22 December 2009

Planning for Twenty10

Happy Holidays to all of you!

As 2009 draws to a close, it brings to mind the many successes and continuing challenges for the Placemaking movement throughout the year.
There is no doubt that Placemaking is expanding exponentially around the world. There is mounting interest from professionals and citizens who want to learn more about how they can make a difference in their communities on issues such as livability, sustainability and community well-being.
In both my personal and professional life
this year, I learned a great deal about how people envision their communities evolving for the future. This has spurred discussions about planning ides to be put to practice in 2010, which will highlight four principle agendas that are needed to transform cities and towns:

1) Toward an Architecture of Place - Public institutions such as museums, government buildings, libraries and others can become important anchors for civic activity in every city by assuming a broader role within the community and adapting and evolving their buildings to host a broader range of activities.

2) Building Community through Transportation - The planning and design of transportation networks and streets can be reshaped to encourage economic vitality, civic engagement, human health, and environmental sustainability, in addition to serving peoples' mobility needs.

3) Public Markets and Local Economies - Public markets and farmers markets not only create dynamic community gathering places, but they can spin off a myriad of other community benefits - from revitalizing downtowns, to bringing fresh, healthy food to low income neighborhoods, to creating new business opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs.

4) Creating Public Multi-use Destinations - In the competitive globalizing economy, great cities are becoming defined more and more by their great public destinations-user friendly, lively squares, waterfronts, great commercial streets, markets or combinations of all of these. Placemaking provides the way for cities to redefine their vision around creating or enhancing these destinations.

Seeing that Placemaking is the Talk of the Town, together we can begin to frame a discussion about creating a more effective planning process for public spaces. My goal is to create a more thorough process in which cities can foster not only successful public spaces but also a stronger leadership within communities to continually maintain and improve these spaces. Great public spaces require strong leadership groups that make the community vision a reality so that little by little, the public begins to "own" the space.

Photos courtesy of: Discovery Green Houston & Photos taken by author
Some text courtesy of: PPS

10 November 2009

How do we create PLACE and foster SUSTAINABLE chage?

I. Mission Statement
We need to create value of a place in terms of its physical, social, and economical value. We must be engaged in what place really is? What can we do to address and accomplish creating physical, social, and economical value to place.

II. What is Place?

A) Major themes/Ideas of the Council: • Creating a sense of place through connectivity and culture. Connect to places without relying on the car. Change our values! • Think of place in terms of a social, physical, and economical model. Socially, connectivity and culture. Having a clean and safe space. Physical, create a space that is aesthetic and green with good energy. • Push for public transit; change the idea and infrastructure of suburban sprawl.

B) “Culture of Change” • Bring back the edge to Southern California. Create demand. Tackle what is going to create demand. Bring California to the forefront. • People not place anymore. Place is about people and how people connect to place not vice versa. Connectivity to the existing sprawl. • We must plan for the future, change the Southern California mindset • We are having massive cultural shift, our mindsets are changing in terms of our habits. I.e., having a lot of cars on the driveway isn’t important anymore. • Moreover, create a partnership with the government, people, and community • We are in a generational SHIFT which will facilitate change • We need to tap into this new generation, work with the society we have now to change this suburban mindset from post WWII into a modern “metrosuburbian” place • We must identify what is important for people; it is vital to address these components. What do communities want?

The slowing of construction in the USA has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for driving significant, positive environmental change. Although I hesitate to even use the word because it has so little currency in the USA, an opening exists for a nation-wide consideration of sustainable development.

C) What Can We Do to Remedy Sprawl in Southern California? • Tackle what is going to create demand in California. • Bring back the edge to Southern California in order to attract stakeholders. • Create diversity in housing • New “trend” is having higher density, create a new urban place to model. • California must reinvent itself create **DEMAND** • We need to figure out how to compete in today’s economy and bring jobs to SOCAL. • Create a competitive advantage (i.e., silicon valley) • As a result of the Recession we must Reset, Revolve, Revaluate, and Relook

D) Where Do We Start? How to We Address the Problem? • To begin start at the county level, Orange County is very disconnected (driven by politics). We must bring leaders of each city together and ask them what we can do about the disconnect and sprawl of our community. • Next look at the region in terms of the environment look at legislation SB 375, AB 32 (land use and transportation are vital) to change out culture, mindset, and our future. Speak with the author of SB 375 Daryl Steinberg.

