A 10-minute primer

If 100 people in Eastwood were to read this through – it takes less time than watching just the ads in “Dancing With the Stars” – and if each were to educate just one other person about the effect on Eastwood of the proposed Walgreens sign, then we’d have a great turn-out at the April 6 Planning Commission meeting. That’s when a decision will be made about what they want: a 10-foot LED stand-alone ground sign. It violates the overlay district guidelines in four ways: sign square footage, total number of signs, prohibition against ground signs, and prohibition against animated signs.

But here’s what you want to read first, an email reprinted here with permission from our neighbor and retired professor of architecture, Sig Snyder:


from    Sig Snyder
to    Walkable Eastwood

date    Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 2:49 PM

As we all know, or do we? All right, as some of us know, 9 years ago Professor George W. Curry and Christine Capella Peters of ESF published a report which was the result of a study by their Urban Design Studio 2000 where 13 students spent two semesters studying the James Street Corridor and its relation to Eastwood. This report became the basis for the outline of an illustrated handbook which became the “bible” of the Eastwood Review Board. I was a member of this board until it was abolished according to General Ordinance #30-2003 after we spent two rather frustrating years trying to help move this vision toward reality.

Somehow, this crossed my mind last night when, at a very well attended forum sponsored by SEUNA, Mike Stanton introduced Syracuse’s 5 current candidates for mayor. One of the candidates mentioned TNT. “What’s TNT?,” asked a member of the audience. The answer was evasive. Which reminded me the late 90s when I became a facilitator in this citywide organization which appeared to be full of promise.

Perhaps now may be the time to pick up the ball once more and start by organizing a mayoral candidates’ forum for Eastwood? This might help bring various Eastwood organizations together, not only to find common ground, but also to impress our future mayor of the will and enthusiasm of our area which could well be a “vibrant” neighborhood with the help of  whoever may get to preside over our city this coming fall.

Meanwhile, I recommend Mike Stanton’s email on “Walkable Urban Places” for your consideration. Looks like given common sense and will and  patience, the James and Midler intersection might yet become the heart of Eastwood and an attractive show place.

How ’bout it?

Sig Snyder

Hint: Planning is the word, not speculation

—– Original Message —–
From: Mike Stanton

As Raleigh NC makes final adjustments to its comprehensive plan, city
planners are getting the same kind of advice from the experts that
Syracuse has received.

Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institution says the era of
suburban sprawl is ending. The fastest-growing market now, said
Leinberger, a developer, is for “walkable urban” places that are
modeled on what cities were before cars took them over.

Raleigh’s comprehensive plan seeks to curb sprawl and guide
development into designated “growth centers.” But Leinberger says the
plan identifies too many growth centers and some are in the wrong
places. In addition to the downtown regional center, the plan shows
seven other “city growth” areas. Some are near the planned commuter-
rail line but others are along the beltline highways and nowhere near
the transit corridor. By Leinberger’s math, Raleigh should attempt to
create only two or three “walkable urban” places, in addition to
downtown. These places should all be on the rail or a streetcar
corridor, which, he said, are permanent and attract investors,
developers and upscale buyers. “I have never seen a dollar of real
estate investment generated by a bus stop,” Leinberger said.

Mindy Fullilove, professor of clinical psychology at Columbia
University Medical Center in New York, said true urbanism is
characterized by a sense of connectedness that allows people of
diverse backgrounds and incomes to nonetheless feel that they live in
the same community and share an identity with the same “great place.”
Studies show that in such neighborhoods, the incidence of mental
illness even for the poorest people is less than it is for the well-
off who live in suburban isolation, Fullilove said.

You can read more about Raleigh’s comprehensive plan HERE.

=============================================================

Imagine Raleigh without sprawl

18 MAR 2009

by Bob Geary
Indyweek.com

http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A331163

In the run-up to this week’s public hearing on Raleigh’s draft
comprehensive plan, the advice to city leaders from a stream of
visiting experts has been remarkably unified. Success, experts say,
depends on taking city life “back to the future.”

The era of suburban sprawl is ending, these planners maintain, not
simply because of high gas prices, but because it is fundamentally
unsustainable. As Christopher Leinberger, a fellow at the Brookings
Institution in Washington, D.C., put it in a recent talk, the more
“drivable suburban” neighborhoods a city allows, the lower the quality
of life becomes for everyone living in them. The fastest-growing
market now, said Leinberger, a developer, is for “walkable urban”
places: the kind Raleigh doesn’t have, yet needs to create, that are
modeled on what cities were before cars took them over.

