Picking the nits when we’re stuck in a rut.

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The phrase “built environment” appears regularly in this blog, and for good reason. It’s general and all-encompassing enough that it typically summons large images, which is what it should do. The blog has an expansive scope, and only with individual articles—and the photographs that accompany them—does the real precision come into play. And through those …Read more…

Aging at home: does it have to be an uphill climb?

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Baby Boomers remain the largest generation by volume of any recorded in the history of the United States.  This label, part of common parlance from coast to coast, imposes artificial bookends upon a group of people whose only real commonality is that they were conceived in the years following World War II—a spike in the …Read more…

Salvaging St. Louis, Part III: Biodiversity in repopulation.

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In the previous section of this three-part article, I began exploring some of the affordable housing initiatives of St. Louis that have helped it, to some extent, stem its precipitous decline, particularly in comparison to Detroit, its peer city in terms of population loss.  If this survey (you could almost call it “home tour”) seemed …Read more…

MONTAGE: Salvaging a sacred space by expanding its use.

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In more than one previous article, I have explored the challenges that urban or inner-city church congregations face.  Their aging buildings are costly to maintain; parking is inadequate in an area where land prices are usually high; the multiple floors and narrow hallways rarely accommodate disabled people; the higher rates of poverty nearby result in …Read more…

Streetscapes get a much-unneeded boost.

In recent years, communities large and small have sought new approaches to restore the vitality of their historic business districts.  By this point, virtually everyone can think of a municipality with an old downtown that really does feel like it’s the center of it all: fully occupied buildings, people milling about.  The success stories exist.  …Read more…

Meandering towards the Statehouse.

The meringue follows the meat. After so much time and attention devoted to Jewish settlements in the South, it’s time to move to a simpler, less weighty topic—more of an anecdote. Several weeks ago, I took the High Street exit ramp to enter downtown Jackson, Mississippi from Interstate 55. My first time in the area …Read more…

Let the feet do the wayfinding.

Among the quietest, most modest recent additions to the American landscape are aids for the visually impaired. With little fanfare, they have proliferated in the past decade; perhaps it is to be expected that this has happened discreetly, since the target constituent cannot see them. In an increasing number of downtowns, one hears a voice …Read more…

Brick roads don’t always lead to Oz.

While this blog post won’t win any awards for brevity (would my blog ever win such a prize?), it surely surpasses all others for the simplicity of the concept. The photo below details the sidewalk upgrade component of a traffic improvement initiative in the Southdowns neighborhood of Baton Rouge. The area represents a banner opportunity …Read more…