What Makes Urban Charter Schools Effective?

By Eric Jaffe
Published: February 7, 2013
theatlanticcities.com

Last month Technology Review profiled M.I.T. economist Josh Angrist, who’s known for conducting “natural experiments.” That’s an academic way of describing research that occurs through observing the world, as opposing to being controlled in a lab. From his morning commute in Cambridge (via bike) to his interest in urban charter schools (analyzing their effectiveness), it’s clear that Angrist’s powers of observation are largely focused on cities.

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Why smarter land use can help cities attract and retain young adults

By Kaid Benfield
Published: February 5, 2013
Better! Cities & Towns

Here’s the nutshell:  20th-century land use won’t help your city attract and retain 21st-century people.  It just won’t.  This is because the lifestyle values of the Millennial generation, sometimes called GenY, are markedly different from those of previous generations when they were the same age as the Millennials are now (roughly 18 to 34).

The prolific urban observer Richard Florida has been telling us this in various ways for years, as he researches and charts the shifting economic geography of the US.  (I’ve gotten to know Rich over the last year and consider him a kindred spirit on these issues.)  Rich believes that the housing and finance industry collapse of the last few years signals the end of one economic era and the beginning of another, though I’m sure he would be the first to tell us that we’re in a messy and hard-to-pin-down transition.  But he is clear that the new economy – based less on manufacturing and established institutions, more on creativity, entrepreneurship, connectedness and interaction – will prosper best in places suited to a new kind of lifestyle, one that has already emerged in leading cities.

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The Lost Downtown Demographic

By Aascot Holt
Published: February 5, 2013
Sustainable Cities Collective

Teens and young adults want to go out with their friends, and they like to stay out as late as possible. That’s a fact of life. But where do most of these teens and young people spend their time? Preferably somewhere they can park their hand-me-down, four-wheeled, newfound freedom machine: the automobile. But, their weekend nights usually doesn’t get far past the parking lot. Minors aged fifteen to twenty are the lost downtown demographic.

Most of the time the only places that allow minors under twenty-one on their premises after 10pm are movie theaters, gas stations, and the occasional fro-yo hut. If there aren’t any other options, most teens choose public places where nobody is admitted past dark, like sport courts, skateboard parks, and playgrounds. Downtown is where the majority of nightlife lies for those over twenty-one, and it needs to be a place where minors can enjoy themselves too.

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Why Walkability isn’t Just About Proximity to Shops

Published: February 4, 2013
This Big City

For many people, the concept of ‘Walkability’ simply means how many shops, cafes, schools and other services are within walking distance of a particular location. While this is a really important part of a walkable neighbourhood (people won’t walk if there is nothing to walk to) there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that several other factors improve or reduce the walkability of a street or neighbourhood.

Now a new book by urban designer Julie Campoli adds to this discussion by exploring several key factors that combine to create truly walkable streets and communities. In her new book from the Lincoln Institute: Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form, Campoli argues that simply having shops, services and venues within walking distance is not enough.

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How Physical Places Define Local Economies

Published: February 1, 2013
Sustainable Cities Collective

So writes Jim Russell in a recent post over at Burgh Diaspora, in arguing that cities are wasting their money on Placemaking when they should be focusing more directly on talent development. In his view, widely held these days, Placemaking is about plunking down “cool urban amenities” and increasing token diversity to make a city seem edgy or superficially interesting. It’s a simple cut-and-paste process of taking some signifier of young, contemporary, urban hipness (a bike lane, public art, a funkily decorated coffee shop) and inserting it into a neighborhood in the hopes of re-framing that neighborhood as the Next Big Thing.

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