1) Regionalism • Cities must collaborate locally to compete with cities worldwide.• Integrate SCAG • The goal is to effect positive change, create an Urban Development Story • OC is the model of suburban development therefore we must create a new model a new story to effect change for a new urban development model. • Ultimately, transportation drives how we create place! • We must answer questions like what will happen to the quality of life in SoCal if gas soars to $7.00?? What happens to growth? Since we live in such a car driven society this will affect our quality of life immensely. • Create a Public-Private Partnership • Utilize a Top-Down Approach state-county-region-city

E) Create a New Urban Development Model • We must create a sustainable model of development. That is attractive globally, that will bring people here. Create a compelling story that will bring the best and brightest to SoCal. • Create a new set of rules. What is the new way of life? • **Redefine what Suburbanization is** the goal is to work with what we have, redefine suburbanization over time. • Design a new model at the micro and macro level a new pattern of development

1) What are the Opportunities?For the future we must think differently.• Create Jobs • Create jobs through sustainability • Think of transportation for the future • Think about food and housing

F) What is the next Paradigm Shift? • DEVELOP A NEW MODEL FOR MODERN LIVING • Encourage redevelopment and utilize edge development • A goal should be setting new guidelines of a new development model

III. Think about our Fundamental Human Needs as a basis of a new model:
1) Transportation
2) Housing
3) Food
4) Jobs
5) Clean Place
6) Culture
**Our basic human needs is the new paradigm shift**

A) What is our End Product?
• A holistic approach (the new development paradigm) to urban development something interactive that should ultimately be spread to not only Orange County but globally.

B) Who is going to use our end product?
• The public (educate them by forums, conferences, lectures, especially through ULI, etc) • Government • The designer (and students)We must become part of ULI’s voice to spread the word about our new paradigm shift in urban development

C) What is hindering developing our new development paradigm?
• City regulations are too strict • Give “power to the people” • Think about how people really want to live vs. how “they” want us to live” • We must have a regulatory change (diversity of housing, density, etc) What problems affect the global, state, city, neighborhood, individual, national, and the region?? What are the solutions??

IV. Conclusions:

We must think differently in order to foster sustainable change. Our culture and thinking is evolving therefore we must create a new way of living. We must change our consumption habits. Utilize the new wave of the future by being holistic in all aspects of life. We must critically enforce the notion of transit in order to change the sprawl infrastructure. The automobile is a major cause of the disconnect in our society; it is handicapping us socially and economically. We must bring people back to place. Design a place for the people not just solely focusing on place. We must use to our advantage the current cultural shift we are in and evolve from the 1950’s consumption residue of materialism. California must reinvent itself to have a competitive advantage domestically and internationally. Create demand! Make people want to live in SoCal. Changing the idea of suburbanization will need much collaboration from the public and private sector. We must bring local leaders together to talk and discuss our current predicament. We must collaborate at all levels at the state, locally and regionally. Current policy and regulations are hindering a new development paradigm shift. We must remedy this by allowing citizens to choose how they want to live and reform draconian policies that are hindering growth socially and economically. We must develop a new model form of modern living. The goal is to create a place that will flourish and retain strong economical and social value. We must reintegrate our space to our culture, to our ways of life; reconnect the gap in our disconnective society. Create a place of value without relying on the car.
Text created as a collaborative effort at the ULI Initiative Council Group.
Photos Courtesy of Tree Hugger

11 September 2009

Community Oriented Small Business Solutions

Due to current economic times, many very talented individuals have been laid off and many those people are not satisfied or fortunate enough to sit at home collecting an un-employement check. To that end, there is a magnitude of new start-up businesses that are looking to make their mark in their industry. The co-work space solution is an excellent opportunity to place your business in a vibrant setting with a potential to be a great networking environment.

An Irish Company, Tepui who is focused on Sustainability Strategies and Design is developing a co-workspace 'Hub,' something definately worth considering. A pay-as you go shared work space with a creative and collaborative community buzz is just what so many of us are missing.

