Monthly Archives: July 2009

A tale of two (floundering) malls.

The enclosed shopping mall may be the one urban incarnation from the twentieth century that the cultural elite has maligned from its inception.Intellectuals and social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th often extolled the early streetcar suburbs as a respite from overcrowding, poor sanitation, and social decay they had witnessed in the cities—however, …Read more…

The essence of the cultural divide on both sides of the pond?

Several years ago I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of this sign outside a restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Does this ironically (or at least unintentionally) reinforce snobbish European stereotypes of uncouth Americans? More planners than I can count always reference European cities when trying to find a model for the look and feel to …Read more…

Democratizing the streets.

It is obvious to the untrained eye that, in recent years, municipal and county governments are paying increasing attention to the capacity for streets to accommodate entities other than vehicles, most specifically for pedestrians and bicycles. In most parts of the country, sidewalks in new subdivisions are no longer a bonus feature to lend prestige; …Read more…

Billboards blowing hot and cold.

After yesterday’s lengthy musings on strip malls, I’m going to spare the readers (and myself) a lengthy polemic on billboard proliferation and ensuing blight. But I had to show this beauty from Atlantic City, NJ, taken on a frigid winter day a few years ago: But what about this particular slab of rotting particleboard? Such …Read more…

Why is retail so fickle?

Almost everyone here has seen the telltale strip mall that has seen better days. We usually surmise that one of two factors has impelled the tenants to flee a shopping center or other commercial district: either the demographics in the area have changed (usually becoming lower income), or a newer, shinier shopping center has opened …Read more…

Generosity can be measured in meters.

Many municipalities see the pricing on meters for on-street parking as a science unto itself. Of course a city wants greater revenue, but it does not want to deter people from parking on the street—almost always the most preferred method over more costly garages—simply because the prices become too high. After all, parking meters typically …Read more…

Binodal small towns: a help or a hindrance?

When I was in school a few years ago doing research on various downtowns across the US, we had to spend twice as much effort on gathering demographics for New York City than we did for anywhere else. Of course this has something to do with the fact that the residential population of downtown Manhattan …Read more…

Suburban desolation taken to new extremes.

In late May I drove around with a friend whose first visit to New Orleans included both the usual haunts as well as some of the less frequented surrounding areas. Our two days of travels stretched as far as the plantations along River Road to the west, the isthmus between Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas (with …Read more…

Four-Legged Pedestrians?

As I prepare for a significantly longer essay on the introduction of complete streets into the American landscape, I wanted to include a few images of a quiet but growing concern among planners and civil engineers: biofragmentation through the construction of roads.  In his book Road Ecology, Richard T. T. Forman estimates that 1,000,000 animals …Read more…