for prospective new owners to purchase these properties and get them back into productive re-use.

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Philadelphia: More than just good cheese steaks


Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue, by Flickr user KGradinger.

Philadelphia has given us some of the world’s best cheese steaks, but the city also offers a great example of how smart growth strategies can help rebuild America’s cities.

Philadelphia’s smart growth efforts date back to 1991, when, beginning in his first term, Mayor Ed Rendell focused on revitalizing downtown. In 2001, Mayor John Street unveiled his Neighborhood Transformation Initiative that invested millions of dollars into neighborhood revitalization. And the City’s current mayor, Michael Nutter, is continuing this legacy by targeting the commercial corridors that provide goods, services and jobs to the City’s residents through the ReStore program.

These are great smart growth strategies that are revitalizing Philadelphia’s urban core and creating opportunities in underserved communities, and the efforts are beginning to pay off. For the first time in six decades, the City of Philadelphia has stopped losing population – and may be even growing. The 2010 U.S Census showed that Philadelphia’s population, which has decreased every decade since 1950, has stabilized.

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Smart growth news – September 16

The Case for a D.C.-Baltimore Mega-Region
Atlantic Cities, September 16, 2011
Last Friday, Maryland released the latest draft of PlanMaryland, the state’s ambitious effort “to encourage smart growth and to discourage sprawl.” The new draft takes into account comments received since the previous version, which was released in April. It makes a compelling case for developing Maryland into higher density residential pockets strategically placed along established lines of road, transit, and water infrastructure. If it succeeds, Maryland circa 2035 will be dominated by a strong orange-red D.C.-Baltimore mega-region.

Philadelphia plan aims high for vitality, resilience
NRDC Switchboard, September 16, 2011
Earlier this year, the city adopted the first key phase of the plan, a “Citywide Vision” that stresses such important topics as efficient transportation and connectivity, parks and open space, diverse and authentic neighborhoods, and taking advantage of legacy industrial areas ripe for redevelopment.

‘Slice of Saugatuck’ highlights neighborhood’s resilience
Westport News (Conn.), September 15, 2011
“We wanted to bring a neighborhood and village feel back to Saugatuck,” said Gault President Sam Gault. “The vision was to have a true smart-growth, mixed-use project where you have people working and utilizing the retail shops as well as people living there.”

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Philadelphia launches stormwater protection project with Green City, Clean Waters

Last week the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Philadelphia Water Department signed an agreement to officially begin using green stormwater infrastructure to reduce Combined Sewer Overflows to its waterways. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking at a conference last week, presented the new plan:

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) submitted plans for the project to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in September, 2009, after vetting the plan with Philadelphia residents. Green City, Clean Waters lays the groundwork for the PWD to build primarily green infrastructure – such as stormwater tree trenches, vegetated bumpouts, porous asphalt, rain gardens, sidewalk planters – over the next 25 years. These projects will transform non-porous surfaces that repel rain into surfaces that allow water to soak through, reducing the amount of environmentally damaging stormwater runoff.

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“An increasing movement toward more walkable cities”

CNBC released its list today of the top 10 most walkable cities in America, and includes in it a discussion of the growing trend among towns and cities to create neighborhoods with pedestrian-friendly streets and bustling downtown shopping districts. These features are a key part of smart growth development strategies and, as CNBC writer Cindy Perman explains, walkable neighborhoods have benefits beyond street-level charm. Walkable neighborhoods feel safer and more social, and help build exercise into daily routines. But even more importantly, walkable neighborhoods bring economic benefits:

You wouldn’t spend much time hanging around in the parking lot of a strip mall in a car-dependent suburb. But, you would linger in a very walkable city, which means you’re more inclined to spend more. Quite a bit more, in fact. The Urban Land Institute studied two Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, one walkable and one not. They found that the Barnes & Noble book store in the walkable suburb made 20 percent more in profits than the one in the driving-dependent suburb.

“We call that a place-making dividend,” McMahon said. “People stay longer and come back more often and spend more money in places that attract their affection.”

There’s an economic benefit for homeowners, too: Homes in walkable cities hold their value better than those that were heavily reliant on driving, according to Smart Growth America, a group that promotes “smart growth” instead of suburban sprawl.


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