Kaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield is the Director of Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth, at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is the co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and the Smart Growth America coalition; and author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). He was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" in 2009 poll on Planetizen.com and named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Urbanism

Bringing a dead public plaza to life in Dallas

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Although it sometimes makes “ugliest building in the world” lists, I rather like I.M. Pei’s iconic Dallas City Hall, featuring his trademark architectural triangles. Photo: Chris Zúniga But I’ll grant that it is imposing. What I don’t like is the vast, forlorn “plaza” and pool that separates the city’s most important civic building from its citizenry and from the street. By all accounts, it’s six acres of dead space, except perhaps when various protests need a place to gather. “A concrete desert,” wrote Ryan Jones on the FrontBurner blog, hosted by DMagazine. “Almost …

Infrastructure

11 U.S. cities honored as ‘walk-friendly': Seattle ranks first

Seattle got the “platinum” ranking for its efforts to make the city more walkable.Photo: chrissudermanCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. After evaluating applicant communities in several categories related to walking — including safety, mobility, access, and comfort — the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) last week announced the selection of 11 Walk Friendly Communities across the U.S. They are ranked in categories of achievement, as follows: Platinum Level Seattle, Wash. Gold Level Ann Arbor, Mich. Arlington, Va. Hoboken, N.J. Santa Barbara, Calif. Silver Level Charlottesville, Va. Decatur, Ga. Bronze Level Austin, Texas Charlotte, N.C. Flagstaff, Ariz. Wilsonville, Ore. …

Sprawl

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 …

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 …

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 …

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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