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Kaid Benfield's Posts

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The EPA chooses sprawl over urban sustainability

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In defiance of the environmental values it supposedly stands for, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is moving its regional headquarters from a walkable, transit-rich, downtown Kansas City (Kan.) neighborhood to one of the worst examples of suburban sprawl it could have possibly found, some 20 miles from downtown. The result could nearly triple transportation carbon emissions associated with the facility. In addition, around 600 federal and associated civilian employees will abandon a central city at a time when the agency's own staff is writing reports suggesting that central cities in the U.S. are making a comeback. Kansas …

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Counterintelligence

Are ‘smart cities’ not as smart as they think they are?

Smart cities like Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, are all the rage. But are they intelligent in the right way?Photo: Trevor PattCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Intelligent cities" and "smart cities" are all the rage right now, especially in corporate image advertising related to emerging technology. But is there a downside? I think there may be, insofar as those phrases are used to describe tech-based panaceas for urban problems whose roots lie not in a lack of sophisticated information flow, but in a half-century or more of dumb growth patterns, central-city disinvestment, and poor neighborhood design.    Just a …

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Salt of rebirth

An arts district brings life to Syracuse — and it’s green, too

Photo: SALT District Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Coauthored by Aaron Welch. Take one part Paducah (arts-driven revitalization), one part Old North Saint Louis (incremental restoration of abandoned historic properties), mix in some serious winter weather, and you might just come out with something a lot like the Syracuse (NY) SALT District, an ambitious and fascinating arts-and-technology-driven revitalization effort. According to the project's web site, the initiative is aimed at nothing less than creating "a new epicenter of artistic and cultural development in the Syracuse and Central Upstate New York area." It is being led by the Near …

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It depends on your definition of "transit-oriented"

Residents of award-winning transit-oriented development say no to transit

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Photo: thecourtyard So much for the widely-touted concept of "transit-ready" development. The residents of an acclaimed New Urbanist village built around planned light rail (or bus rapid transit) stops have decided that they don’t actually want the transit their community was designed for. So let’s be more careful about the claims we make for master-planned suburban development, shall we? God, that paragraph sounds like something straight out of The Onion. But it’s real. The developer and designers of King Farm, a 440-acre community in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C., certainly tried to …

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local Leed-ers

Ten affordable neighborhoods-in-progress will design to LEED-ND standards under grant program

This redevelopment in South Boston's Old Colony is going to emphasize walkable streets, open spaces, and on-site renewable energy generation.Photo: Boston Redevelopment Authority Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Earlier this month the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Bank of America announced [PDF] ten inaugural grantees of the Affordable Green Neighborhoods program, which provides $25,000 in cash plus educational resources to help each project pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certification. (NRDC was a founding partner in LEED-ND along with USGBC and the Congress for the New Urbanism.) To qualify, each affordable housing …

Read more: Cities, Living

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the housing bubble's losing some weight

U.S. homes are right-sizing and greening

A rendering of what the New Economy Home might look like.Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The median size of a new single-family home in the U.S. was around 2,300 square feet in 2007, and crept up to around 2,500 by 2008. But today, the median home size has dropped to 2,100 square feet, writes Cindy Perlman in USA Today.  Are McMansions going the way of the Hummer? Not entirely, I suspect, but I do think demand for them is dropping, as the numbers suggest. Another indication that Americans are getting a bit more sensible is that the industry …

Read more: Cities, Living

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tale of new 'cities'

'Cities' may not matter as much as we think

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. I'm going to start by being deliberatively provocative: "Cities" don't matter nearly as much as we sometimes suggest. I surround the word with quotation marks, because I am talking about cities as municipalities with legal boundaries -- which is not, by the way, how most people use the word. And that's where we can get into trouble when it comes to policy. I know that's a bit over the top. Of course, cities matter. But in what sense? It is important to be careful about vocabulary and about statistics. Let me give an …

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marching in place

Rebuilding a historic neighborhood where some risked all for their humanity

King leading the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery to protest lack of voting rights for African Americans. Beside King are John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Douglas, James Forman, and Ralph Abernathy.Photo: Steve SchapiroCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the 1950s and 1960s, Montgomery, Ala. was the epicenter of the civil rights movement that changed America. Not just Montgomery, of course, and not even just the South, for that matter. But Montgomery was where a seamstress named Rosa Parks declined to surrender her seat on a bus in 1955, triggering a year-long bus boycott and, essentially, the modern civil rights …

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very stimulating news

A very impressive two weeks for the federal sustainability partnership

Atlanta was awarded $47 million for the construction of a new streetcar line. This image is one suggestion of how the project may look when completed.Image: Galounger Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In a breathtaking series of press conferences and releases along with the publication of a new report, the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities -- which is led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) -- has announced an impressive amount of federal assistance to a wide array of sustainability projects across the country. If you've been wondering …

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Building nothing out of something

Striking images of disconnected streets and unwanted sprawl

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Image: mapei Posting on boston.com, the website of The Boston Globe, Alan Taylor has presented 26 striking images of Florida sprawl, much of the development unfinished for lack of buyers, and just about all of it within a convenient walk of, well, nothing. Not that you could get there on foot anyway, given how badly disconnected many of the streets are. (Among land use characteristics, poor street connectivity is the best predictor of a neighborhood's low rate of walking, and the second best predictor of a high rate of driving.) The development above, for example, is "in" …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy