My name is Kyle Ezell, A.I.C.P, new to Cyburbia, and even new to these kinds of Web forums. OK, I'm ready to go-- just spent the past three years traveling to 50 cities and spending every (and I really do mean "every") dull moment writing a book called "GET URBAN! THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CITY LIVING. www.geturban.com
and now I'm ready for a test run before I'm fed to the wolves. As a fellow planner, I'm inviting you to help, and although it is selfish, and yes, before anyone says it, I am indeed hawking my book, I think this would be a great thread topic. Let me give you some background before you start slinging the questions, but please read!! And then sock it to me-- why is this a great idea-- why does it suck? I'm looking for sucker-punches, undercuts, hateful comments, or glory. Bring it on! I've got a 35-city book tour beginning in Apirl and I need lots of practice.
I am an urban planner for Downtown Columbus, Ohio. My job duties include administering RFPs to developers, including mom and pop operations that agree to buy non-productive properties like brownfields and turn them around. Columbus is a downtown that is really a big parking lot, but worse than that, it is a city full of people who discount it as a "real city." After all, they say, "This is not Chicago, and certainly not Manhattan." Columbus is "growing" but that is because it annexes huge chunks of suburban subdivisions and farmlands, while the downtown is 27% vacant. It closes up at night. It is sad, but I LOVE IT. I love all downtowns in all cities. I am an extreme city lover who considers city life as much fun as downhill skiing or parachuting.
I wrote Get Urban! as a way to help second- and third-tier cities like Columbus get exctied about the possibility of what it could be a locally vibrant place full of energy and urban opportunities. Also wrote it for "shrinking" cities, 1/3 of American cities are shrinking and need serious attention. In fact, most places between the coasts need higher demand for urban living-- have you ever been to TULSA? Back in Columbus, I long for the day when a developer would annouce a 5000-unit downtown mixed-use/mixed income housing development (5000 unit subdivsions are always announced in the 'burbs). I hate being the only one on the sidewalk and am constantly fighting the urge to move to Vancouver, BC or Manhattan (yeah, right, like I could afford it) to experience full-time, vibrant downtown life NOW. What could a planner do to help my beloved, overlooked, dead little downtown Columbus? One thing was for sure--sitting in my cube at the city hall annex wasn't doing the trick.
So, I started writing a planner's book, but realized that another boring-ass book about planning and just for planners would not be very effective. It occurred to me that the masses, in other words, most people in metro Columbus, the state of Ohio and most of America really don't understand what it means to be "urban" or to live an urban life. If they did, then the demand would be apparent in Downtown Columbus through increased development. So I wrote the first self-help book for people who want to help themselves to "get urban." It is full of planning topics that we planners all talk about everyday, but is without the technical zoning and development stuff we talk about every day. I had to make sure that Joe and Gina suburbanites and anyone else would at least take a look, and get Barnes&Noble to "get it," instead of just our industry's Planners Press. It is a very unusual format, weird indeed, and I think it will be highly effective.
The book targets young people who are ready to start out in life, and empty nest baby boomers who want to engage in an adventure and surely don't want to move to a retirement home or cabin somewhere and play shuffleboard. Most people in both groups were incubated in suburbia or elsewhere, but not in the city, and have the greatest potential of any group to actually become "weirdos" and move downtown. The book focuses on these two groups who may be thinking about contributing to the health of cities, and, unlike most families with kids, are willing to move to the places with the most deplorable school systems. They are prompted to "match their personality with their urban lifestyle." That's the hook. But throughout, they learn a host of planning topics like density, mixed-use development, alternative transportation and many others.
[EDIT THE DAY AFTER-- I realize that it is truly hard to ask questions about a book that isn't even out yet. Kind of ridiculous, actually. So, it you'd like to debate or ask questions, look at these terms on this stie-- they'll start the ball rolling]
As a fellow planner, I appreciate the help, and do apologize if it seem hawky. (What else can you do?)