Activating Alleys for a Lively City

Interesting Read, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

“…Alleys possess compelling potential to produce a vibrant secondary public realm that might also help to repair the ecological performance of our cities” Nancy Rottle RLA, ASLA, Green Futures Lab, University of Washington

 

Last week, we highlighted Tipton, Indiana which is currently working on an alley project as a placemaking tool in their downtown to make it more inviting. Alleys have historically been places for people and have recently gotten away from that to become a place more for automobiles and trash bins. In this document, entitled Activating Alleys for a Lively City by Mary Fialko and Jennifer Hampton, alleys are treated as potential dynamic spaces in a city or town of any size and the authors describe how this change can occur.

The case study is located in Seattle, Washington and the authors describe alleys from many different neighborhoods in the city. They also categorize alleys into the following:

  • High Density Mixed Use
  • Low Density Mixed Use
  • Nightlife District
  • Commercial District
  • Multi Family Residential
  • Single Family Residential

These are diagrammed and then specific ways are discussed as to how these types of alleys can be activated and made fore people again. Some of the goals the authors focus on for what alleys should be are: quality of public space, ecological health of the city, and a safer environment for people. These then can be accomplished through design strategies.

alley map

The authors determined there is a potential of increasing the public space in Seattle by 50% solely by converting alleys into usable public space. Source

Along with attractive drawings, diagrams and charts, the appendix includes a full inventory of 200 alleys in Seattle neighborhoods which is interesting to peruse through!

This resource would be great for any community looking to increase their public space in ways other than pocket parks and an excellent placemaking tool!

Get yours here!

Main Photo Source: Pinterest

 

Transportation and Creative Placemaking

Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

In many circumstances, transportation and placemaking can seem like opposites. Transportation is about cars, buses, and trucks, and getting these from one place to another as quickly as possible. Placemaking is about people first, getting cars, buses, and trucks to slow down and consider the place they are in. How do we get these two fields to work together for a product that is best for the general public?

In this comprehensive website by Transportation for America: The Scenic Route, Getting Started with Creative Placemaking and Transportation, they address this situation and provide a plethora of tools including case studies from all around the country, answers to general questions about placemaking from a transportation perspective, and their “eight approaches” to creative placemaking for transportation which include

  • Identify the Community’s Assets and Strengths
  • Integrate the Arts Into Design, Construction and Engineering
  • Marketing to Cultivate Ownership and Pride
  • Leveraging Cultural Districts and Corridors
  • Mobilize the Community to Achieve Your Shared Goals
  • Develop Local Leadership & Capacity
  • Organize Events and Activities
  • Incorporate Arts in Public and Advisory Meetings

This site is specifically “to introduce creative placemaking to transportation planners, public works agencies and local elected officials who are on the front lines of advancing transportation projects” Source.

 

“Done right, creative placemaking can lead to both a better process and a better product, in this case integrating community-inspired art into the ultimate design of the project as so many of the case studies in this guide demonstrate. The end results are streets, sidewalks and public spaces that welcome us, inspire us and move us in every sense of that word.” – James Corless, Director, Transportation for America

 

They also stress how this guide does not have to be read linearly. Each point and case study can be looked over independently of the others and still understood without necessarily going through all the other points in order. If you’re looking for ways to integrate transportation and placemaking, this would be a good start! Another plus is that the picture on the main page is of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail!

Visit the site here and find out how your community can better incorporate transportation and placemaking!

Main Photo Source: The Scenic Route 

Types of Placemaking

Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, Placemaking Resources, What to Read, What We're Reading

Did you know there is more than one type of placemaking?!

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish and how you are trying to accomplish it, there are different types of placemaking to use.

According to Mark A. Wyckoff, FAICP, a professor from MSU, there are 4 types including:

  • Standard Placemaking
  • Strategic Placemaking
  • Creative Placemaking and
  • Tactical Placemaking

Not only does this document describe each type of placemaking, it also gives lots of helpful diagrams, examples, descriptions, comparison charts, flow charts, and resources for those really interested in the right type of placemaking for themselves and their community!

Use this link to get this document and start making places in your community!

Main Image Source: Four Types of Placemaking

Making Strides Towards Walkability

Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

Did you know:

  • 33% of Americans are unable to drive a car?
  • Shifting from a long commute to a short walk would make a single person as happy as if he or she had found a new love?
  • Each point increase in walk score (a walkability index) typically increases US house prices by $700-$3,000?
  • The Indianapolis Cultural Trail diverts over 68 million gallons of runoff per year?
  • Every 10 minutes of community cuts community involvement by 10%?

