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    Published on 21 Nov 2011 8:00 AM
    1. Development and Real Estate
    2. History and Preservation
    3. Planning Practice
    4. Urban Design

    By Perry Norton FAICP

    I have some knowledge of the historical roles of central cities, but what is the role today, if any? The central city is certainly not the hub of transportation anymore, nor is it the commercial/retail center. There is very little manufacturing in the center. In Detroit, General Motors Tech is out on the 8 Mile Road, isn't it?

    So, what's left? Well, the City and County Complex is probably downtown, and the courts, thus offices full of lawyers. There may be a theater or two, but there are theaters elsewhere - outside the centers of cities, in Overland Park KS, for example..

    In the August 1992 issue of Planning magazine (APA) there was an article titled "Is downtown worth saving?" It didn't strike me that the answer contained therein was a resounding "yes". Oh there were some contributors to the article who used poetic language about the downtown being the essence of ethnic diversity, and the intellectual village of the 21st century. They thought, as to be expected, that downtown was worth saving, but they didn't, in my opinion, contribute much to the question: for what? ...
    Published on 18 Nov 2011 8:00 AM
    1. Land Use and Zoning
    2. Transportation
    3. Urban Design
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    by Dom Nozzi

    New urbanists point out that there are several different “lifestyle” choices that members of a community seek out, and that these choices generally correspond to various geographic locations within the community.

    What one finds in a community, generally, is that those seeking a more walkable, compact, higher-density, and sociable lifestyle tend to live in or near the community town center. Others seek a more “drivable” lifestyle which features lower densities, larger setbacks, homes separated from jobs and shops, and shorter buildings. This more spread out development pattern tends to be found in more remote locations.

    Areas, in other words, surrounding the more walkable, compact town center. ...
    Published on 17 Nov 2011 8:00 AM
    1. Economic Development
    2. Housing
    3. Urban Design
    4. Governance and Regionalism
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    by Bryan Steckler

    1) Money: The amount of money you spend on transportation expenses relative to income increases with the number of cars you own. This is due to acquisition costs, fuel, and maintenance. This means that the farther away from your job you live (i.e. the more you spend on fuel and the more necessary multiple cars become) the less money you have to spend on other needs or to save. Mixed use zoning, transit oriented development, and high quality public transportation can reduce these costs. In addition to this, suburban housing is subsidized to an extent by the Federal Housing Administration and the loans it provides and guarantees towards single family homes, thus the true costs of suburban housing are hidden from the homeowners. These loans cannot be used to purchase residencies in multi-unit buildings and similar incentives are not available to renters. ...
    Published on 16 Nov 2011 8:00 AM
    1. Comprehensive Planning
    2. Planning Practice

    By Perry Norton, FAICP

    In connection with the PBS TV series "Power of Myth" Joseph Campbell wrote, "The rise and fall of civilizations can be seen to have been largely a function of the integrity and cogency of their supporting canons of myth...when the mythology of a culture no longer works, there follows a sense of both disassociation and a quest for new meaning."

    In his notes of introduction to his powerful play "The Kentucky Cycle", Robert Schenkkan wrote, "The Myth of the Frontier is a fascinating construct, an extremely seductive and ultimately very dangerous myth, composed of two lesser myths. The first of these is the Myth of Abundance, which says, 'These resources are so vast that they will never end, You cannot possibly use them up.' The other half of the Myth of the Frontier might be called the Myth of Escape. It says, 'Only today matters, The past? Who cares? If you don't like where you are, literally or metaphorically, well, pick up stakes and move. Change your address, change your name, change your history.'."

    Continuing the figure of such speech, I would suggest that there is yet another myth, one that has touched, and continues to touch, seminal thinking about land use planning. One that has, alas, created a wall between planners and society in general. I would call it the Myth of Community. ...
    Published on 14 Nov 2011 6:00 AM
    1. Urban Design

    By Perry Norton, FAICP

    The term "gated community" has a negative connotation for most planners, and perhaps for significant numbers of people with active social consciences. These are suburban, elitist, places - the thinking goes - where self indulging economic parasites go to live out their fantasies, and retreat from their responsibilities.

    A one to one conversation with a developer, or resident, of a gated community will produce horror stories of a whole range of assaults on persons and property. We have a right to protect ourselves and loved ones from these threats, they say. Oscar Newman sold many copies of his book on "defensible communities."

    Overreactions? Probably.

    But walls are not new, nor are predators. ...

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