Cities

Placemakers

Tim Halbur on sprawl, propaganda, and Obama’s approach to urban issues

This marks the first of a series of interviews with people working to make U.S. communities smarter, greener spaces. Got a suggestion for an interviewee? Send it our way or leave it in the comments section below. Tim Halbur’s career has included a stint as a journalist for NPR, co-producer of an environmental-justice driving tour of California’s I-5, and founder of an online media production company whose clients ranged from HarperCollins to the American Institute of Architects. With a masters in urban and regional planning, Tim puts his obsession to work every day as managing editor of Planetizen, which recently …

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

Neighborhood stores: An overlooked strategy for fighting global warming

Our new neighborhood fresh food market.What I find most striking about my mother-in-law’s memories of the neighborhood where I live, and where she spent her childhood in the 1940s, is how many businesses our little residential section of town once boasted. Back then, there was a grocery store, hardware store, barber shop, two drugstores, a tailor, and several corner stores. Those businesses all disappeared in the following decades, as the streetcar lines were dismantled, families acquired cars, and shopping migrated out to supermarkets and, later, malls and big-box stores. At the low point, my neighborhood hosted little more than a …

Legs Dimin'

Would you pay more for walkability? Should you?

The Truth About … via flickrForget letting your fingers do the walking: A study released today shows that homebuyers are letting their wallets do the walking, paying more for homes in neighborhoods where you can get around without wheels. Conducted by CEOs for Cities, the analysis looked at 94,000 real-estate transaction in 15 markets across the U.S., from Fresno, Calif., to Arlington, Va. Researchers found that in 13 of the markets, housing values were higher in more walkable neighborhoods. (What about the other two markets? In Bakersfield, Calif., no correlation was found; in the other, which starts with Las Vegas …

Oh, those pesky existential questions!

Puppies and bunnies and carnivorous eco-curmudgeons

Carl M via flickrThose of you following our last post (Should Kuba Have a Puppy?) can see that both votes and comments on this question are running 9 to 1 in favor of the gratification of pet ownership. This is even though eco-curmudgeon Ken has made the point, with hard statistics, that keeping domestic animals essentially ensures the death of wild creatures that we would all heartily agree to preserve (indirectly, through habitat loss and overuse of resources). So what? Well, the JP Green House is meant to be a demonstration project. We aim to build a zero-carbon house on …

Block party

Obama admin teams with grassroots groups to ‘Green the Block’

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus, discusses the Green the Block partnership. In the background (L-R) are Dept. of Energy Undersecretary Kristina Johnson, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Kate Sheppard / GristEnsuring that low-income communities and minority youth benefit from green jobs programs is the goal of a new partnership between the White House and two grassroots organizations — Hip Hop Caucus and Green For All. Two Cabinet members and leaders of the grassroots groups unveiled the Green the Block initiative Tuesday at a White House press …

Sprawling Over the Past

Alabama city destroying ancient Indian mound for Sam’s Club

City leaders in Oxford, Ala. have approved the destruction of a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and are using the dirt as fill for a new Sam’s Club, a retail warehouse store operated by Wal-Mart. A University of Alabama archaeology report commissioned by the city found that the site was historically significant as the largest of several ancient stone and earthen mounds throughout the Choccolocco Valley. But Oxford Mayor Leon Smith — whose campaign has financial connections to firms involved in the $2.6 million no-bid project — insists the mound is not man-made and was used only to “send smoke …

It's crafty all right

Is this a green home?

I’m thinking about reporting on this house as an example of sensible environmental design reproducible for the masses. Can anyone help me decide? This is a press release (emphasis mine): We handle parenting author, environmentalist, and “The Crafty Mom” Mary Lyon who recently built her 6,700 square foot spectacular “green” home in Brentwood, California. Below is some info on this amazing house, which Mary describes as “The Jetsons meets the Flintstones.” … Parenting author, environmentalist, and “The Crafty Mom,” Mary Lyon recently built her “green” house. The 6,700 square foot three-story passive solar home (including a basement) is equipped with …

Heating the JP Green House with a hairdryer

The amazing promise and many challenges of passivhaus construction

I’m in decent shape for 52, but it took everything I had to carry a hefty piece of welded steel plate out of the backyard — and I didn’t place it any too gently on the curb when I got it there. So I was impressed when John from Blue Scrap & Recycling casually flipped the hunk of metal into his truck without apparent effort. John suggested we ought to give him a call when we have more demo work. “We’re used to moving heavy stuff around,” he said. “Plaster and wood, that’s kid’s stuff.” Even so, it took John …

...or, how we fight over the kids, housework, and money like everyone else!

Love in a time of cataclysm

Wanted: Experienced couples therapist, preferably also with degrees in theology and law, for fractious, passionate pair riddled with apocalyptic anxiety, burdened with love for their children (all of them), acutely conscious of the finitude of time and resources, and fearful that the world has gone mad. Must take insurance. Everyone told us that building a house could wreck a relationship. And we knew it was true. The rehab of a beautiful old house in Hull had been one of the final blows to Ken’s marriage. I spent part of my childhood living in one room with my family of five, …

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