Last week, I wrote about a project going on in Gary, Indiana which encourages people to get out and walk around their downtown in order to reinvest in it. This week I’m highlighting a really neat resource which is along the same lines: a comprehensive document about walkability in cities and the plethora of positive effects moving “towards a walking world” can have individually, locally, and globally.

 

“Walkability is a word that did not exist just 20 years ago. We made walking so unnatural that we had to invent a word to describe what we were missing” – Dan Burden, Director of Innovation and Inspiration at Blue Zones

 

Cities Alive: Towards a walking world is an extensive report put together by different parts of the ARUP team in London, with help from other specialists around the world, which details the benefits of walkable cities. Published in 2016, it categorizes the specific benefits of walkability, one of which is placemaking, into social, economic, environmental, and political benefits. In this easy-to-read, detailed, and beautifully assembled report, the reader can pretty much find any benefit of walkability, numbers for it, and the reasoning behind it. This report is the real deal.

image-2

The 16 general areas of benefits from walkable cities, according to this report, each have their own icon and are presented in groups of four: social, economic, environmental, and political. Source. 

As if that were not enough, the report also presents interviews done with professionals around the world on this topic and offers practical solutions, 40 of them to be exact, to increase walkability in your city! Finally, there are 80 case studies from around the world categorized into topics of:

  • Vision and Strategy
  • Safe and Efficient Transportation System
  • Liveable Environment
  • Sense of Place and Communities and
  • Smart and Responsive City
image-3

This map of the case study sites show the diverse range of topics the case studies cover and, although many of them are in western Europe as that is where the ARUP group is located, there are some on every populated continent. Source. 

 

“Essentially walkability is allowing people to do what the human body was designed to do in the first place: to go places without having to get into some mechanical instrument” – Dan Burden, Walkability Expert, the Doable City Forum

 

If you are interested in the effects and statistics related to walkability and public places in cities or if you need a resource for a project or presentation, this document is for you! Get your copy here!

Main Photo Source: Cities Alive

PLACEMAKING RESOURCES: BACK TO BASICS

Interesting Read, Placemaking Resources, What We're Reading

Creative Placemaking: All You Have Ever Wanted to Know

creative-placemaking_pic3

 

“Today’s placemaking efforts celebrate and stabilize distinctiveness with modest-scale investments, a dramatic change in American economic development…In the new century, sponsors look beyond physical alterations, paying more attention to the animation of places with economic and cultural activity” (Gadwa and Markusen, p. 5).

 

Most of you are probably aware of creative placemaking, how it has started in your community, and what you can do to make it grow. But in case you’re not or you just want a good placemaking resource, this document has everything you ever wanted to know about creative placemaking and a number of case studies to gain inspiration from! Prepared by Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa, this resource will inspire you to start/increase creative placemaking activities in your area!

creative-placemaking_pic2

Creative placemaking is becoming a more accepted–and fun!– way to spark interest in a community, invest in it, and increase economic development. Source.

Want to know how the arts and culture benefit from creative placemaking? It’s in here.

Curious about the outcomes of creative placemaking? Consult this resource.

Interested in how to combat the challenges of creative placemaking? Yup, it’s here.

Looking for how to fund your next creative placemaking endeavor? You guessed it!

Need case studies from around the country, anywhere from California to Louisiana to Rhode Island? (See any response above.)

Need I say more?

Download your resource here!

Main photo source: National Arts Strategies 

THE HIGH LINE AND ITS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

City Planning, Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, What We're Reading

Planning for All Aspects of a Project

We have all heard about it: the cool, hip, green, tourist attraction in New York City: the High Line. The 1.45 mile long linear park transformed from a rail line attracts 300,000 visitors per year, more visitors than any other location in NYC. This attractive park has over 400 free public programs and more than 30 public art projects per year. The amenities of the High Line are incredible and diverse featuring views of the Hudson River, skyscrapers, parts of the rail line, artwork, access to food carts and more than 350 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees. In addition to all this, the High Line will also generate around $1 billion in tax revenues for the city over 20 years.

By all accounts this seems like a home run, slam dunk, touchdown for a park which runs through many parts of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, and in these ways it is. But there are some unintended consequences which have the designers and surrounding residents rethinking the High Line and how it could have been made better for those already living in the neighborhood.

high-line_pic2-compressed

Many people enjoy the High Line during all times of the year. Source.

