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Thread: Bold Paradigm Shift or Stoopid Idea?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Bold Paradigm Shift or Stoopid Idea?

    Milwaukee's new Mayor has proposed a new architect/planner to replace the appointed position that leads the City's development department. Not only that, but it links the department VERY closely to the university's school of archoitecture and urban planning.

    Those of us that know the bloke have been discussing it, and it seems like a great idea, or at least a great experiment...

    *discuss*

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    It'll be very interesting to see how he manages to handle both jobs....but as an opportunity for students to get their feet wet, sounds great.

    I'll be interested to see how long it will last though, before a full-time planner is needed.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3
    I think it is a great idea. It is obvious that the Mayor has no background in Urban Design, Urban Planning or Architecture and he really needed to make a splash at that position given the loss of the New Urbanist regime that left the City. Prior to his election Mayor Barrett was asked about ideas about urban planning and design and Barrett responded by talking about a pothole patrol. Greenstreet gives him instant credibility.

    I think it is great for the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UWM as well. It will get the university even more involved than it already is in the design of the City The University has already worked with the City on things like the demolition of a useless freeway spur that has freed up a ton of developable land, the redevelopment planning for the Menomonee Valley, a barren wasteland of old contaminated industrial properties, and numerous small scale redevelopment, streetscaping, and urban design projects.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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  4. #4

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    Depends on the "ideology" of the person. If he is an advocate of object buildings, big projects, and ultra-bizarre deconstrucist architecture, I would be questioning this choice. If he is more sympathetic to "urbanist" values like pedestrian scale, streetscapes, I think its great.

    (Not that there is no space for object landmark buildings in the cityscape)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    That experiement was tried here in N.O. and failed miserably. I've complained about my former boss in many threads. The CPC hired a so-called architect/planner for the executive director position. Come to find out, this person was not a LICENSED architect and the only "planning" experience she had was an internship at the NYC planning dept. back in the late 70's. She didn't have one ounce of management experience either. She diluted the professional planning staff, what was left of it after nearly all of the experienced planners quit, with architecture students from one of the local universities where she was an adjunct professor. They knew nothing about planning (or urban design for that matter) so many things like the master plan and the CZO revision fell by the wayside. She was finally forced to resign under the new mayoral adminstration and that deptartment is still suffering from her 2+ year tenure.

    Hopefully, Milwaukee will have much better luck than New Orleans.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella
    Hopefully, Milwaukee will have much better luck than New Orleans.
    Having met the man, I can say he is educated, can manage large organizations, and is not only a great facilitator, but an empowerer. He has a squeeky clean image, which helps since city hall has been plaqued with corruption scandals for the past few years. Three aldermen went to prison, another charged with civil penalites. Another federal john doe investigation is still underway regarding bribery for liquor licenses.

    The *only* downside to his appointment is that he is an otheriwse average white man. The election was very racially charged, and the new Mayor has alot of hangover issues becasue of it. This doesnt help him in that camp, but hopefully he will diversify his cabinet and it will begin the healing process.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am not going to name names… but there was a person who was the Senior Planner for a city that I worked at before I worked here. He was not “employed” at the time that I was working with this community, but he would come in on a regular basis (at least one a week). He had worked for the city for twenty some years, and then retired. He was trained as an old school architect, and had no real grasp on planning, mixed use, urban development, and even asked what does GIS have to do with planning. Needless to say he and I did not get along all that well. I think that if he where to be open-minded to new possibilities, it could have worked amazingly. BUT, he was so stuck on the way things have always been done, even though none of them ever worked.

    I personally think this is a great idea if he is trained in both, and still willing to keep an open mind
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The key to making something like this work is the management skills of the person in the position. He will need to establish a very effective team of managers and delegate a good deal of authority and responsibility to them.

    I meant to post an article from hte Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee some weeks ago, but was too busy. It discussed Milwaukee's new mayor and the challenges he would face. Planning issues figured prominently, which I took for a good indication of the impact of our profession here. One of the issues the department faces is the loss of several seasoned managers. Bringing in somebody like this gets the mayor both talent and familiarity with the local area, its politics, developers, etc.