Such places are far more complicated to build and manage than the
suburbs, Leinberger said. But done right, these areas improve as they
grow. They have more cultural diversity and housing options—and with
public transit, the chance for people to save money by owning fewer
cars, or none. If Raleigh fails to create them, Leinberger warned,
“You will be left in the 20th century.”

The question for Raleigh is where these walkable urban places should
be.

Leinberger’s analysis and the other experts’ jibes with the basic goal
of the comprehensive plan to curb sprawl and guide development into
designated “growth centers.” Yet it also raises the issue of whether
the plan identifies too many centers—including some in places that can
never be urban.

In addition to the downtown regional center, the plan shows seven
other “city growth” areas. Some of the seven are tangential to a
string of distinct, “transit-oriented development” zones along a
planned commuter-rail line; some are along the beltline highways
(Interstate 440 and Interstate 540) and nowhere near the transit
corridor.

The plan invites the redevelopment of shopping centers and strip malls
along these and other major roads, such as Capital Boulevard, as mixed-
used urban spaces. But to hear the planners tell it, such
redevelopments are rare.

Adding housing to a strip mall doesn’t make it urban, they say. And
adding more housing to suburban places may undermine the potential of
other locations, including those on the rail-transit corridor, to
grow.

However, Raleigh Planning Director Mitch Silver, who will present a
revised draft of the comprehensive plan at a joint public hearing of
the City Council and Planning Commission Thursday, doesn’t think the
highway and rail-transit locations conflict. He says Raleigh will grow
fast enough over the 20-year span of the comprehensive plan for both
to develop successfully.

Silver argues that given the number of strip malls in Raleigh, the
city must encourage their redevelopment, using “very robust” bus
service and a new zoning code for highway spaces.

But Silver is aware of the question, and posed it himself last month
to a trio of planners attending the annual urban design conference
sponsored by the N.C. State University College of Design.

“How do we create a public [urban] realm in a suburban realm”
dominated by oversized thoroughfares and skinny or missing sidewalks?
he asked.

Simon Atkinson, a professor of planning at the University of Texas
School of Architecture, shook his head. “The suburb was designed not
to have a public realm.” The whole point of suburbs, Atkinson added,
is privacy.

In contrast, the walkable urban places that the planners describe are
typically located on a grid of city streets, not highway
thoroughfares. They feature sidewalk storefronts, public plazas and
parks that help to offset the mass of high-density housing
developments. They usually offer—because of inclusionary zoning rules—
a mix of housing types, including affordable units, middle-income and
upscale housing, often in four-story or smaller buildings.
“Inclusionary zoning is a no-brainer,” Leinberger said.

Most such places are accessible by transit or by car, bicycle and on
foot, said James Charlier, a Boulder, Colo., transportation planner
who spoke at the conference. Once people arrive, though, there are
“pedestrian districts” where people can hang out, have fun, shop and
live—while the cars are parked.

Charlier calls them pedestrian districts to distinguish the real
pedestrian places from the new fad of “pedestrian-friendly” roadways
that, despite cosmetic changes, continue to function as “traffic
sewers” hostile to walkers.

The only way to turn a highway mall into an urban place is to tear it
down, start over on a street grid and connect it to the adjoining
neighborhoods, he said.

At the same conference, Mindy Fullilove, professor of clinical
psychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said
true urbanism is characterized by a sense of connectedness that allows
people of diverse backgrounds and incomes to nonetheless feel that
they live in the same community and share an identity with the same
“great place.”

At a time of rapid upheaval in the world, Fullilove said, people yearn
for the kind of stability and belonging that existed—before urban
renewal cut through it—in the Hill district of Pittsburgh where her
parents grew up. It was a relatively poor, predominantly African-
American community of row houses, storefronts and apartments. There
were no high-rises, nothing fancy. But it was a place where people
believed “whatever problems you have … you can get together and
solve them.”

Studies show that in such neighborhoods, the incidence of mental
illness even for the poorest people is less than it is for the well-
off who live in suburban isolation, Fullilove said. Like Edgar Allen
Poe’s “The Raven,” she added, “you can lock your doors, but the
problems get in anyway.”

Leinberger said his study of metropolitan Washington, D.C., and
Atlanta suggests that a city should have no more than a half-dozen
walkable urban places per million people. Some of these will be
downtown, some in inner-ring neighborhoods, and some in the suburbs,
But what they have in common is their location at rail-transit stops,
not on highways.

By his math, Raleigh should attempt to create two or three such
places, in addition to downtown, by 2030, when the comprehensive plan
anticipates the city will be home to 600,000 people.

These places should be on the rail or a streetcar corridor, which, he
said, are permanent and attract investors, developers and upscale
buyers. “I have never seen a dollar of real estate investment
generated by a bus stop,” Leinberger said.

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