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Thread: The worst planning blunders ever

  1. #26
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    OK, here goes. One of the top planning blunders has to be the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods that passed for urban renewal in
    the 1950s and 60s. The most notable case around here is the West End. What a loss.

    In terms of "festival marketplaces", or whatever the buzzword is, I don't find them particularly offensive and see them as a good way of making historic buildings valuable. As a Boston native I can't say I go to Quincy Market every day, but I don't avoid it either. I'd rather go there on a sunny day than the mall. Generally I like it, even though it has become full of chains.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    OK, here goes. One of the top planning blunders has to be the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods that passed for urban renewal in
    the 1950s and 60s. The most notable case around here is the West End. What a loss.

    In terms of "festival marketplaces", or whatever the buzzword is, I don't find them particularly offensive and see them as a good way of making historic buildings valuable. As a Boston native I can't say I go to Quincy Market every day, but I don't avoid it either. I'd rather go there on a sunny day than the mall. Generally I like it, even though it has become full of chains.
    It is inaccurate to say that "festival villages" were a success based on one or two success stories. They have proven to do well in Boston, San Francisco, and Baltimore (all of which had them near the water) and were a total bust in most other places. These things were built with public subsidy in over twenty-five cities throughout the country. In most cases, they have become alagolous with continued public subsidy of decaying inner city retail because the city did not want to admit it made a blunder in wasting tax payer dollards on this in the first place; reuse to casino, nightclub district, or some other similar use; and tourist traps (which may be good or bad depending on the type of city economy that exists- see Boston and San Francisco).
    Satellite City Enabler

  3. #28
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    You can't top this one: Pier 39 in San Francisco. An abomination but the most visited place in the City.

    http://www.pier39.com/

    Annoyingly insensitive

  4. #29
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    The building of the "subway to nowhere" in Buffalo, NY, has to top my list. At the time that the subway was being planned, an alternative was to put LRRT on the existing ROW (city owned) of the former Buffalo Beltway Railroad which encircled the outer reaches of the city, and cut through both industrial and residential neighborhoods. It even ran through downtown near the waterfront. Not only would LRRT have allowed easy rail commutes between residential areas and industrial/commercial areas, it offered the opportunity to connect, via ground level rail, with the suburbs.

    Instead, the city opted for an expensive subway system from downtown north along Main Street to the SUNY at Buffalo South Campus (after all, Toronto had one!). The southern end of the route was turned into a car-less surface rail/pedestrian mall. The project cost something around a billion dollars IIRC, killed off a lot of businesses on Main Street because it was a construction zone for years, is too expensive to expand into the suburbs, requires significant subsidies because of low ridership, etc. Part of the reason that the subway does poorly is that it is totally irrelevant to the major residential areas of the city, which are the West Side and North Buffalo not to mention the suburbs.

    Now, the city is talking about returning auto traffic to the Main Street pedestrian mall at the tune of $50 million ...

  5. #30
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    Celebration, Fl - led to the establishment of every other new urbanist commune in the country.

    Affordable Housing - how about affordable food and clothes too. Creeping socialism brought about by planners.

    Pedestrian Mall and Downtown Mall in Nashville, TN - Please, please, please come back downtown. Didn't work.

    Penn Station, NYC - just a crime.

    Public Transportation in Every Samll or Midsized City in the US - get rid of it. What a black hole of tax money.

    Commuter Rail in Every City in the US - nobody wants to ride the trains just like nobody wants to ride in a horse and buggy.

  6. #31
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DaddyYo View post
    Affordable Housing - how about affordable food and clothes too. Creeping socialism brought about by planners.
    Emphasis mine.

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    Apparently, you didn't listen to the mod that reminded you earlier of this rule.

    2.14 Dissenting opinions
    There are some people that register not to participate, but to disrupt civil discourse and promote a personal agenda. Posts critical of the planning profession phrased in a confrontational manner ("All you ☭commie☭ planners are freedom-hating social engineers who want to take away our cars", "You steam-era planners want to force us back into crowded tenements", etc ) are not permitted. Users with a history of making such posts, even on other message boards or Usenet, may be banned.
    You're now banned from Cyburbia, just like you were from the Nashville Charrette and Skyscraper Page forums. It's not because of your contrarian viewpoint, but the antagonistic way in which it was manifested. Goodbye.

  7. #32
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    The project cost something around a billion dollars IIRC, killed off a lot of businesses on Main Street because it was a construction zone for years [snip]
    Off-topic:
    Metro Rail Killed downtown retail. That's one of my favorite urban legends about Buffalo, along with Frank Sinatra's planned Niagara Falls casino, the sinking Walden Galleria, the Ellicott Complex design being based on the plans for a French prison, and the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge with 20 miles on the odometer what was owned by a kid who was shipped off to Vietnam and killed in combat, that is now sitting in his parents' garage in West Seneca, and they refuse to sell it.


    The following were the department stores along Main Street just before the transit mall went in. Let's see what happened to them.

