Category: Uncategorized (page 3 of 4)

December News Feed

Finals are over at Iowa State University and Christmas break has begun. I stayed in Ames until Monday to work at CyRide. Very few passengers on my bus this weekend as half the population of Ames has left. The city feels very empty and lonely right now – partially because it lacks a singular city center / “downtown”. I decided to start writing about my interpretation of place and mapping of Ames, but did not quite finish in time, so that post will be coming soon…

This week I will be traveling to Denver to visit family for Christmas as well as attend AIAS FORUM convention over the New Years week. I plan to visit a few architecture / urban design firms while I’m there. It should be an enjoyable time… will post updates as it goes.

When I return to Cedar Rapids next week, look for an update on Cedar Rapids Tranist (“new” buses), a downtown flood recovery post, and the current status of the Veterans Memorial Building (City Hall) where I worked this summer.

Also… learned tonight the GAP will be closing at Lindale Mall in January. A store worker told us it was the decision of mall management, not GAP. He told us Barnes and Noble (currently located in Northland Square shopping center adjacent to the mall) will be moving in to this area of the mall. Certainly an interesting development… B&N should be a big draw for the mall but at the expense of one of it’s top stores. Another question is what will go in the old B&N space at Northland? Will be fun to watch and see…

Have a blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays!

GOBAMA!

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama! Finally this country can unite and move on to a brighter tomorrow. I commend John McCain for his gracious concession speech and asking his supporters to set aside their differences in the best interest of the nation. This is truly an exciting night. I have uttermost confidence in President Obama’s ability to successfully lead our country in a new direction and bring progress and respect again to our nation.

Go Vote Today!

Today is Election Day. I just voted in my first presidential election. Do your part and go vote for your candidate today!

What will the next president do for cities?

Neal Peirce examined which presidential candidate would be better for American cities and urban areas in a recent article on Citiwire.net. While Barack Obama plans to create the first-ever White House Office on Urban Policy and made clear his commitment to urban issues at the June 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors, John McCain has given little mention to the needs of transit, urban infrastructure, and other problems the nation’s cities are facing.

Pierce took a quote from Barack Obama’s address at the mayors conference that illustrates his forward-thinking attitude about urban America:

“Yes, we need to fight poverty,… fight crime… But we also need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution. Because strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America.”

Obama understands that cities themselves do not innately produce crime, but the neglect and rejection of urban areas in national policy over the past half-century has allowed this decay to occur. With John McCain’s lack of any palpable urban policy and then Sarah Palin’s ridicule of Obama’s work as a community organizer in urban Chicago neighborhoods, it is clear which candidate will benefit the future of America’s cities.

Rob Goodspeed also has a collection of good posts about Obama on his blog The Goodspeed Update, including an interesting post from May, comparing the amount of content for different issues each candidate offered on their websites.

> McCain Versus Obama: Who’s Best for Cities?

Automatic bike parking in Tokyo

Here’s a video from the Washington Post about a new automatic bicycle parking garage in Tokyo operated by robotics. Pretty neat.

> Tokyo’s High-Tech Bike Storage Solution

24-Hour Dorman

A fellow Dorman blogger, Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman (no relation), is keeping readers up to date at the Democratic National Convention in Denver with frequent posts during the event. His blog as well as his columns can be satarical and witty, making for an enjoyable read. I generally agree with his point of view that he always backs up with reason and sometimes even a sarcastic punch.

> 24-Hour Dorman

Life in Radiant City

I recently watched Gary Burns and Jim Brown’s “Radiant City” documentary on suburban sprawl. Chronicling the Moss family’s move to suburbia from inner-city Calgary, it is a critical look at the social and cultural aspects that have come with the growth of suburban “communities” in North America since the end of World War II.