    The Wisconsin Idea, a part of the Progressive Movement a century ago, was to link education to the community. It spawned the University of Wisconsin - Extension (regarded as perhaps the best university extension service) and other innovations. This idea seems to be in keeping with it.
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  9. #9

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    The history of architects as planners does not bode well for this experiment in my opinion, but if it is exactly the right person, maybe . . .

  10. #10
    The thing is that he has been the Chair of the City's Plan Commission for a while, so he is no stranger to Planning Issues. Like Chet I have met him a few times and even worked with him on a project at UW-Milwaukee while in Grad school. (he was the dean of the School where I got my masters) and I think he is one of those people who succeeds at just about anything.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    links the department VERY closely to the university's school of archoitecture and urban planning.
    This is my rant:
    One of the constant 'thorn in my side' is that there is absolutely no link between the local School of Planning and Architecture and the local government/planning agency,authority or the state government.
    The only time they interact is when students hunt data for the projects/thesis, during the time for apprenticeships and ofcourse when teh practising planners are called for the final thesis juries.
    The last thirtyyears of education and manpower could not in this institute has not benefitted the city or the region in a substantial manner.
    Whatever little projects the academicians/in house faculty take are generally too theoretical and sometimes messed up.
    I find it very very sad.
    rant over

    If there is an opportunity to link the two then it sounds like one of those rare 'WIn-Win' models. Only that whether the model will mwork and the work produced by students will be applicable and relevant and upto the level required by the agencies.
    It will take a herculean task to coordinate and then deliver solid work.
    In my Post graduation from hte planning school in Ahmedabad, India, there was an interesting charrete organised between the Urban Planning, Urban Design and the architecure courses for six months about the future of Chandigarh( the city designed by Corbu' and about which I mentioned earlier somewhere else).
    It was a great idea, very tough to coordinate, too many ego's to juggle and ended up with too many gaps.
    How nice would it have been if it had developed into that integrated project we dream of.

    Gist of my message:
    Anyway what I mean is that coordinating such efforts are really tough. Therefore I would call it a Bold Paradigm.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    If anybody can juggle simultaneous positions as dean for SARUP and City Architect/Planner it's Bob Greenstreet. The man thrives on holding more than one big job at a time, and is successful at all of them (as indicated in the article Chet linked). While he may have a strong architectural background, he is definitiely quite familiar with planning issues as well. Not only was he the chairman of the City Plan Commission, but he was also involved with rewriting the city's zoning code a couple years ago. He also has some legal background (dealing with architecture/planning law), has experience dealing with developers, and has acted as an arbitrator on certain architecture/design/planning issues in the city.

    As for the "City Architect/Planner" title, it seems to just be a renaming of the "City Planning Director" title--different name, but same job. So Greenstreet as City Architect/Planner will likely be doing similar things that Peter Park did as City Planning Director (who also had an architecture background, as well as ties to UWM SARUP--first as a student, later as a teacher). The position really is a balance between urban planning, urban design, and architecture; Greenstreet is a good fit for that.

    The School of Arhciteture and Urban Planning already has a really good connection with the City. Like Repo Man mentioned previously, topics/projects that have been the basis for design studios or planning classes at SARUP have ultimately become real life projects in the city--so the school is sometimes a "testing ground" for those ideas. With Greenstreet holding positions at SARUP and the CIty, that relationship will become even stronger. It ought to boost the awareness of the Urban Planning department within SARUP (planning is often overshadowed by architecture within the school); it ought to boost the awareness of SARUP within UWM; it ought to boost the awareness of SARUP/UWM/Milwaukee within the city, state, and country.

    So Mayor Barrett's seclection of Bob Greenstreet is a bold experiment that I predict will be very successful for Milwaukee. But then, I might be biased, being a SARUP student.

    Hopefully Barrett will score big points again with his upcoming selection for the Commissioner of the Dept. of City Development position.

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