Hip, Urban, Middle-Aged

By Nancy Keates
Published: August 13, 2013
Wall Street Journal

Jennifer Williams says she often feels like the oldest person on her block. When the 52-year-old corporate communications executive sets off for work in a suit, carrying a briefcase, with her hair in a bun, she is usually surrounded by young people with tattoos and rainbow crocheted skull caps. “It’s like mom is coming in for a visit,” she says.

That doesn’t bother Ms. Williams. In fact, such diversity is exactly what she was looking for when she bought a condo in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn two years ago, after living in what she calls the “dead zone” of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “I find it endlessly fascinating and interesting. I wanted to be somewhere with energy and life.”

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Patient urbanism: Build neighborhoods without high debt

By Steve Mouzon
Published: March 3, 2013
Better! Cities & Towns

Building neighborhoods patiently requires far less debt for infrastructure and results in places that are more interesting than those that are built all at once. This was once the way we built everywhere, but it is now illegal all over. Why? Because cities insist on “seeing the end from the beginning,” meaning that they want the developer to begin by building the final condition of the neighborhood. In human terms, it would be like deciding that we can no longer tolerate giving birth to a child that grows into an adult; we will only allow giving birth to an adult… an incredibly painful proposition that simply doesn’t work.

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Science Fiction vs. Reality: Tomorrow’s New Cities

By EMBARQ
Published: March 5, 2013
Sustainable Cities Collective

In Guy Montag’s city, it is illegal to be a pedestrian. The main character in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian American classic, Fahrenheit 451, commutes by subway. He thinks little of the circumstances and of the culture which gave rise to such laws forbidding walking, until he is nearly hit by a speeding automobile and realizes the teenagers behind the wheel are ambivalent to, and even more disconcertingly, desensitized from the possibility of causing a fatal traffic accident.

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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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Why Is ‘Authenticity’ So Central to Urban Culture?

By Richard Greenwald
Published: January 31, 2013
theatlanticcities.com

One of the worst things you can publicly call someone today is a fake. The controversy surrounding Beyonce’s “singing” of the National Anthem at Obama’s inauguration demonstrates the point and shows, according to the Washington Post, “how confused our culture has become over its wobbly standards of authenticity.” We are, in a word, obsessed.

It is little wonder, then, that we seek out spaces, food, and clothes that affirm a sense of realness and rootedness. The more alike we become, the thirstier we are for perceived individuality. And in crowded cities, being an individual means being rooted in modern notions of authenticity.

Cases in point can be seen in almost every moderately hip or gentrifying city neighborhood. It is clearly evident in certain parts of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Flea is in many ways an archetype for the consumption of modern, urban authenticity. The Flea features hundreds of vendors of antique furniture, vintage clothing, and crafts by local artisans. Part of its charm is its curation of things from the past (antiques and vintage clothing) and a hand-crafted and local present.

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Can cities help you forget your troubles? C’mon, get happy!

By Hazel Borys
Published: November 1, 2012
Better! Cities & Towns

In most physical and policy planning, triple bottom line benchmarks focus on environment and economy, and tend to skim over the subject of society. That’s probably because urban design impacts are much easier to measure with respect to profit and planet than they are with respect to people.

Any good MBA professor preaches, “What gets measured gets done.” For several generations, we’ve been proving that point with our relentless focus on measuring our collective success via a host of global economic indicators. Since An Inconvenient Truth, environmental factors have joined the economic mainstream as well, sparking a whole new breed of Eco Warriors.

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What Are the 7 Keys to a Strong Community?

By Kain Benfield
Published: October 22, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

I am fortunate to have befriended, one way or another, some people who are very good at the business of thinking about, designing, and building good communities. While many of them are architects and planners, primarily concerned with physical space, community-building is an art with elusive goals, as Eric Jacobsen’s book (reviewed here last week) argues:  even if you get the physical elements right, there’s no guarantee that a place will function as a true community, as more than just a place.

That said, it really helps to have a good place in which to anchor true community. One of my community-building friends is Scott Doyon, a partner in a planning firm that signals its interest in place loud and clear: it’s called PlaceMakers. They do fantastic work, and every one of the firm’s principals that I have met is thoughtful about it. (That’s not to say that I am thrilled with everything their clients do, of course.) I’m impressed with much of their work, such as their planning assistance to Ranson, West Virginia that I profiled here last year.

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