Aside from periodic commentary from the filmmakers themselves and a host of guest experts, most of the film was members of the Moss family describing their daily routines and problems in suburbia and occasional scenes of the family interacting as normal. Evan Moss and his son are cynical about their new community, while Ann, the mom, tenaciously hopes that the community feel will come, focusing on the good and clearly resentful of her husband and son’s complaining.

The film is less about the environmental and ecological impacts of sprawl, but about the social implications of the suburban lifestyle. It details how suburban “communities” are monoculture and by that alone, unsustainable. Suburbia is developed by the masses so people of roughly the same age move in at the same time, have children around the same time – creating a temporary demand for schools, then grow old at the same time, becoming trapped or forced to leave because they either can no longer driver or required special services.

“Radiant City” is not a data-intensive documentary, nor is it an absolute doomsday lecture. It is, however, an intriguing new look into life in the suburbs and the shortcomings of the American dream, or in this case, the Canadian dream. It is certain to give viewers a new perspective and invoke a thoughtful dialogue on the burbs. Visit their website at www.radiantcitymovie.com.

Urban Blogging

After contemplating doing so for a long time, I finally jumped into the blog world back in January 2007, when I debuted “Urban Thinking” with a simple Blogger template and anticipation of one day having an active, credible blog that somebody besides myself might actually find interesting to read.  Since then I’ve had the opportunity to document many of my ideas and thoughts into words, which is perhaps the most rewarding.  As an undergraduate student in architecture and potential future grad student in urban planning, I believe it is important to think critically about the built environment and society around me and be able to analyze and draw conclusions on such things.  I’ve found blogging to be the perfect medium for me to do this.

The focus of my blog from the beginning has always been on my interests in architecture, cities, transit and all related things.  Since I can remember I have always been interested in cities and the characteristics that make them what they are.  I’ve known since before high school what I wanted to go to school for and become – an architect.  I hold a very urbanist point of view and am quite critical of suburban design, sprawl, and the relentless catering to the personal automobile.  However, I have not always held these views.  Many things have changed and shaped my views on what a good city is and how we should grow and develop our communities.  A big influence, I believe, has been blogging, more specific the blogs of others who spoke out on these issues and went against the grain.  They revealed to me how blindly accepting I was to bad design in my environment and helped me become the better-informed urbanist I am today.

My first exposure to blogs was probably about two to three years ago with hardcore urbanist, Steve Patterson’s “Urban Review STL” blog, which I came upon numerous times by Googling “urban.”  At first I mostly looked at the pictures but eventually started reading the commentary as well.  I found Steve’s nit-picky criticism of a seemingly fine looking, suburban Walgreen’s in Springfield, Missouri very compelling.  At the time I hadn’t yet realized the many drawbacks and flaws of suburban design.  Admittedly, I still think the Walgreen’s looks pretty good (exception for the parking lot in front), but I now understand and agree with Steve’s persistence for accessibility and the importance of good urban design in our cities and communities.

After my freshman year of college at North Dakota State University, I decided to transfer to the closer to home Iowa State, although proximity to home had nothing to do with it.  Over spring break I had visited my friend in Washington, D.C., where he was attending his freshman year at George Washington University.  Though I had been to DC twice before when my brother was living in nearby Laurel, Maryland, this visit was much more impressive. The week was awesome – getting to spend so much time right in the city, exploring some great urban neighborhoods, and having to rely entirely on public transportation.  Realizing my dissatisfaction with the urbanity of Fargo, North Dakota, I immediately began looking for other schools.  Since I was already drawn to the DC area, the University of Maryland became of interest, being the only public university with an architecture program.  I returned to NDSU after spring break, pondering my options, ultimately concluding that Iowa State was the most feasible and reasonable choice.  Aside from having a highly-regarded (and ranked) program that I convinced myself was important, Iowa State also offered programs in Community and Regional Planning, a study that increasingly intrigued me. Unlike NDSU, Iowa State was a “big school,” which I figured could make up for some of the lacking “big city” urbanism.