'The Dublin Hub' is a flexible, affordable, shared working environment for freelancers, small businesses, the self-employed, and home-workers looking for a desk, or a meeting space in town. Members book time in the Hub in advance - similar to buying mobile phone credit - they have the freedom to choose when to work and are charged solely for the time they spend in the Hub.

"We hope to attract inventive, innovative, socially committed, ethical and environmentally aware people, people who need to take their ideas out of the garden shed or away from the kitchen table, says Erik van Lennap of Tepui. We aim to provide a vibrant, dynamic, collaborative, exciting atmosphere, a place people will want to be in and be part of. We think this is an essential response to the challenges posed by changing work patterns in the new century."

Images provided by: csmonitor.com

17 August 2009

The Project Renovation Paradox

When times are good, property owners don't want to impact revenues by embarking on a renovation project; causing site disruptions which impact tenants, visitors and shoppers. Paradoxically, today, poorly performing properties in need of a facelift lack the necessary revenue to do anything about it.

Alas, a Catch-22: If your property is making money, you don't feel the need to renovate. But when sales and rents are down and you feel the need, you don't have the money to renovate.
So, when is a good time to renovate?

John F. Kennedy once said, "The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining." In terms of the economic climate, these are cloudy times at best (even stormy, in many locations). So, what can a property owner do today who is strapped for cash?

Find some money. Invest in capital expenditures and make decisions with an eye on ROI.

The most obvious advantage of renovating in this environment is cost savings. Now is the first time in the 30 years that construction costs have actually come down. Historically, they have gone up steadily, if not sharply. Today, in many parts of the world, costs are down by over 10% from just six months ago. According to statistics compiled by Rider Levett Buchnall (http://www.americas.rlb.com/documents/cost/reports/2009_q2_qcr.pdf), construction costs in cities like Denver and Seattle declined by as much as 8% in the first quarter of 2009 alone.

A second advantage: When business is slow and there are vacanies, there is less disruption to guests and less impact on cash flow from operations. On top of that, construction can proceed more quickly, and property owners and managers can get the word out that their property is newly renovated and open for business.

Properties that have been newly renovated will be in the best position to restore and/or raise rents and increase occupancies. Properties that defer needed maintenance and refurbishment and wait until times are better will miss being able to take full advantage of the inevitable upturn. When thinking about where to shop or go see a movie families most often go to the ones that are either new or newly renovated. Research data from a recent study conducted by STR shows that, over a five-year period, revenues for renovated properties increase at three-and-a-half times the rate of un-renovated properties.

Bottom line: Hard times are good times to prepare for better times.

Images courtesy of: Global Graphica, Mission Viejo Life
Some Text Courtesy of: WATG

25 June 2009

What would COMMUNITY DRIVEN development look like?

Starting with a development team that is dedicated to community building through cultural development. A team that ensures the long term sustainability of every project through hands on operations and the ongoing programming of local art, cultural and community driven events. This daily involvement plays a large role in the continued growth and vitality of community driven projects. A development team that is constantly growing relationships through participation and support of communtiy festivals, gatherings, events, arts groups, rotary groups and scholarship funding. A development team that is a long term holder and prides itself on becoming a meaningful part of the community fabric.

Images Courtesy of: Mission Viejo Life

19 June 2009

Vision for Future Developement

Although most of Southern California is not as urban as many of the metropolitan areas, as time goes by we may be seeing Southern California becoming more dense. This is the type of thinking for future development that will provide smart growth.

Retail + Workforce Housing + Transit Oriented Development + Sustainable Design x Green Technology = Wilson Yard’s Vision for the Future

What the developer requested: a mixed-use development on a wedge-shaped former rail yard site, including a vertical urban Target store, affordable and senior housing, new Aldi store, ground-floor retail and offices on upper floors.

What the design team responded with is not just Transit-Oriented Development-based mixed use integrated urban shopping, nor only a new Target store anchoring an environmentally-friendly, multi-use development project – through admittedly it is both of these. What they created – with shopping and a little political finagling – is nothing short of a complete transformation of a tired neighborhood into a thriving, living, breathing community.

