New Contributor: Zachary Evans

Zachary Evans is an architect and partner at Kelty Tappy Design, Inc., a Fort Wayne, Indiana, architecture, planning, and urban design firm. A graduate of Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning, he holds professional architectural registrations in Indiana and Ohio and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is an active member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Fort Wayne Chapter, and currently serves on the City of Fort Wayne Downtown Design Review Committee.

Why I care about Market-Driven Urbanism

It seems to be generally accepted now that the past several decades of American sprawl has left our downtown cores with gaping voids and inactivity. A combined result of our dependence on the automobile and Euclidean zoning practices, both citizens and governments share the responsibility of the situation we’re in.

In the same vein, it will take action by both groups to reverse course and re-energize our city centers.

We have very talented urban designers and city planners among us, but we cannot rely on them to plan and execute the redevelopment of every downtown block, lot, and streetscape. That’s why we need to encourage private investment and development with reduced land use restrictions, and allow free-market forces to drive self-sustaining development that’s dense, vibrant, and walkable.

I’d like to use this forum to have a dialogue about alternatives to land use segregation, share examples of successes and failures in other communities, and work together to find opportunities in our own community to apply the principles of market-driven urbanism.

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Shoaff: When building roads, worry about the people who live there

Councilman John Shoaff identified what may be the central reason the city of Fort Wayne hits opposition when it proposes a street widening project.

Shoaff has been a strong opponent of the city’s plan to widen State Boulevard through the Brookview-Irvington Park neighborhood, from Clinton Street to Wells Street. And during Tuesday’s common council meeting, Shoaff related a conversation he had with a city landscape architect about the proposal to separate the railroad tracks from South Anthony Boulevard.

The current plans include what Shoaff called very wide lanes and sloping ground that takes up “an enormous amount of acreage.” The plans were made in a way that the viewer has no idea how the street relates to the rest of the neighborhood.

Shoaff asked why the plans took this form.

“We were trying to make it a nicer experience for the drivers,” the landscape architect said.

“The drivers are going to be through there in 60 seconds,” Shoaff responded. “The people you have to worry about are the people who live there.”

Exactly. As Shoaff said, traffic engineers are very competent in their line of work, but they are trained to work on behalf of the motorist, not on behalf of the neighborhood. Neighborhood concerns should be truly weighed when road work is planned in the city.

Shoaff’s discussion on this conversation begins at about the 46-minute mark of the video.

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Recommended reading on State Boulevard widening

I’m way late commenting on this story, since it ran in the April 1 Journal Gazette.

But “State of State Boulevard” by Stacey Stumpf is an excellent read on the city’s plan to widen and straighten State Boulevard west of Clinton Street.

It’s excellent because it clearly presents the city’s case for the construction and residents’ concerns over the destruction of a portion of the neighborhood.

But my sympathies are with Councilman John Shoaff, who has been very critical of the city’s plans. From the editorial:

“The major problem is the concept and the goal is wrong,” Shoaff said. “Coliseum Boulevard was created to be a major arterial. I-469 was created to be a major arterial, and that’s all good and appropriate. State Boulevard was not. All of this is just a very inappropriate intrusion into neighborhoods with an arterial expansion.”

My thoughts: Wouldn’t the widening of State Boulevard be less necessary if the city goes through with its plan of extending Spring Street past Wells Street to Clinton? More narrow streets is a much more friendly solution than a four- to five-lane highway through an existing neighborhood.

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Market-driven urbanism: The TGC Reboot

It’s time to begin again.

Thanks to friends saying this blog must be revived, The Good City is now back in business.

We’re retooling the focus of the blog to concentrate on market-driven urbanism versus the more common centrally planned urbanism.

But what’s market-driven urbanism? Here’s a definition from the Market Urbanism blog:

Market Urbanism examines how market forces and property rights enable complex, yet vibrant and economically robust communities and regions to emerge through the “spontaneous order” of the land use and transportation marketplace. When left to market forces, as opposed to intervention, land use patterns and transportation systems reflect a society that is economically and environmentally more efficient and just than when imposed in a top-down fashion by government.

Simply put, market-driven urbanism is the best philosophy to revive our downtown and other urban areas in a conservative city like Fort Wayne which is naturally suspicious of governmental intrusion. Besides that, it honors property rights and eclecticism that makes cities vibrant.

Stay tuned for more posts and commentary!

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The suburban general store

Would our friends in Aboite or north of Dupont welcome such an idea as a general store in the neighborhood?

(W)hat if every suburban subdivision had the equivalent of a local bodega? That’s the idea behind the Suburban General Store, which would provide a central place for residents to pick up sundry items as well as recycle their bottles, drop off DVDs, and buy stamps—all within a five-minute walk.

“We began thinking about subdivisions much less as vast areas of suburbia but as towns,” says Frank Ruchala, a 31-year-old urban planner and architect. “Then we wondered whether a general store could work just as well in that context as it did in small villages a hundred years ago.”

… Under their scheme, everyday amenities would be shoehorned into an existing building such as a pool house, and an added porch would create space for socializing.

Of course, the big problem with such stores is that they’re usually illegal, thanks to zoning regulations.

But if you live in the suburbs, would a small retail establishment be handy? Would you use it? Or would you oppose it?

Photo from Allen County Photo Album

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The roads that hate pedestrians by design

More poor people are moving into the suburbs, which means more pedestrians in neighborhoods which were built with only cars in mind.

This report examines the many obstacles to making multi-lane roads safer for pedestrians.

What roads around Fort Wayne have similar problems?

Update: Here’s my 2008 post on a dangerous crossing on North Clinton Street in Fort Wayne.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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Learning from Columbus, Indiana

What can the rest of Indiana learn from Columbus? From an article in the Star Press of Muncie:

The American Institute of Architects ranks Columbus as the sixth city in the nation for architectural innovation and design? (The ones listed 1-5 are: Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.)

and this:

What every comprehensive planning and design exercise that has guided the development of Columbus — from its civic buildings, to its health and senior care facilities, to its commercial and retail facilities, to its streetscape and public art for the last 40 years has contained physical design guidelines and the drawings and models to communicate their recommendations.These provide everyone with a vision of what might be. They serve as “talk pieces” to foster public discussion, debate and consensus building. More important, paraphrasing the great architect and planner, Daniel Burnham, who said about his plan for Chicago, “They need to stir men’s soul.” I might add, “women, children, investors, developers and retirees.”

Read the whole article here.

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