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Thread: No-Places

  1. #1

    No-Places

    As planners, I'm sure you've heard of the term "No Places": Those postwar suburban automobile-centered "new towns" that have sprung up along the edges of cities that have absolutely no soul whatsoever. Or they may be formerly quaint small towns that have mushroomed in population over the past 30 years, resulting in a no longer a discernable downtown. Instead the "downtown" is regulated to the collector roads and highway interchanges, where residents probably never stepped inside a building before 1950 (and are proud of it!)

    Besides obvious places like Tyson's Corner, Virginia and Plano, Texas, please post your favorite "no place" in America. I'm sure you know of some soulless burg that completely lacks a traditional town center, and has more cul-de-sacs than trees. A noplace where corner stores and ma and pa hardware stores have been bulldozed into oblivion and replaced by Starbucks and Home Depot.

    My candidate? Orland Park, Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago. In 1950 this town had a population of on 788. Now its probably over 50,000. There is no downtown and the last of the old farmhouses were torn down in the late 1980s, replaced by subdivision after subdivision of cookie cutter, pop-and-fresh, jive plastic tract houses whose pretentiousness is exceeded only by the glaring absence of even the most fundamental aspects of good town planning. It is a classic example of "creeping crud" development: Haphazard mixes of big box stores, strip malls and "phony colonie" architecture all rubber stamped for approval by some brain-dead developer-shmoozing planning or zoning board. Traffic is an absolute nightma A snarled, teeth gnashing mess of overburdened one lane section roads clogged with SUVs, where the number of curb cuts is exceeded by only the number of potholes. Or 50' wide barren and treeless residential streets - with yuppiefied names like Sea Biscuit Court - where cars speed along at 40 M. P.H. or more

    There is nothing worthwhile for kids to do in Orland Park, and as a result you can pretty much write them off by their 20s. The idealistic ones got out in time, but those left behind are doomed to live the pathetic life of their parents. (Subjecting any child to live in the intellectual decay and hopelessness of places like Orland Park - and parade it around as the "be all end all" of their morally bankrupt existence is one of the most heinous acts a parent can do to a child).

    I could go on and on about how absolutely rotten Orland Park is, for there are few places in the world as detestable. In America, I know of no place that is closer to hell on earth. But maybe you've seen worse. So lets hear about all those "no places." Hopefully, we'll have some informative responses and have a detailed list compiled of places for good planners to avoid.

  2. #2
         
    Registered
    Apr 1997
    Location
    In a Van Down By the River
    Posts
    107

    "No-Places"

    I grew up in a suburb of Miami, Florida called Kendall. It meets all of the above-listed criteria with the addition of drive-by shootings, extremely corrupt public officials and total environmental degradation. I left that place 10 years ago. It is the worst place I can imagine to raise kids.

    Kendall definitely qualifies as a morally bankrupt "No Place." As Gertrude Stein once said, "there is no 'there' there."

  3. #3

    "No-Places"

    Brent, I just thought you'd like to know that Kendall is still booming and still utterly without redeeming social value. Furthermore, we've probably built about a hundred new Kendalls in Florida in the ten years since you left.

    Hey, this subject is way too depressing. Let's talk about something else.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    68

    "No-Places"

    Sounds to me like this is exactly the kind of place where good planners need to go!

    Just because a place has no soul now, doesn't mean that it cannot be given one. It takes time, patience, and dedication. If those with vision avoid such places, then they will never improve. Besides, if you are working in a place that already has interesting character and some history to it, where's the challenge?

  5. #5

    "No-Places"

    Open invitation: Come visit any one of the African townships here in South Africa that were designed by land surveyors or civil engineers in the 80's. Beautiful straight streets, just the way engineers love them, 8 meters wide (so that a police vehicle can turn around easily). Residential stands of 10 meters by 20 meters and the kind removal of all trees before occupation. BUT! Bureaucrats can't keep the good life down! Now the places are filled with spaza shops (small street side vendors) and shebeens (illegal bars that serve cooked meals as well)and the occasional police vehicle....

  6. #6

    "No-Places"

    I was going to guess Detroit, but that would be a long drive to Ft. Smith.

  7. #7
    Planner working someplace
    Guest

    "No-Places"

    Proof that good planning is needed everywhere. The trick when you work in a someplace is to help it maintain it's character and still support development to help the community survive.

    My city is a someplace with real people and real houses many of which are 100 years olf. The trick is continuing to suport the life that everyone loves and doesn't want to loose while helping the community starve off it's possible fall to the statis of ghost town.

    Definately a challenge esp. when confronted by people who would rather see the city fall to nothing than ever change in the slightest and people who feel that if you even slow down progress in the slightest then you are personally dooming the city to distruction.

  8. #8
         
    Registered
    Apr 1997
    Location
    In a Van Down By the River
    Posts
    107

    "No-Places"

    Thanks for the update Planzilla. I still visit the area a couple times a year to see my folks. My step-mother was mugged recently at the bank and my folks were victims of a home invasion robbery. I wish they'd pick up and leave.

    I can not imagine a less bicycle/pedestrian friendly area. Kendall is a wasteland of human soul. There are no community amenities to speak of. I believe most of the juvenile crime in the area is directly attributable to the built environment and the total lack of constructive things to do for young people.

    It is also hard to believe that the area can sustain as much retail as it does. Every year I see new big boxes and mega malls - you'd think the market would be saturated already. I understand the Burdine's at Dadeland outsells every other Burdine's in Florida combined. I think it's symptomatic of the culture down there.

    Is Metrorail still a complete failure? Metro-Dade could have purchased 200 new buses for what they spent on the rail.

    Sorry for the soapbox tirade. Thanks for listening.....

  9. #9

    "No-Places"

    Oh, man, don't get me started on the state of public transportation down here. Oops, too late--I'm already started.

    I am new in South Florida, and I am appalled at the miserable condition of public transportation. Metrorail is actually the most convenient part of the system--or would be if it actually came close to covering the metro area. And if they didn't sometimes run northbound trains on the southbound tracks without telling the boarding passengers, like they did to me last weekend.

    But the buses are worse. There aren't enough (yeah, maybe it would have been better to get more buses rather than build metrorail), and you can't get any info on where they go and when they go there. Only place I've ever been where the buses do not carry printed schedules for distribution. And service is so friendly--last time I was on the bus, the driver drove past requested stops three times. People had to shout at him to make him stop. No wonder that ridership seems limited to the poorest of the poor--anybody who can possibly afford a car would rather get out into the comparative joy of freeway gridlock.

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