What they created is Wilson Yard.

With Wilson Yard the future isn’t tomorrow or next year – the future is now. To evidence this you need not look any further than the Transit-Oriented Development: a vibrant, livable, compact and walkable shopping environment centered on high-quality train and bus systems – all perfectly attuned to our times.

Wilson Yard works on many levels. By incorporating the best tenets and practices of urban planning and design, sustainable design, affordable workforce housing and green technology, the project achieves something more, beyond the realization of a well-designed retail project. The development ultimately completes and heals the site, neighborhood and community where it resides. It’s a case of the universal in the particular. By providing exactly what is needed at the right time and in the right place you end up envisioning the shopping environment of the future.

Covering a full city block, the resulting project is a veritable Rubik’s cube offering shoppers and pedestrians a continuous, seamless shopping environment of integrated interlocking components.
Future-looking without being futuristic, Wilson Yard is an out-of-the-Big-Box, innovative idea that progresses everyone’s current understanding of what the shopping experience can ultimately be.

Anchor: The retail anchor, a new 180,000 square-foot two level Target store with an energy-saving green roof.

The Matrix: 25,000 square feet of additional retail – forming the proverbial simple line of outwardly facing stores and office space – here marrying the project’s anchor with the residences along an attractive new streetscape.

Urban Density: Two rental buildings with affordable units including a mixed-income building accommodating 84 families in one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments and an accompanying seniors complex with 99 affordable one-bedroom unites.

Green Technology: In keeping with Mayor Daley’s ongoing commitment to make Chicago a showpiece city for green technology, the Wilson Yard project will be certified LEED SILVER, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project’s sustainable components include green roofs and a solar-reflective roofing system for the residential buildings, collection of storm water and controlled release of waste water, a new green space to serve as the outdoor campus for a neighboring elementary school, and reclaimed parking space beneath the CTA ‘L’ tracks.

Our futuristic vision of the retail real estate industry? It’s being built right here today.

The above project is currently being developed and was designed by FitzGerald Associates based in Chicago.

04 May 2009

Fun with Chalk

"We don't inherit this planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children".

The City hosted the 11th Annual Fun with Chalk event over the weekend and had nearly 9,000 visits over the course of the event. This type of event is excellent in engaging the community; residents not only view and discuss, many of them participate.

Messaging through art is a powerful tool.

Express yourself. Kids participating with their own square.

Involving the community is vital and engaging.

Art has no borders.

Art is open for discussion...

Thank you to the City for hosting a great event!

Photos taken by author.

30 April 2009

Simon Malls looks to engage the community

In an attempt to create buzz around its properties, Simon Property Group Inc., owner of the Shops at Mission Viejo has put in place a marketing plan that will include hosting 11,000 events this year at its various locations.

A release about the planned events outlined a couple programs that will be held throughout 2009. Simon Fashion Now will showcase the newest fashion trends. Kidgits Eco-community will teach parents and their children how to be eco-friendly in today’s environment. Simon Grassroots Programs will be community-based activities like career fairs and charity fundraisers.

Read more at Globe St.

I think it is great to see their awareness about their impact on the community. Looking back to the evolution of the mall, these were the heart of the community. Today, the poor design of massive blocky architecture which turns it's back to their external facade and then surrounded by a sea of asphalt; has caught up to them over recent years. They are failing to compete with the newer retail destinations which seem to be woven into the fabric of the community by focusing on pedestrian friendly and engaging experiences. Hopefully these operators will see this reality during these waning times and start planning to reinvent themselves to be competitive again in the reatil world and offer what the community is looking for.

Recent improvements at the Shops at MV replaced turf with drought tolerant planting which is a good step in the right direction to be more eco-friendly!

28 April 2009

The Phenomenon of Dying Malls

American malls have been around for less than a century, but their influence on our culture has been amazing. However, even in prosperous times, distressed malls have been a persistent problem, as well as a point of intrigue in the suburban landscape. The current economic slump has magnified the problems that ailing malls have been battling for years, or even decades.