    Hens and Kelly: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    LL Berger: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    Sattlers / Main Place Mall: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    Hengerer's: chain consolidated with Sibley's. Sibleys later closed the downtown store, along with a few other "underperforming" stores such as Main/Eggert in Amherst.
    Adam Meldrum and Anderson: chain sold to Bon Ton, which made a promise to keep the downtown store open. Psych! Turns out Bon Ton's policy is that they don't do downtowns anywhere; they even closed their flagship store in downtown York, Pennsylvania.

    What about the large junior department stores?

    Kleinhans (very large men's clothing store): entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    Woolworth's: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.

    During the time downtown Buffalo lost much of its retail base, more prosperous cities also lost their downtown department stores; Denver, Kansas City, Dallas and Houston come to mind. Even Rust Belt cities without transit malls lost downtown department stores; Cleveland, Rochester and Syracuse. (Pittsburgh is a rare exception.)

    Retail in downtown Buffalo was a victim of general trends in the retail industry, and the overall decline of the region as a while. The impact of the transit mall was minimal.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Off-topic:
    Metro Rail Killed downtown retail. That's one of my favorite urban legends about Buffalo, along with Frank Sinatra's planned Niagara Falls casino, the sinking Walden Galleria, the Ellicott Complex design being based on the plans for a French prison, and the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge with 20 miles on the odometer what was owned by a kid who was shipped off to Vietnam and killed in combat, that is now sitting in his parents' garage in West Seneca, and they refuse to sell it.


    The following were the department stores along Main Street just before the transit mall went in. Let's see what happened to them.

    Hens and Kelly: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    LL Berger: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    Sattlers / Main Place Mall: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    Hengerer's: chain consolidated with Sibley's. Sibleys later closed the downtown store, along with a few other "underperforming" stores such as Main/Eggert in Amherst.
    Adam Meldrum and Anderson: chain sold to Bon Ton, which made a promise to keep the downtown store open. Psych! Turns out Bon Ton's policy is that they don't do downtowns anywhere; they even closed their flagship store in downtown York, Pennsylvania.

    What about the large junior department stores?

    Kleinhans (very large men's clothing store): entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.
    Woolworth's: entire chain closed; not just the downtown store.

    During the time downtown Buffalo lost much of its retail base, more prosperous cities also lost their downtown department stores; Denver, Kansas City, Dallas and Houston come to mind. Even Rust Belt cities without transit malls lost downtown department stores; Cleveland, Rochester and Syracuse. (Pittsburgh is a rare exception.)

    Retail in downtown Buffalo was a victim of general trends in the retail industry, and the overall decline of the region as a while. The impact of the transit mall was minimal.
    I really don't think that the Metro Rail killed downtown retailing, but it certainly crippled and weakened the smaller independent retailers, restaurants, and other businesses that used to line Main Street because it made crossing Main Street inconvenient, difficult, and dangerous. The completion of the MetroRail never spawned the development that its proponents insisted it would, not in the downtown area or anywhere along its route.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Uhm. Toughy. In general terms i'd say when we in the UK started copying you crazy yanqui's in the US

    Specifically, there aren't too many on balance that i can think of. The issue of commie housing is valid, but thats poverty rather than design. The Barbican in London is a good example of a collossal social housing development, but as the people that live in it are well off, its a very desirable address.

    I supoose around here the 1980's development to the north of the city has left a difficult legacy of traffic congestion and inaccessability and is held up as a good example of what-not-to-do.

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl...96302&t=h&z=14

    Lots of 'traffic circles' eh?

  10. #35
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by b3nr View post
    ...The Barbican in London is a good example of a collossal social housing development, but as the people that live in it are well off, its a very desirable address...
    Whoah there....

    I would say that until quite recently the Barbican complex was a desirable adder’s in spite of its brutalist architecture and atrocious urbanism (more recently, among some potential occupants it has acquired a cachet of modernity/coolness). Simply put, there is very little to compare it to that is equally well located relative to the City of London. I sincerely doubt an x-sq-ft apartment in the Barbican rates more $£$£ than a similar sq-ft apartment in, say, a converted loft on a quiet street in Clerkenwell. I can check. The idea that brutalist Corbusian nonsense would work if only everyone was a self-styled-hipster City professional does not hold up. IMO.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  11. #36
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    If the topic hasn't already been decided, I have another suggestion. It's not as much planning related as it is administrative:

    Knocking down Robert Moses' civil service reforms and causing him to take on government his own way - from the inside, meanwhile taking out countless New York neighborhoods to support the huge NY-NJ-CT sprawl, and almost completely ruining the Bronx and Brooklyn.

  12. #37
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Whoah there....

    I would say that until quite recently the Barbican complex was a desirable adder’s in spite of its brutalist architecture and atrocious urbanism (more recently, among some potential occupants it has acquired a cachet of modernity/coolness). Simply put, there is very little to compare it to that is equally well located relative to the City of London. I sincerely doubt an x-sq-ft apartment in the Barbican rates more $£$£ than a similar sq-ft apartment in, say, a converted loft on a quiet street in Clerkenwell. I can check. The idea that brutalist Corbusian nonsense would work if only everyone was a self-styled-hipster City professional does not hold up. IMO.
    Really? You might be right, but i'm not a big fan of environmental determinsim. I still think these things would have worked, and do work, as long as the people that live their have jobs and some hope at the very least. At the moment they tend to be dumping grounds for the worst council tenants. Although threr are exceptions, one the central high rise estates here is quite popular and in Birmingham, i hear they have 'family only', 'OAP only' blocks which work very well too.

