Full skyscrapers, looming over empty streets.

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Those of us who identify as urbanophilic—to which I include myself a great deal of the time—have long bemoaned the lack of density afflicting many of our American urban centers, which impedes these places from achieving not just the level of on-the-street liveliness heralded by Jane Jacobs—the first great autodidact urbanophile—but their basic capacity to …Read more…

Martin Guitar shows its pluck.

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The Borough of Nazareth may not register strongly to most people living outside of eastern Pennsylvania, but it does have one ace up its sleeve: it’s the headquarters for the C.F. Martin & Company, maker of the Martin Guitar since 1833. Widely distributed across the world for at least the last century, the guitars have …Read more…

Along the road to Calvary, a bingo parlor.

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I’ve ruminated multiple times on this blog about how we spatialize ourselves through religion—a subject of great interest to me, but one of which I haven’t plumbed any great depths. And this is not the time. I’ll keep it superficial, while at least adding a little texture to the layer. And here’s that texture: a …Read more…

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…

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…

When your domain is compromised, how do you take the high road?

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The impacts of government policies can be subtle, far-reaching and antithetical to their original good intentions. Identifying examples of this is part of my duty as a blogger. Sometimes, though, the evidence of a policy is right there in your face…called out by the person most affected.   This former home in Greenfield, Indiana (about 20 miles …Read more…

Parsimonious (but potent) pedestrian provisions.

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If you don’t have the money to make it aesthetic, at least you can make it functional. This seems to be mentality that Hoboken, New Jersey, America’s most walkable city, endorses in some of its streetscape improvements. Considering the high median incomes of this city of over 40,000 people per square mile, it’s a bit …Read more…

A star is born…and stepped on.  

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The remarkable, resilient city of Hoboken, New Jersey is worthy of blog posts far longer than this one, and someday I will give it justice. But it’s time to start with a snapshot, evoking one of this densely populated burg’s most cherished cultural artifacts. Not surprisingly, the city, directly across the Hudson River from New …Read more…

From the highest rooftops, a call to gimme shelter.

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The urbanist blogosphere is chock-full of rants on how new developments compromise pedestrian connectivity—not so much in terms of the final product (where I’m equally guilty of such tirades), but even during the construction process. These days, most mid-sized and large metro areas are gorging on the fruit, born from seeds planted long ago, through …Read more…