The rapid development of North American suburbs resulted in a rush to build malls. Most developers assumed that if their mall was newer and larger than the competition then they would make money, and for the most part they did. But what many developers failed to consider or neglected to care about was what happens to their project when the next mall is built. The blight that is left behind when one fails is a weight on the community. Lost tax revenue and jobs, increased vandalism and crime and lower property values are just a few of the problems a dead mall creates.

While dying malls are not a new phenomenon, their sustainability is something developers should consider. The dominance of the fashion, food-court and family-focused mall is ending. The good news is that no new enclosed malls have opened in the U.S. since 2006.

Vacant malls, strip center shopping centers and big box stores have already been redeveloped into more sustainable, less auto-dependent places more in sync with today’s demographics. Depending on the specifics of each site, we can expect to see future failed malls re-inhabited, re-greened, or retrofitted. Essentially malls can be repositioned into what a community needs. When a mall dies, many options are on the table. Redevelopment into a more sustainable mixed use center is often a good solution if the real estate is valuable. They have the advantages of an already existing infrastructure and usually are located on major transportation routes. They should be regarded as a potential asset, much as you would look at well-located unimproved land, or a deserted warehouse or office district in a city center.

This kind of recycling will be particularly useful in suburbs, as they develop more “urban’ amenities” — like interesting restaurants, live music and local festivals. By redoing the mall, this can be accomplished without urban “densification” and retain low-density environments of single-family homes preferred by the vast majority of Americans. Sometimes dead malls find new life as colleges, government buildings, branch libraries, spaces for nonprofit arts groups, places of worship, car dealerships and community centers that can host a variety of events. Most times, if the building is cheaply constructed, and neglected for years, the only viable option is demolition. In some of the more dense communities, this will provide an opportunity to repair the regional landscape by turning them back to open space

What should never be an option is to allow the building to sit neglected for years. Although it may be sad to see a place with so many memories bulldozed, there isn’t much future for an abandoned generic suburban shopping mall. The current crop of dying malls are by no means the end of the shopping mall. Retail and shopping are too integral a part of American life.

The biggest long-term challenge to malls isn’t economic. It’s environmental. Right now, consumers can’t afford all the stuff we used to buy. But in the long run, the planet can’t afford all the stuff we do buy. So finding a business model that’s economically viable and environmentally sensitive shold be a goal for all new (and repurposing) mall developers.

So going forward, developers and mall operators need to recognize that the shopping mall of the future can’t simply be a nucleus of stores surrounded by a sea of asphalt with a ring of highway around it. They need to hire talented suburban planners, architects, and landscape architects whom will encourage developing and/or transforming shopping centers into dynamic destinations that are woven into the fabric of the community. Developers should also strive to create malls that offer a place for people to socialize, not simply to buy. While no one likes to see businesses fail, dead malls provide great opportunities for communities to redevelop in healthy ways. Now is the time for them to remove the regulatory obstacles to retrofitting.

Here are some examples fo successful re-use.
Belmar in Lakewood, Colo.

Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Fla.

Bella Terra in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Photos courtesy of:
Chris Pixel
Some text courtesy of:

31 March 2009


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Come meet with these municipal "CEOs" and share a dialogue with them about their vision for their cities in these challenging times.

There are many changes occurring over the planning and development landscape that are affecting the private sector these days. Cities are starting to feel the downturn in the economy pinch their budgets and services, too. The ULI is one of the few organizations that can bring the public and private sectors together to talk about issues that are affecting us all.
  • Did you know Mission Viejo is reinventing retail? The Shops at Mission Mall boast the largest solar installation of any U.S mall.
  • Do you know Laguna Niguel residents are known for preferring to drive to work (source: American Community Survey)? How will this impact the city's plans to focus on redevelopment around the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink station?
  • Did you know Orange, Tustin and Laguna Niguel are ranked among 11 of the 34 cities in Orange County as the least costly to do business in (source: Rose Institute, Claremont McKenna College, 12/19/2008)?
  • Did you know more young people, ages 24-35 are leaving Orange County today than any other age group (source: OCBC). Mayor Cavecche speaks of "handing off our legacy for future generations that will call Orange home" in her recent State of the City speech. How does a city attract and keep its young residents today? Ex: Are Chapman students staying to live and work in Orange after they graduate?
Thursday, April 16, 2009 7:30 am to 9:30 am First American Title Company 5 First American Way Garden Room #5 Santa Ana
For more information, call 800-321-5011 and mention #81230909 or go to the ULI website.