    I really liek the barbican... but then i didn't mind living in Park Hill is sheffield so...

  13. #38
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I totally agree that architectural/urban determinism is often wildly overstated. I also agree that if someone is inherently honest, hard-working and 'enabled', it doesn';t matter all THAT much what where they live.

    My point was, more modestly, that there are numerous reasons why Corbusian towers in the park are sub-optimal and the fact that, in a fantastic location &with fantastic tenants, they don't pliunge into Gorbals-like conditions is not really meeaningful.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  14. #39
    Cyburbian
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    Selibi Pikwe, Botswana

    One of the worst blunders that I know of is in the copper-nickel mining town of Selibi Pikwe (SP), Botswana. It was designed and built from scratch, in a country and at a time when there were only two weather stations with wind data. These towns were 500 km apart, more or less on either side of SP.

    The designers used interpolations of the wind data available to site the smelter and it's smoke stack down wind of the town. Unfortunately the interpolation was totally wrong and the residential parts of town are down wind of the stack! Which has led to all kinds of recriminations on planners, but also meant very expensive attempts to clean the emissions. Not entirely successfully. Nobody thought to ask village people living in the vicinity what the usual wind patterns are. They were considered ignorant peasants, I guess.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian
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    I doubt enough harm has been done to really make it the worst, but a big example of the potential worst could be the Florida legislature's deal with Walt Disney to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District. That's the organization that actually own's Disney World and the land it sits on, and if the article in the March '07 National Geographic was right, the District is essentially exempt from a wide range of state laws and regulations. Any blanket exemption from law and accountability, especially when granted to anyone or anything with power, is dangerous, and sets a dangerous example.

    Sadly, TexanOkie, Robert Moses himself did most of the knocking down. He led the charge that finally got those reforms passed in his youth, then bypassed and gutted them when he gained power and found them in his way.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    "Freeways to nowhere" along lakefront areas that only serve to disrupt the aesthetics of the lakefront.

    Some local examples (I'm sure there are others across the country, including Oceanfront ones):
    Amstutz Expressway in Waukegan, IL(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amstutz_Expressway)
    Lake Freeway in Milwuakee WI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interst...28Wisconsin%29)
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  17. #42
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    "Freeways to nowhere" along lakefront areas that only serve to disrupt the aesthetics of the lakefront.

    Some local examples (I'm sure there are others across the country, including Oceanfront ones):
    Amstutz Expressway in Waukegan, IL(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amstutz_Expressway)
    Lake Freeway in Milwuakee WI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interst...28Wisconsin%29)
    Some folks think they're doing the same thing in Dallas with the Trinity River Tollway. Only it's not on the lakefront, but rather INSIDE the river floodway, and will require it's own levees. The best part is that the Corps of Engineers can rip up the road at any time to repair the real levees, with no obligation to repair. Um, yeah, suuuuure I'd invest in a tollway like that. The rest of the Trinity project is pretty decent, levee improvements and recreational/park spaces, but I fear the Tollway will cut off anything nice from the Downtown side. If you can get over the Tollway, there's sections where the park will only be 100' wide on the Downtown side.

    Supporters - Trinity River Corridor Project site
    Opposition - Trinity Vote site

  18. #43
    Cyburbian
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    The biggest blunder that governement, including planners, economic development, community development, etc. have made and continue to make is to believe that they can micromanage a city's vitality and/or solve social problems with some program or scheme. The end result is the creation of another problem that allows government to be self-perpetuating.

    We need to stop believing that we can solve every bloody problem and maintain some sort of reasonable focus; then we might feel some sense of real accomplishment.

  19. #44
    I'm not really familiar with what the goal of a festival village is in the first place, but if it is built to get people shopping, drinking, socializing, etc., I would consider Fanueil Hall very successful.

    If a festival village is meant to draw residents....maybe not so successful, although I bet half the people purchasing food from one of the bizillion diverse selections in Quincy Market is a resident on their lunch break. I go to the bars/clubs there on occassion, I wouldn't say they're completely filled with tourists, and they aren't so bad besides saying "lobsta" when they order dinner

    Either way, I can't imagine that Faneuil Hall is losing money at all...quite the opposite

  20. #45
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    OK, here goes. One of the top planning blunders has to be the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods that passed for urban renewal in
    the 1950s and 60s. The most notable case around here is the West End. What a loss.

    In terms of "festival marketplaces", or whatever the buzzword is, I don't find them particularly offensive and see them as a good way of making historic buildings valuable. As a Boston native I can't say I go to Quincy Market every day, but I don't avoid it either. I'd rather go there on a sunny day than the mall. Generally I like it, even though it has become full of chains.
    I work in Boston, right around the corner from Quincy Market. I don't really go there on nights or weekends, but locals who work in the government offices or financial district do go there for lunch. It's still cute in some ways, even if there are irritating places like Hard Rock Cafe and Dick's Last Resort.

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