Posted on August 24, 2010 by Department of Housing and Community Development
Nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and located on the edge of the Washington, D.C. suburbs, the Town of Purcellville has worked to maintain the small town characteristics that have defined the community for centuries. New downtown construction projects and infill developments fit right into the local, historic charm. This achievement made the town the perfect location for the most recent Virginia Downtown Development Association (VDDA) Hot Topic Luncheon, held Thursday, August 19th. The topic: How do traditional downtowns fit in to a growing New Urbanism movement?
Attendees enjoyed the food and rustic ambiance of Magnolias at the Mill, a former downtown seed mill, and were captivated by speaker Kennedy L. Smith, of Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group and former director of the National Trust Main Street Center. Smith used humor and striking images to deliver the message and stir conversation.
The message, New Urbanism, a revival of traditional, late 19th and early 20th century community design principles for both urban infill and greenfield development, in the past has been perceived as adversarial to the historic preservation movement. Essentially it was thought that New Urbanism abandoned the older, historic town core to create sanitized replicas in the suburbs.
However, the two movements aren’t really mutually exclusive. As Smith explained, they share a fundamental conviction; they both support the development patterns of successful, older neighborhoods and small towns that integrate housing, shops, workplaces, parks and civic facilities into close-knit communities that are both charming and functional. Downtown Purcellville is an excellent example of this cooperation in action.
If you have questions or would like to become a member of VDDA, call or e-mail the VDDA office at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 754-4120.
Filed under: Design, Development, Downtown, Historic Preservation | Tagged: best practices, Design, History, Main Street, National Trust, new urbanism, Purcellville, small towns, urban design | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 28, 2009 by Doug Jackson
Maps make sense of the world around us. They are both descriptive (think of the elevated ridgelines of topographic maps) and prescriptive (the Google maps navigator telling you how to get from here to there).
And they don’t always match reality. As this Slate slideshow of strange maps demonstrates, maps may not fit so much into neat categories of right or wrong, but they do shed some light on our perception and experience. At right is one of the classics of perceived landscape, Saul Steinberg’s 1976 New Yorker cover, ”View of the World from 9th Avenue.”
Maps also tell stories. In The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, Reif Larsen’s recent novel of a boy cartographer who maps everything from the concentration of Chicago litter to the flight paths of bats above his family’s Montana Ranch, the maps show what exist and they propose what might. Spivet’s earliest vision is a six-year old’s map to God.
Maps can help you see your downtown anew, and they can point to the vision of what it could be. Try it.
As a conversation starter at your next design committee meeting, consider doing a cognitive mapping exercise. On blank sheets of paper, have each person draw a mental map of their downtown– the buildings and streets as they experience them. Then discuss them. How are they different? How are they alike? How is a young person’s different from yours? What places aren’t part of anyone’s downtown at the table? Who else should be invited to draw their downtowns? Are their obvious natural districts?
Your discussion is sure to be be rich and specific, and best of all, fun. Send us imagesof a map or two and we’ll share your results on the blog.
Filed under: Design, Downtown | Tagged: Design, experience, mapping, new yorker, perception, saul steinberg, t.s. spivet | Leave a Comment »
Posted on September 8, 2009 by Department of Housing and Community Development
Posted on August 31, 2009 by Department of Housing and Community Development
Fast Company reports that Facebook is increasing its staff by 50 percent. The nearly 500-employee increase is substantial in a good economy, and in current recessionary times, it’s a flat out boon. But why, at a time when ad revenues are down, would an expansion like this make sense?
For one, costs of doing business can be lower. The talent that Facebook is hiring is in abundance on the market. New hirees will work for less. There’s a good lesson there; transfer it downtown. While construction costs are lower, properties are bringing less rent, and an empty space eliminates the major opportunity cost of construction, it may just be the time for a property owner to reinvest.
Of course Facebook is in at an impressively expansive point in consumer adaptation as well, and it wants to expand its services to advertisers to capture the market. There’s something, too, to be said for striking while the iron is hot. With trendwatchers capturing the steadily growing fashionability of downtown living, shopping, and working, what is your community doing to make the most of that most of your opportunities today?
Filed under: Downtown, Economic Restructuring, Organization | Tagged: Branding, Design, Economic Restructuring, expansion, recession, reinvestment | Leave a Comment »
Posted on August 14, 2009 by Department of Housing and Community Development
As the song says, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. If the Big Apple can make a park-like setting out of one of the city’s busiest streets, what’s to stop your town from making a pro-people shift in one of your important spaces?
Of course we need cars and trucks, delivery access and shopper convenience, but as the New York experiment suggests, it may not have to require multiple lanes and acres of asphalted parking directly in front of stores. (If that were the case we could just replicate the clogged arteries that lead to a big box strip mall near you.)
For an alternative, check out this streetfilm from streetsblog, an initiative of the Liveable Streets Initiative: Carmaggeddon avoided as Broadway comes to life.
Streetsblog's Mark Gorton gives a video tour of the new Broadway.
As a temporary measure, Times Square put cheap lawn furniture in the newly pedestrianized area. The pink and blue chairs had a lot of fans, and the space felt like a big neighborhood block party.
What would a similar, albeit smaller scale experiment look like in your community? You could try it (with the cooperation of transportation planners) on a temporary basis. With signage and some orange cones, you might be on the way to building community support for expanded sidewalks, fewer lanes, and space for the al fresco dining space that can bring your streets to life.
Filed under: Design, Downtown | Tagged: Design, Livable, Main Street, pedestrian, public spaces | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 20, 2009 by Department of Housing and Community Development
While reviewing some of the great action movie stunts of all times, I was steered (get it: steered?) to this short film by French New Wave auteur Claude Lelouch. While you probably don’t want to recreate this famous and wildly reckless driving scene, take eight minutes to focus on the beauty and layout of Parisian streets. For me, this is as close as I’ll get to a romantic French getaway for some time.
Notice the tree canopy throughout the city. Notice the varying widths of both sidewalks and streets. Notice that many of the long, straight thouroughfares end with a magnificent, landmark building that is framed by the buildings along the street. Notice the monuments, churches and other iconic buildings. Notice the public spaces and how they connnect. Notice the set backs and use of both residential and retail. Notice that not all the streets are really that pretty in and of themselves. Mostly, though, notice how all of these compliment each other and create a real sense of place.
After all, where else could this possibly be but Paris?
Filed under: Design, Downtown, VMS | Tagged: best practices, Design, Main Street, National Trust, Paris, Streetscape, Trees | Leave a Comment »