The ugly, underutilized garage: soon a mere memory?

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Has urban America learned its last lesson on downtown parking? After forty years of declining fortunes, have we deduced that giving people cheap, abundant, convenient places to park their cars failed to save our city centers? Have we finally realized that demolishing 100-year-old buildings to form new garages and lots did not stem the vacancy …Read more…

Communion for Camrys.

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In a quiet residential area of a town that I will leave anonymous, I found this unusual marquee.I’ve certainly heard of “blessing of the animals” events, but cars? Apparently I’m not as well-traveled as I’d like to think I am. Since car-blessing seems even more quintessentially American than valet parking at a strip-mall nightclub, I …Read more…

For moribund malls, there’s redemption in restaurants.

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Amidst the prosperous expanses of suburban Philadelphia, we encounter a mall.Let’s get real here. This the eighth largest metro area in the country. Of course there’s a mall—quite a few, actually, and this blog has covered more than its fair share. This one, heretofore unexplored and located within Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, is appropriately …Read more…

Still towing the line…150 years later.

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Driving southward on Pennsylvania State Route 134, one encounters a run-of-the-mill rural intersection, indicated by the streetlight in the distance of the photo below.Doesn’t look like much, does it? If you get a little closer, it turns out it’s one of the most candid indicators of what may be the country’s most culturally significant interior …Read more…

Among those ritzy restaurants…a Reading Room.

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In a nondescript nook within Summit, New Jersey’s generally thriving downtown, we encounter a main street standby from days past. Yes, it’s a Christian Science Reading Room. I imagine most of us—most Americans, at least—have seen one at some point, even if quite a few probably don’t know exactly what they are. In the past, …Read more…

Where the sidewalk (investment) ends.

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As remarkable as it is to witness the revitalization of historic downtowns in cities of varying sizes throughout the country, it’s hard not to remain cynical when looking at how these transformations fit within the life cycle of American cities in general. Sure, many of our city centers command more interest and generate greater economic …Read more…

An oasis and a bean-counter.

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The climate of the American high plains may not be completely desert-like, but the similarities are uncanny: relatively little rain or moisture in the air, a temperature that plunges at night throughout the year, considerable variation between summer and winter, but fiercely hot in the former. Many of these characteristics incidentally bespeak high altitudes more …Read more…

Still on the grid…just a little looser.

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My postings have been pretty sparse lately, though it’s not for a lack of new ideas. I’ve been traveling across the middle of the country, visiting friends and some of my favorite American landscapes: the vast prairies and buttes of the high plains. Driving along unpaved roads in some of the most sparsely populated countryside …Read more…

Potty protections.

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We’ve come to expect a certain iconography at our airports: restrooms, baggage claims, handicapped access, information centers, baby-changing stations, cabs. Less common: subways, light rail, prayer rooms, and, in this day and age, a smoker refuge. Perhaps I’m revealing my East Coast bias—or at least my tendency to orient myself in terms of where I …Read more…

Safety with a sneer.

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Instructional signage may seem like a pretty dry subject, but scattershot evidence across the country suggests that creativity and even whimsy isn’t completely verboten. Just check this roadside admonition along Lake Avenue in Manchester, New Hampshire: It’s not the only one. A bit further down, we get this: Another block or so to the west, …Read more…

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