Altamont, Illinois façades: where the upgrade is older than the original.

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Whether we measure it in square miles or a single street corner, the average American downtown is enjoying an unprecedented new life. Century-old commercial buildings—underutilized at best, mothballed or abandoned at worst—have comprised the most visible beneficiaries of this revitalization, since investors have reassessed their value as critical signals to the municipality’s historic origins, determining …Read more…

Unisex restrooms: a truce amidst the eternal battle.

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In an era when unisex facilities have escalated into a nationwide debate, it’s comforting to see that one family operation hasn’t forgotten what its like to be a little lighter on its feet.  This sign was quite the novelty when I saw it at a café in southern Mississippi several years ago; since then I think …Read more…

Downtown Houston: paved with good intentions.

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One of the most unnerving characteristics of the built environment is when an alternative taste culture becomes so entrenched and so mundane that we forget that it wasn’t always the status quo. And it’s even worse when this anti-establishment product yields an inferior outcome whatever it was that preceded it. I’m speaking so vaguely that …Read more…

The Maryland flag: anything but a flop.

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Sure, each one of our nation’s fifty states gets two senators to represent its constituents federally through the legislature, and each state claims an individual vote on amendments to the Constitution. But on matters of the House of Representatives, votes for the Electoral College, budget allocations and just about every other consideration, not all states …Read more…

The Great Recession and its undead discontents.

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In the immediate years following the housing market’s catastrophic implosion, it was common to find half-finished suburban developments, where a handful of homes splayed out across a tangle of curvilinear streets. In most of these zombie subdivisions, the developer had already installed water/sewer, at least some of the paved roads, streetlights, road signs, maybe even …Read more…