 

“During the High Line’s planning stages, Hammond and David set up offices inside a local community agency in order to make themselves accessible to public housing tenants, and solicit their opinions on design. But the questions they asked at their “input meetings” were essentially binary: Blue paint, or green paint? Stairs on the left or the right? They rarely got to the heart of what really mattered.” City Lab

 

The High Line was intended to be a park for the neighborhood—no one could have anticipated the enormous draw it was going to have for tourists. But in being such a well-designed, innovative, accessible and interesting space to explore, an excellent placemaking endeavor in general, it has created concerns for the residents, especially those in public housing projects, two of which are at either end of the High Line. Additionally “1/3 of the residents of the Chelsea neighborhood are people of color” (City Lab). But these demographics are not representative of the visitors to the High Line—they are more often white and more often tourists. By this account, the High Line seems to not completely have achieved its original purpose.“But that’s just it: in hindsight, it might be obvious, but few could have anticipated the High Line’s downright gravitational pull on tourists and developers.” City Lab

high-line_pic1

The High Line provides a green respite and place for activities for many visitors to the city. Source.

So how can designers prepare for this? Is it possible to plan for every aspect of a project and what might happen in multiple different scenarios?

 

“Instead of asking what the design should look like, I wish we’d asked, ‘What can we do for you?’” says Hammond. “Because people have bigger problems than design.” City Lab

 

So what is the High Line doing now to correct these oversights? The Friends of the High Line is the non-profit organization which is continually working to improve the High Line in a variety of ways and to raise money to pay for these improvements and programming. They have launched several initiatives including job-training programs for teens, education for kids, and working specifically with the public housing projects to develop programming specifically for their residents—one in particular called ¡ARRIBA!, summer Latin dance parties, are very popular. They do realize there are some things which could have been done at the beginning which are impossible to go back and correct, especially advocating for public housing.

 

“If you care about the places you’re working in, then you have to be talking about this,” he says. “Because in a growing economy, if you’re building a greenway trail or a transit station or improving a school, it will drive up land values.” City Lab

 

Other similar projects in Washington D.C., L.A. and Atlanta, are learning from these unintended consequences in NYC’s project, but will almost certainly have unintended consequences in their own projects.

In the end, that might be the best anyone can do—set out with a good idea, consult the public, build the project. But to not leave it there—don’t walk away and think it’s done. Continue to assess the project, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and change what needs to be changed. The world is evolving, humans are evolving, jobs and housing preferences are evolving, shouldn’t the public amenities which go along with them?

Read the full story on the High Line and public housing here.

Main Photo Source: A Walk Around Some of Manhattan’s Different Neighborhoods 

 

 

What We’re Reading: From Dead Space to Public Space

Placemaking Globally, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading
How Improving Alleys Can Help Make Better Cities

“To most eyes, alleys are—at best—liminal zones. Inhabiting the space between “here” and “there,” they exist but for the grace of their adjacencies. At worst, they are dark, dank, and even dangerous—seen by city dwellers as dead space. However, to a visionary few, the negative space alleys occupy isn’t dead at all; it’s merely dormant, waiting for a rebirth into something functional and new.” – Matt Alderton

Read more about how cities are activating their underutilized alley spaces and creating welcoming public spaces on ArchDaily.com here!

What We’re Reading: Placemaking and Our Human Wellbeing in Cities

Placemaking Globally, What We're Reading

“Where we live determines our levels of happiness and wellbeing. From the design of our streets to the views from our apartments — all play a part in how we experience our day to day lives.” – Ash Blankenship

Read more about the effect of placemaking on our levels of happiness and wellbeing on Parksify.com here!

What We’re Reading: The Importance of Placemaking and Unlocking Community Capital

Funding Opportunities, What We're Reading

“In Europe and North America, millions of citizens are moving back to cities and denser urban areas. These interconnected networks have served as hubs of innovation for centuries, providing our societies with the best opportunities to succeed, leading to the creation of the world’s most innovative products, companies, and people. With the rapid growth and production of the automobile in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some people fled the rapid industrializing cities for rural life.” – Jonathan Berk

Read more from our friends at Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Places here!

 

What We’re Reading: What is a Walk Score?

City Planning, Placemaking Globally, What We're Reading

It’s not too difficult to identify neighborhood that are more “walkable” than others. Residential areas that are more dense, with more amenities are obviously more conducive to pedestrian travel than are widely disbursed neighborhoods with stores, schools, and other necessaries only accessible by car.

walkable-sidewalk-1

Researcher who are measuring a neighborhood’s walkability or “Walk Score” have found that not only do areas that are more accessible to pedestrian have higher health benefits to its residents, but that a higher Walk Score means a higher degree of public safety and property value.

To learn more, visit the Reliance Foundary’s “What is a Walk Score?” here!