Archive for the ‘cities’ Tag

Small Town Seeks Character

"The old Shurfine Market building will be demolished as the first step in Tyngsborough’s plans to redevelop its town center. (Photos By Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)" www.boston.com

"The old Shurfine Market building will be demolished as the first step in Tyngsborough’s plans to redevelop its town center. (Photos By Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)" http://www.boston.com

Towns all across America have started to realize they have very little character or sense of place. Suburbanization has left many different areas different feeling places- most notably, a few acre sized lots of suburban sprawling homes may collectively have enough land to create a neighborhood or cultural center, but instead take up lots of relatively unused land. Although towns and houses with a great expanse of land may adequately allow for some people to efficiently live on their property (i.e. farmers), it may ultimately hurt them in the long run by not having a nearby main street. Tourism does not exist to places that do not have cultural hubs, so any town without a main stopping point or center is missing out on tourism opportunities. Going for milk becomes a 20 minute drive instead of a 5 minute walk. Without a main street or economic area, many people will also be forced to drive between their several destinations of needs, and instead of having an option of several reasonable methods of transport (most importantly equitable and ecologically responsible methods like walking, cycling, and public transit).

Thankfully, towns like Tyngsborough, Massachusetts are realizing the disadvantages of having little of a town center.

Right now, points of interest in the center of town include the Littlefield Library, Winslow School, and Old Town Hall – all of which are vacant. Municipal business is conducted at the new town hall/library, located in a remote wooded area away from the center. In Tyngsborough, as some observers put it, there’s simply no “there’’ there.

“There is no ‘there’ ” is a great way to describe the decentralization of cities, boroughs, and small towns. In all likeliness, small towns like Tyngsborough were settled because of a specific reason, such as a stopping point for travelers in the days before cars, or because a train station was a drop point for supplies. Places like these have fallen into near ghost towns and have no cultural center as a result of the continuous disinvestment from the train infrastructure and the advancement of technology- namely cars, which virtually destroyed many of these stop over towns overnight.

The obstacle for urban planners is to retain the old historical features and characters of these towns while injecting new locally accepted life in and around. “‘We want to make sure we develop a town center that recognizes the history of the town, along with grasping the culture and the wants of the residents,’ Lemoine said[…] ‘We’ve never had a town center, an identity for a town.'” Community visioning is a tool that could be used to help translate the physical descriptions from the general public and place all those ideas into a master plan.

“It would be nice to have a place of social gathering, a coffee shop, a breakfast place, an eatery where people can congregate and support their local businesses,’’ said selectman Richard Lemoine. “A center of town, whether it’s just a few shops, a green space, a bandstand, something that recognizes the significance of a community, every community strives for one. That’s what we’re striving for.’’

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, VERTICES LLC

Material drawn from Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2009/07/16/municipalities_seek_identity_in_town_centers/?page=1

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Colorado Rockies Green Initiatives

The initiative put forth by the Colorado Rockies

The initiative put forth by the Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies are making head ways in becoming a more community oriented asset. The team has plans this summer for certain “green weeks”, where the team will pay to plant a tree around Denver for every home run hit during that week. In addition, The Denver Post included posters showing the team’s schedule for fans. On each day on the poster’s calender there is a tip for being more energy efficient and sustainable. Today’s tip was turn your thermostat 2 degrees higher in summer. Just 2 degrees saves a lot of energy due to the exponential increase in the amount of energy needed to maintain cooler houses.

The Rockies also offer many other “going green incentives” such as riding your bike to the game. This Sunday for instance, the Rockies will be offering 2 box seats normally at a set price of around $75 for only $20, 5 dollars of which will be donated to a tree planting fund. Although a far stretch, I think it would be a better move to plant new trees over parking spaces around the stadium, further discouraging driving to the game. It could also be a competition enjoyed by fans and players to try to fill up an entire section of a parking lot then dedicate it to a game day street fair.

Not only is there a significant incentive to ride your bike for Sunday’s game, but it can also encourage you to ride your bike to other games too. Maybe some fans will realize that navigating through congested traffic after the game is much easier when you have a bicycle that can squeeze through or around jammed cars.

Large incentives like these show to me a strong willingness for the ball club to connect with the community and its people, and should be emulated or adapted in other businesses. Connecting local people with local business is part of a sustainable and desirable community.  Hats off to you Colorado Rockies and any other teams doing similar programs.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

http://mlb.mlb.com/col/fan_forum/greenweek_calendar.jsp

Vision for Visioning

Nice 4 story houses overlooking a square near centre city London

Nice 4 story houses overlooking a square near centre city London

It’s hard to have to pull together a consensus on a whole community of people, if not impossible. Determining which public inputs and ideas are better may lead to compromising some other goals determined by the community. A community likely cannot be walkable and transit oriented if the goal of the community is for everyone to own a car. The trade offs between values like these are ones where community visioners must extract the most important details from.

Talking amongst the community members may eventually take shape into an idea of what the community wants to look like, but there are other tools that are much more effective and time efficient. In today’s world of globalization, there are many communities that feature more than one primary language. Talking might not just be an option to gather a fair public input. This brings me to the most important tool in visioning: visual representation. Visual representation can be anything from charts to blue prints to computer designed buildings and areas. Upon seeing these representations, people can choose whether or not they agree the mechanisms brought forth by the visioner has a place in their community. Visual representation of ideas is the best way to communicate because there is a clearer understanding of what is being presented with little room for self interpretation and there is no foreign language that needs interpreting.  There are many more case-specific reasons visual representations are great tools for community visioning, but this should tickle the mind of anyone seeking a community visioning process.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

Streetscaping in Salisbury, NC

An area of Salisbury, NC where improvements have already taken place www.ci.salisbury.nc.us

An area of Salisbury, NC where improvements have already taken place http://www.ci.salisbury.nc.us

Streetscapes are seldom recognized as one of the most important parts of streetlife. But when red brick textured sidewalks are shaded by trees on a hot summer day, streetscapes can be appreciated. Good streetscapes also contribute to a walkable culture, and attract window shoppers to stop and check out what local businesses have to offer.

Salisbury, NC is currently working on sprucing up their streetscape in hopes of making the downtown area more of an attractive and unique place. The first step to this visioned plan is to bury the utility wires. Removing the wires from the air above and placing them below the sidewalk will allow for more shade trees to line the promenade and will remove the ugly overhanging wires from view. In addition to the utility lines being buried, “other streetscape improvements envisioned include a mast-arm traffic signal pole at Kerr Street, the elevation of granite curbing, brick sidewalks, street trees, pedestrian lighting and parking improvements.”

Sidewalk texturing can be a big aesthetic improvement. Since us human tend to look down at an angle of 15 degrees or so, we naturally are looking at the ground ahead of us. An interesting sidewalk pattern and color is subconsciously an attraction for our eyes.

Street trees allow for shade on the sidewalk during the warmer months. It is a small comfort feature that few might think would be a result of planning, but rather a result of landscaping. Street trees also shade off store fronts from sunlight that would otherwise heat up the insides of the buildings, resulting in a greater need for air conditioning. In the colder months, trees shed their shade and allow the sun to heat up the insides of the buildings. Street trees are a small example of how landscaping can help improve energy efficiency.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices, LLC

Material drawn from: http://www.salisburypost.com/Area/062609-north-lee-street-utility-work