15 to Watch in 2015

I got a great shout out from the Tampa Bay Times as someone making things happen in the Tampa Bay region for 2015.  For the full list click Read more

Do You Love Your City?

What makes cities lovable? Why do we connect emotionally with some places and not others? And why does that matter? Author and consultant Peter Kageyama loves cities.  Big cities, small cities, villages and small towns.  He thinks he has Read more

“The Great Good Place”

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I am very excited to meet Dr. Ray Oldenburg this coming week. Oldenburg is the author of The Great Good Place, which began the conversation about the importance of “third spaces” like coffee shops, cafes, parks and public gathering spaces.  My friends at St. Petersburg Preservation are bringing him into town for a lecture and were gracious enough to arrange for us to meet.

Place makers today take for granted the idea of the importance of the third space – that which is not home or work.  Yet when Dr. Oldenburg first published his book in 1989, this was a revolutionary as Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone or Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class.  Third spaces today are seen as key drivers in successful places because of the social interaction they engender, the equality of status they convey upon citizens and the general good feelings (love if you will!) they create.  Yet less than a generation ago, these things were thought frivolous and ‘nice to have’ but not necessary.  How far we have come and we have pioneers like Dr. Oldenburg to thank for the great places we now enjoy.

New York City Loves Bike Share

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Much like the change of heart seen over pedestrian only Times Square, New Yorkers apparently love the one year old bike share program. Decried by some as ugly, dangerous and even totalitarian, the success of the program should embolden other communities to look at their own implementations.

Story here: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/05/27/one-year-later-new-yorkers-love-totalitarian-bi/199467

DIY Traffic Calming

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Here’s an example of taking matters into your own hands. DIY city making continues to expand as people become emboldened to make necessary changes in their own communities. Hopefully the official city makers take note that change can and will happen even without their support and permission. Cheers to those that break/bend the rules in order to get our communities to the place we actually want to be.

Story here: http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/03/heres-diy-approach-slowing-citys-cars/8661/

High Line Park – Part Two

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One of my favorite “love notes” is High Line Park. I describe it in the book from when I visited there in late 2009. This week heralds the opening of the second phase of the park just in time for summer. The park has created an enormous buzz around it, acting like an amplifier for property values and development. They say that this type of boom is usually only seen when a new subway or train station is opened.

Check out the coverage from the NY Times.

Why Streetcars Are Better Than Buses – Infrastructurist.com

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Check out 36 Reasons Streetcars Are Better Than Buses – nice piece from Infrastructurist.com. My favorite reason – “unlike a bus, a streetcar informs and helps citizens to formulate an image of their city, even if folks don’t ride it. It is a feature of their public realm. Because of this, these streets get greater public attention.”

5 Questions with Biz(941)

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Biz941, the business magazine for Sarasota and Manatee counties here in Florida, asked me five questions about the future of our cities. Check out the answers here!

Bicycling to Understand Cities

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As I note in the book, bicycling allows you to connect with your city in very human and fun ways.  Here is an excellent essay on how bicycling leads to a better understanding of our cities.


“The Next City”

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I have been invited to participate in the Journalists Forum on Land and the Built Environment: The Next City taking place on April 15-16th, 2011 in Cambridge, MA.  The forum is sponsored by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy  and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.  The forum brings together about 30 writers and journalists from around the country to hear from leading urban experts and discuss current issues around cities.

Speakers include Edward Glaeser, Harvard University professor of economics and author of Triumph of the City and New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.  I am honored to be invited and am looking forward to connecting with these amazing urban thinkers.

Crime & the Lovable City

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Last month I presented to the American Planning Association via their national webinar series. I got to speak about lovable cities to several hundred planners from all over the United States. It was a real honor.

During the Q&A session that followed I was asked about the impact of crime on the relationship that we have with our city. I noted that crime, despite our best efforts, an inevitable part of the makeup of cities. I also noted that some places, like Detroit, wear their crime badge with a sense of pride and toughness. My friend Eric Cedo of Detroit says that real Detroiters get robbed and it is part of the deal.

But I have been thinking about crime and our relationship with our cities ever since.

In the book I noted:

Cites exist in a state of constant flux influenced by the accumulation of positive acts and deficit acts. When a homeowner fixes a broken step, or a pedestrian places trash in a recycling bin—positive act. When someone breaks a window or throws a cigarette butt onto the sidewalk—deficit act. When the tide of deficit acts grows, we see the larger manifestation of those tiny acts in the decline of streets and neighborhoods; the edges begin to fray, and the slow slide towards shabbiness and decay begins. Unchecked, negative acts accumulate and add up to blighted areas that may never bounce back. When positive acts accumulate, the opposite occurs: areas thrive and blossom like well-tended gardens and nurtured children.

And there is clearly a difference in the degree and nature of some acts:

All joys and all negatives are not created equal. Clearly there are degrees of acts (being mugged, for instance, is a far more negative experience than seeing rubbish on the sidewalk), but generally the old adage of one joy dispelling a thousand worries has merit in experiences with cities.

Upon reflection I don’t want people to think that I am understating the impact of certain crimes on our relationship with our cities. Crime is a violation – of our person, of our property. And when it occurs our community gets some of the blame for it. Crime is a failure of our civilization and thus our cities. So when someone is mugged, the result may be more than a lost wallet – it becomes a loss of trust between citizen and city. In relationship terms it is that breach of trust that comes when someone we trust hurts us.

The solution is not just more police and surveillance cameras. The solution is in perpetually filling the “love bank” with deposits big and small. By filling that account we can weather the rainy day that is a crime and still have enough love for our city so that we don’t up and leave.

Public Spaces & Falling In Love With Your City

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I heard an interview on NPR the other day with author Ariel Sabar who wrote a book about couples who had met and fill in love in New York’s iconic public spaces.  The book, Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York, explores the critical and often overlooked role that our built environment plays in our emotional lives.

Sabar notes that some places are better designed for interacting, for people watching and for making eye contact with others.

“So the things that matter are, if a place is beautiful, if it gets your pulse racing and your adrenaline flowing, if there’s something interesting to look at, whether it’s a juggler or a street musician, then it’s the kind of place where strangers are more likely to sort of think favorably of one another and to strike up a conversation. And so, you know, there’s something to be said for going to a museum where you’re surrounded by beautiful objects because the people inside will also seem more beautiful” said Sabar to NPR’s Michel Martin.

In For the Love of Cities I note that we are “social creatures… endlessly fascinated by watching each other. Increase  the  people  watching  potential  of  the  city,  and   you  increase  fun  and  overall  satisfaction.”  Because we want/need to see each other, public places that are designed to facilitate that connection innately make us happy.  We respond to them, we are drawn to them.  Indeed it is these places that we say we love about our cities and value disproportionately in the sum total of place.

Sabar concluded that “we do need to care about our urban parks and squares and gathering places. Because this is where, you know, people engage. This is where community is built. This is where democracy happens, democracy with a lower case d.”  He pointed out that in Egypt, the central focus of that human revolution was a grand public square.  An extreme example but it underscores the importance of these places in community engagement.

When polled or asked as part of a focus group, people will tell you the standard litany of what they want from their city – safety, a decent education system, transportation and lower taxes. Psychologists have noted that we are really bad judges of what we think makes us happy.  We say we want safety, education and transportation and on some level we do (and we need them).  But what I believe we really want, at our core, is connections to other people and meaningful engagement.  And that comes from “silly” things like public parks, squares, public art, playgrounds and dog parks.   No one falls in love with a place because someone fixed the potholes.