Welcome back to the Monday Member Blog Roll!
To kick things off, who’s ready for some football? Or, more specifically, who’s ready for some public financing of an NFL stadium in order to buy a billionaire team owner’s undying loyalty to your town? The specter of LA looms large in St. Louis.
The recap: the Rams can break their 30-year lease if the dome is not considered to be within the top 20% of all NFL stadiums today. This agreement was written when a $300M stadium was considered top tier, but falls behind in today’s environment of $1B stadiums.
For some perspective on what real dedication and community building looks like, we have this piece from Transition Tales to show us how it’s done.
El Sol’s weekday hot lunch program will be the beneficiary of our harvest of fresh, locally-grown vegetables. CROS Ministries will remain on the project, Keith assured us, their volunteers helping ours to tend the growing beds from now through harvest time, and beyond. When the work was done for this sunny, cool Saturday, we celebrated with an ample lunch supplied by another 1st UU volunteer. It’s a win-win situation for everyone — just another day in the life of a constantly surprised convert to the power of growing food and community.
Moving right next door, West Palm Beach’s Strongest Townie Jesse Bailey completed the Strong Citizens walk to the grocery store challenge and shared his thoughts.
Walking to the grocery store could be a pleasure, adding to the placemaking potential of West Palm Beach, rather than a challenge. We just need to make the small incremental steps to get there, starting with planting shade trees in the right of way, fixing lighting issues, and repairing pedestrian crossing buttons and timing.
Sticking with the Florida theme for a second longer, the Washington Post ran a great piece on smaller walkable cities (and towns) in major metro areas that are thriving thanks to their competitive advantages over suburbia. One of the article’s examples was none other than Jesse’s West Palm Beach (another was some other Strong Townies’ Frederick, MD). But while the article was centered on the newly realized strengths of walkable commuter towns, it also highlighted some areas of needed improvement, including local schools. Jesse shared his thoughts on that issue in WPB.
I have friends in both these cities raising young children. The cultural opportunities, social networks, convenience, and walkability of the neighborhoods add up to approximate a Village Effect, one that isn’t possible in drive-only gated communities. But even with these wonderful attributes, the 800 lb. gorilla in the room is schools, or more aptly, the perception of schools. I’m starting to lose lots of friends to suburbia as school rankings become the primary consideration in their housing choices.
In North Carolina, Strong Townie Kristen Jeffers is leading up to the release of her new book, A Black Urbanist-Essays, Vol. 1, by previewing her essay on “The Market”. It’s a thought-provoking look at corner store ownership, big box stores, and Amazon and their effects on communities.
Would we be people without commerce and a marketplace? Maybe, if we go full on into a marketplace of ideas. Would we be urbanists though? Probably not.
She also has a great post on an inspiring person, Mitch Silver. I’m personally a bit of a Mitch Silver fan (and am hoping to bump into him in a NYC park sometime soon), as is Chuck. As always, it’s nice to see him highlighted.
It is that vision that inspires me and countless other planners, placemakers, park people and others in the space of making place to value his knowledge and his intellect not just for New York City parks and Raleigh but anywhere else he’s worked and taught and spoken. In addition, he is a shining example of black achievement and proof that despite our small numbers in the field, we still know how to make an impact.
Finally, what town doesn’t wish for an active passenger rail station immediately in its center that can drive increased pedestrian traffic and values in its vicinity? According to our friend Johnny Sanphillippo at Granola Shotgun, some in Lancaster, CA don’t. He outlines some of the ways that community could better activate a barren part of town inexpensively, building off of the assets they already have.
I want to get back to the idea of human scale and how the best parts of Yucca are the little spaces between and around the buildings instead of the big parking lots and super wide street frontage. Everywhere I go in the world I find some of the best streets are barely wide enough for a car to pass through – and that’s part of the magic. I could see stretching some sun shades over the top of these alleys in Lancaster and lining the blank walls with shallow market stalls. This is an economic incubator that costs pennies and could lead to bigger and more permanent local businesses. The trick is to get the entry cost for experimentation down low enough to engage people without much capital or credit. Will this sort of thing terrify suburban homeowners out in the gated communities? Yep. Will they care if it happens in the “bad” part of town that they never visit? Maybe not…
Thanks for reading - I hope the power of the Monday Member Blog Roll grants you all glorious Mondays!