10 March 2009

How to create a culture of walking...

"Communities have a right to up-to-date, good quality, accessible information on where they can walk and the quality of the experience. People should be given opportunities to celebrate and enjoy walking as part of their everyday social, cultural and political life".

The trails in Mission Viejo are great for leisure and recreation, but not everyone lives like this 'Super Mom', out blazing the Oso Creek Trail for a little exercise. For the rest of us, we need to be coaxed into exercise to the point that we don't even know we are exercising. By creating enhanced walking experiences from desirable place to desirable place, can be that coaxing element.

Currently, when walking around Mission Viejo, we are offered the streets as our main connection element. The 5' wide curb adjacent sidewalk, next to a tiny and poorly maintained landscape setback, adjacent to a sea of asphalt at our underwhelming retail centers is not exactly a enhanced walking experience. Nor is it comfortable to traverse across the bridges in this city where you constantly feel like your going to be run over by a car.

So, what actions can be taken?
What we (the City staff and council, current property owners and incoming developers, and residents) need to do is:

  • Actively encourage all members of the community to walk whenever and wherever they can as a part of their daily lives by developing regular creative, targeted information, in a way that responds to their personal needs and engages personal support.
  • Create a positive image of walking by celebrating walking as part of cultural heritage and as a cultural event, for example, in architecture, art-exhibitions, theatres, literature readings, photography and street animation.

  • Provide coherent and consistent information and signage systems to support exploration and discovery on foot including links to public transport.

  • Financially reward people who walk more, through local businesses, workplaces and government incentives.

  • Looking at future improvements by hitting the drawing boards with quality design consultants and with an open and flexible mind to providing creative solutions to real problems which exist in community today.
Now is not the time to sit on our heels and relic in the aging 'Masterplan' of the community and think that maintaining the quality of our community is by doing nothing. We are already seen our houses and retail centers deteriorate, many people have already invested in the long term of their properties by making sound improvements; most have not. If we want our community to continue to be the city where people come to shop and raise their families, we must invest in it.

It's not too late to re-think the 'Masterplan'!

'Super Mom' was featured in a past article in the OC Register. All other photos taken by author. Some content courtesy of Walk21.

06 March 2009

New Research: 18- to 34-Year-Olds Key to Green Economy

Younger consumers connect the dots between climate change causes and buying truly green brands.
New research conducted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing indicates young Americans, an estimated audience of 76 million people, will power the new green economy and are the key to future economic growth.

This national opinion poll reveals a clear generation gap in understanding the cause of climate change — and marketing experts say businesses that pay attention may find new growth strategies.

More than any other age group, 18- to 34-year-olds believe global warming is caused by human activities. Additionally, the research indicates Americans who believe in this connection are almost twice as likely to buy more green products in this economy than Americans who believe it occurs naturally.

* Overall, 51 percent of Americans believe climate change is caused by human activities. Twenty-nine percent believe climate change is occurring naturally, and 15 percent say climate change needs to be scientifically proven. Just 3 percent of the public does not believe climate change exists.

* Sixty-four percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe humans cause climate change —more than any other age group.

* Those who believe climate change is caused by human activity are more likely to have attended college; believe that green transportation or electricity from renewable resources is most beneficial for the environment (rather than recycling or minimal/reduced packaging); and are influenced more in their green purchasing decisions by third-party certifications than by word-of-mouth or manufacturer labels.

* More than half (56 percent) of the people who believe electricity from renewable resources is the most beneficial action for the environment believe humans are causing climate change.

About the Survey
Opinion Research Corporation surveyed 1,000 people January 23 - 26, 2009 by telephone in a random digit-dial sample, with a +/- 3.2 percent margin of error. The survey question: See details at http://www.enviromedia.com/enviroblog/?p=983

Photo Courtesy of The Green Blog