Candidates’ Forum to Focus on Historic Presevation, Urban Planning Topics

The candidates for Cincinnati City Council and Mayor have faced off in a number of debates and forums over the past several months. However, one forum being held tomorrow will be of particular interest to readers of UrbanCincy.

The Candidates’ Forum on Preservation will focus on historic preservation and related subjects, including policies on new development in historic neighborhoods. Fourteen city council candidates and both mayoral candidates will be in attendance and answering questions on these topics.

“The forum will discuss the role historic preservation plays in other important city issues, such as planning, neighborhood revitalization and economic development,” said Rob Nayor, Program Manager for Preservation Action.

Courtis Fuller of WLWT will serve as the host of the forum, which is being presented by Cincinnati Preservation Association, Cincinnati Preservation Collective, Over-the-Rhine Foundation, and Preservation Action. Candidates will not be ranked or endorsed based on their views. The event is meant to be informational and to allow the public to understand the candidates’ views on these issues.

The event will be held on Tuesday, September 19 at Memorial Hall, and will start promptly at 6:30 p.m. The venue is accessible via Metro routes 21 and 64 on Elm Street; routes 1, 6, and 20 on Central Parkway; the Cincinnati Bell Connector stop at 14th & Elm; and the Red Bike station at 14th & Elm. Parking is also available in the Washington Park Garage.

GUEST EDITORIAL: The Mathematics of Urbanity

There are many ways by which you can measure progress but there’s nothing like defining urbanity to put into perspective just how far along societies has come. Urbanity, after all, encompasses everything modern and progressive, the leaps and bounds that humankind has made through the years to essentially live better.

It’s in the trends of condos and high buildings. It’s in the gadgets and devices you carry around. It’s in the very air you breathe. Different people have different needs but it cannot be denied that everyone benefits from urbanity at some point or another.

That condo you’re living in? That’s a result of urbanity. As well as your favorite coffee shop and the latest flick they’re showing in a cinema near you. It’s around you and will continue to persist for as long as an individual interested in improving how one lives exists.

Defining Urbanity
What is urbanity? At the heart of it all, it is basically the refinement of experiences. If you think about it, anything urban is simply the better version of something else in a rural setting. If you think about living conditions, for instance, you’ll see a fine example in condo living.

Where living in a condominium can be considered as the pinnacle of comfort, luxury, and convenience in an urban area, the rural end of the spectra will show housing options of drastically lower quality. There is urbanity where there are jobs. There is urbanity where commercial structures abound. There is urbanity where modern living is applied. It is usually associated with large cities because their massive economic strength makes it possible for urbanity to thrive. It also usually paints a picture of glass and metal, starting full of promise but eventually fading into a backdrop of smog and gray skies.

Urbanity represents the good, the bad, and the ugly about progress. Identifying the bad and the ugly seems to be foreboding but this does not mean that all things urban are doomed to ruin eventually. True progress, and consequently true urbanity, has to do with finding solutions to everyday problems, making it easier for an ordinary citizen to wake up in the morning and go about their day.

This includes finding a balance between green architecture and innovative architecture, allowing cities to not only thrive with technology but to co-exist with the environment as well.

The Urbanity Equation
For the longest time, the urban setting has always followed a simple equation where you subtract green space when skyscrapers and others have to be added to the landscape. As such, as buildings and other structural feats filled the cities, lush greenery started to fade, until you’re left with nothing more than a few hardwoods used as accents. This pervaded until the disastrous effects of climate change started making themselves felt, making it known to every person that the environment will not take its destruction sitting down.

Calamities and disasters are clearly eye-openers that’s a why a more enlightened consciousness began to form, giving birth to architectures adapting to the needs of the times. People are increasingly becoming aware that their actions have consequences and that the results aren’t pretty. Fortunately, it’s not too late.

Mankind has done a great deal of damage to the planet but it is not too far gone that nothing can be done to remedy the situation. But if these efforts are to have a lasting impact, they have to be implemented at the soonest time possible while following a logical plan of action. After all, the sooner sustainability trends catch on, the sooner damages can be softened if not completely reverted.

