Foot forward: Walkability is the key to fixing cities

By Andrew Zaleski
Published: December 18, 2012
Grist

City planner Jeff Speck has found the panacea for our ailing cities, something that could make even Detroit come to life again: walking.

In his new book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, Speck lays out something he calls his General Theory of Walkability. It’s not as platitudinous as one might think — Speck does own a car — but the book rests on the central point that cities designed for people, as opposed to those engineered for cars, will be the places of urban, demographic growth in the 21st century. If you build crosswalks, Speck’s theory goes, they will come.

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How to Make Privately Owned Public Spaces Truly Open to the Public

By Emily Badger
Published: December 17, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

Some of the best privately owned public open spaces in downtown San Francisco are, by nature, a little hard to find. They’re on upper-floor terraces with fantastic views of the city, or in interior plazas of office towers that look from the sidewalk like places where you don’t belong. Part of their charm comes from their hybrid nature: These “POPOS” can be more intimate sanctuaries than traditional open spaces, with office-caliber amenities – leather chairs and potted olive trees – you’ll won’t find in Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco’s 1985 downtown plan required large new office and hotel developments built since then to incorporate such public spaces, in proportion to the size of the properties. But it’s the kind of ordinance that’s been easily thwarted in spirit. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban critic John King wrote several years ago, some buildings have embraced their POPOS, “others are more Scrooge-like than welcoming.”

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What It Really Takes to Foster an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

By Richard Florida
Published: December 11, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

Innovation and entrepreneurship are the engines of economic growth. For decades now, cities and communities across the United States have tried to infuse themselves with those two properties by emulating Silicon Valley, a never-ending quest to become the next Silicon Somewhere.

Brad Feld’s terrific new book, Startup Communities, takes us inside the real ecologies of innovation and entrepreneurship. Feld, co-founder of venture capital firm Foundry Group, serves on the boards of numerous high-tech companies. He recently chatted with Cities about his new book.

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10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

By Kaid Benfield
Published: December 3, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

In Jeff Speck’s excellent new book, Walkable City, he suggests that there are ten keys to creating walkability. Most of them also have something to do with redressing the deleterious effects caused by our allowing cars to dominate urban spaces for decades. I don’t necessarily agree with every detail, and my own list might differ in some ways that reflect my own experience and values. But it’s a heck of a good menu to get city leaders and thinkers started in making their communities more hospitable to walkers.

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