During my first year at Iowa State I began reading and looking for blogs more regularly.  I also officially decided I wanted to go to grad school, likely after discovering there was no way to double major or even minor in CRP at ISU.  Additionally I would now only receive a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Iowa State, whereas NDSU had just transitioned to a 5 year Masters program, an increasing trend among architecture schools nationwide.  After searching the internet for different planning grad schools I inevitably came back to University of Maryland.  I soon became quite adamant about my aspirant future grad school, quite similar to the way I had once felt about NDSU back in high school, and perhaps for a short time about Iowa State.

One day while investigating more about the university and College Park, I came across a fairly new community development blog called “Rethink College Park.” At first I was excited to see all the development and improvements happening in College Park and eventually caught on to certain complexities facing the community. Nonetheless, I was happy to see all the plans and proposals for the University’s East Campus initiative and future Purple Line light rail that will transverse campus.

By way of Rethink College Park, I discovered another great blog, that of RTCP co-founder and UM urban planning grad student Rob Goodspeed, “The Goodspeed Update.” His data-based approach to analyzing urban spaces and services, graphs and charts included, was incisive as another dimension of understanding and evaluating urbanism. In addition to writing about DC, Rob also has informative posts on urban planning and blogging – certainly of interest to a new blogger and aspiring planner myself.

Furthermore I have discovered additional blogs and websites of like topics that have come to serve as precedents for my own blog. They have all been influential to me in some way or another in my continual effort to better understand and examine the great delight that I find in cities and urban spaces.

In January 2007, during my second semester at Iowa State, I was hired as a part-time transit driver for CyRide, the city-university partnership transit agency. I have always been compelled by various forms of transportation, especially passenger rail, but this inevitably sparked an increased interest in transit and particularly buses. The job is great. I have gotten to know the regulars and enjoy interacting with a diverse crowd of passengers. I feel more connected than ever to the Ames community, which is something the average ISU student probably cannot say. The job also affords me invaluable insight and experience into the transit industry that will no doubt be beneficial in my future career. From now on, I am officially a transit fan.

Now it is 2008, and I’ve just completed my third year of college. My views on urban issues have changed for the better over the past three years as I have become more informed and concerned, though my passion for cities has always existed. As said, I owe much to the great blogs discussed above, but also the great cities and urban spaces I’ve had to good fortune to visit. Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and so on – all fascinating studies. My goals are to further my understanding of cities, develop my design communication skills, and continue thinking urban. A better understanding of urbanism will ultimately allow me to design better studio projects in the three years remaining of my undergraduate education. Through all this, my blog will be key and I hope to produce some exceptional posts that might inspire someone in the way others have inspired me.

New island park in Fargo

The old Great Northern Depot on the north end of downtown Fargo, North Dakota, has occupied a number of different businesses since it finally closed as a depot in 1986. Between 1995 and 2005, the building was used as a few different restaurants. In 2007, Island Park Cycles (from which I purchased my bike while attending NDSU in 2005) moved from its site south of downtown by Island Park into the Great Northern depot. Owner Tom Smith is now working with the Fargo Park District to build a small park space over what is currently excess pavement between the building and Broadway to the west. According to a March 12, 2008 story in the Fargo Forum, Smith wants to improve the approachability from Broadway. This should be a nice little space when completed and really improve the aesthetic of the depot and the north edge of downtown along Broadway.


Image taken from Fargo Forum website.

Links
> Island Park Cycles
> Great Northern Railyway Depot history

America Runs on Dunkin’

While in Chicago a couple friends and I decided to stop at (nearly) every Dunkin’ Donuts we passed throughout our day and get a fresh delicious donut. Without any Iowa locations and Krispie Kremes far and few between, it was quite the treat. Locations were plentiful in downtown Chicago. Our most memorable stop was at the DD’s on Dearborn and Congress Sunday afternoon where we received our donuts for free because the cashier was unable to make change for our $5 dollar bills. Good times! I was sure to pick up a dozen for the road Tuesday morning before we headed back to Ames.

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