If you’re looking for a home in the sky, for instance, make sure you go with a condominium that employs green technologies in their property, like energy-saving measures. Aside from automatically helping you do your bit for the environment, green architecture has impacts on energy use so this helps you save on costs because overall resource consumption in your building will be reduced. You’ll see this when you calculate condo cost. A portion of your condominium dues accounts, after all, for your share in the upkeep and expenses of the building so lesser expenses means smaller monthly fees for you to pay. Saving money while saving the environment? Not a bad idea at all.

Does It Add Up?
Ask anyone and most people will tell you that they still appreciate urbanity, what with the conveniences it offers in many aspects of day-to-day living. It’s definitely understandable because there are just many things in your life that you wouldn’t want to go back to after having seen what a better way is like. But in your aim to amass the better things in life, are you sure the trade-off is worth it? Sometimes, it’s just not.

Green living is a little bit easier today because property developers have taken it upon themselves to introduce sustainable and environment-friendly features in their projects. But just because your building recycles water doesn’t mean that you’ve done enough of your part in taking care of the environment. You have to take a more active role than that.

You have to think beyond what your actions will mean tomorrow, next week, or next month. You have to consider what your actions will lead to years in the future, when a different generation is walking down the very streets you walked on. Are you leaving them a livable world? No one can really say what will happen in the future but having the future in mind in whatever you do today will help ensure that there is indeed one to look forward to.

Putting Two and Two Together
The modern world will always have a certain level of flashiness to it but there is hope that it wouldn’t be as bright as before, a time when people are blinded to the realities and consequences of urban living. By turning down the lights bit by bit, people are able to see more clearly where the brazen path to the urban realm is really leading to (not that it hurts to save on energy costs at the same time).

Calculate condominium expenses and you’ll get an idea as to how much living in the lap of luxury will cost you. But is that amount really all you have to pay to enjoy a life of convenience? Costs can come in various forms and most of the time people are not willing to pay what it takes to get what they want. Worse, they don’t want to pay anything at all. Nothing in life is free and it’s this kind of greed and selfishness that got everyone into trouble. The sooner people find a way to balance their needs and wants with that of the planet’s, the sooner they’ll be able to truly make the most out of living in an urban landscape.

Urbanity is not evil. Don’t fear endless urbanity. There’s no need to fall into a zero-sum mentality when everyone can emerge as winners. It will require work but green urbanity is more than doable.

Anna Rodriguez is a Project Consultant for various real estate developers. She has a degree in Industrial Engineering and currently lives in the Philippines. She has also backgrounds in online marketing, social media management, and is currently a writer for Agency Post, and owns Homey Guide Blog.

If you would like to have your thoughts and opinions published on UrbanCincy, simply contact us at editors@urbancincy.com.

APA14: Transportation Set the Mood at This Year’s National Planning Conference in Atlanta

This year the American Planning Association (APA) National Conference was held in Atlanta from April 26 to 30 at the Georgia World Conference Center. For those who have never been, it is five days packed full of urban-focused sessions, workshops, tours, meetings, happy hours and an awards ceremony, with approximately 5,000 in conference attendees.

Cincinnati’s Department of Planning & Buildings received the prestigious Daniel Burnham Award for for Plan Cincinnati. Last year in Chicago, Cincinnati took home this same award for the execution of its Central Riverfront Plan. Plus, UrbanCincy was recognized by Planetizen immediately following the five-day event as being one of the “top influencers” at the conference. Needless to say, the mood was especially festive for the few dozen attendees from the Cincinnati region.

Attendees and experts are also able to submit ideas for presentations, and put on a session of their own. For presenters, it is a lot like show and tell. Professionals get to share lessons, valuable knowledge gained on the job or show off a successful or interesting planning project to the world.

This year’s conference program was particularly transportation-heavy, and with good reason.

Many presenters remarked on the increasing evidence that people are trading in their car for a transit pass, a bicycle or walking shoes. Teenagers, in particular, have less interest in acquiring driver’s licenses. The rate at which this is happening is significant enough that it has been covered by nearly every major news source in the United States, according to Greg Hughes from the Utah Transit Authority in a session about transit and competitiveness.

Bloomberg Business Week reported that from 2001 to 2009, 16- to 34-year-olds took 24%more bike trips and were 16% more likely to walk to their destinations. Meanwhile, from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14- to 34-year-olds without drivers’ licenses increased from 21% to 26%.

National Geographic reported in December that this trend was acknowledged in “dramatically altered projections” for transportation energy use over the next 25 years by U.S. government forecasters.

If anyone feels that Cincinnati is bucking the trend, we could take our temperature on the invisible hand.

Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Cincy Bike Share have all moved past the market analysis phase and are providing, or will soon provide, private-automobile alternatives within the city. In addition, bus ridership in Cincinnati grew by 3.5% last year, significantly more than the 1% seen nationally, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

This same APTA report showed the highest U.S. transit ridership in 57 years. It seems that we could be entering into a new Golden Age of transit.

Atlanta had a few transportation projects of its own to showcase. One of the favorite activities for conference attendees was exploring the Atlanta BeltLine – a 25-year project that will transform old railway and industrial sites into 22 miles of multi-modal trail right in the heart of the city. It connects multiple parks and green spaces, and given that it is woven so seamlessly into the city fabric, is a viable transportation alternative to city streets.

Atlanta boasts the largest public transit system in the southern United States, and carries roughly 500,000 passengers on weekdays.

MARTA rail services were well-used by conference attendees, and some attendees even made a point to get hotels outside of downtown and utilize the subway to get to the conference venue and back. Although not yet operational, Atlanta is also in the process of finalizing its 2.7-mile streetcar project running from Centennial Olympic Park downtown to the historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to the east.

Atlanta’s pedestrian-oriented Midtown neighborhood became a favorite after-conference hangout, and the restaurant and pub scene in Little Five Points was both eclectic and funky. Next year’s conference will be held in Seattle.

APA14: Tactical Urbanism Laying the Groundwork for Safer, More Livable Cities

A common theme running throughout the APA’s 2014 National Planning Conference is how many of our planning tools, from parking policy to zoning, can accommodate a renewed thirst for urban living driven largely by Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Fifty years of auto-oriented city building is what planners largely have to work with in all but the historic neighborhoods developed before the ubiquitous spread of the private automobile. This situation has created a need to adopt innovative techniques to create people-oriented spaces where vehicle flow was previously the objective.

One concept derived from this movement is Tactical Urbanism, as explained by Valerie Watson from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation in a session called Creatively Transforming Streets for People.

The idea behind Tactical Urbanism is to implement small, realistic community-oriented projects that cumulatively, over time, can improve livability. For example, Watson said, one could shut down a street for a day and open it up to pedestrians, cyclists, food trucks and even set up a pop-up cafés.

Beyond the livability improvements, such activities also benefit from the power of demonstration from normal residents transforming a place to be more community-oriented. As has been seen throughout North America, these activities can often set the stage for more permanent fixes like parklets, bicycle corrals, extension of cafe spaces into parking spots and the creation of small plazas.

An example from Santa Monica combined this approach with public engagement was explained by Jason Kligier, of the City of Santa Monica. The event was called Pop-Up MANGo, which stands for Michigan Ave Neighborhood Greenway (MANGo).

The Greenway, Kligier said, would connect new and proposed bike lanes via Michigan Avenue in the city’s Pico neighborhood – a residential area through which cars tend to pass through over the posted speed limit. The new pedestrian and cyclist orientation would mean creating an inviting streetscape of sidewalks, calm roadways, increased trees and landscape.

The pop-up event in Santa Monica included the addition impermanent features like curb extensions, enhanced landscaping, places for impromptu neighborhood interactions, wayfinding signage and various traffic calming measures. Food trucks, music and interactive activities created a festival-like atmosphere for the more than 400 attendees.

When asked about how they felt about the installations, a majority of neighbors were in favor of the traffic calming measures.

Another way in which planners are working to make cities more livable was discussed in a session on Monday, where attendees learned about techniques in implementation of cap parks over highways. Not only do such efforts create green space in areas where there is little room to accommodate new parks, but they also reconnect neighborhoods that had been torn apart by multiple lanes of speeding traffic.

This movement toward reorienting roadways into more hospitable environments for other users was echoed further in sessions like Building the New American Streetscape, Transforming Streets and Reclaiming the Suburban Corridor, among others.

There are some hints of this movement in Cincinnati as well, including the city’s various on-street bike corrals, Walnut Hills Streetfood Festival, two-way street conversions, Second Sunday on Main, road diets and Cincy Summer Streets which will have its inaugural season this year.