Cities

The riverfront in Memphis needs help — but what kind?

May God bless Memphis, the noblest city on the face of the earth. — Mark Twain To visit Memphis, Tenn., is to visit a place that is slowly waking from a decades-long stupor. The things that define this city in the popular imagination — the glamorous life of Elvis Presley, the shocking assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. — happened decades ago. Some of the young professionals the city would like to attract weren’t even born when Dr. King and The King ended their respective reigns. But in many ways, the city still lives through that past, both economically and …

St. Louisans turn a working river into a river that works for them

“The fifth night we passed St. Louis, and it was like the whole world lit up.” — Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn As the sun rises over the city of St. Louis, an arch-shaped shadow moves eastward over the city’s bustling downtown and toward the Mississippi River, where it will leave its invisible mark until early evening. The 630-foot steel structure casting this iconic shadow over the city’s riverfront serves as a visual reminder of St. Louis’ role as a gateway for early American explorers, and of the river’s past (and no doubt future) as an invaluable means …

An Iowa river town develops a real relationship with the Mississippi

“The care of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart.” — Tanaka Shozo Arriving in Dubuque, Iowa, is a bit disorienting. After passing acres and acres of the heartland’s flat soybean and cornfields, you suddenly come upon a small city (pop. 60,000) with a surprising landscape. Gazing east to west, you see the muddy Mississippi meandering south toward New Orleans, a historic Main Street lined with 150-year-old brick buildings, and a wall of limestone bluffs covered in trees displaying the season’s majestic colors. It’s an idyllic setting for sure — but you begin to wonder …

Up and down the Mississippi, communities are reinventing their riverfronts

Gone are the days when the Mississippi River was just a shipping route and flood risk that happened to run through a city’s back yard. Increasingly, the legendary waterway is becoming recognized as a prized attraction, worthy of front-yard status. Here’s how a few communities are drawing attention to a natural feature they once shunned. St. Paul, Minn. The “mighty city on the Mississippi” is working toward a connected, thriving National Great River Park along its 17-mile riverfront, with residential areas, businesses, parkland, a public plaza, biking and walking trails, a light-rail line, and an interpretive center. La Crosse, Wisc. …

Hybrid Technologies converts gas-powered cars to electric

Obsessed with MINI Coopers but also like the idea of zero-emission electric vehicles? Have your car and drive it too: a company called Hybrid Technologies guts cars such as the MINI, smart fortwo, and PT Cruiser, and replaces their gas tanks with an electric motor and a stack of lithium batteries. Convinced? Starting in 2008, you’ll be able to buy your electric MINI at Wal-Mart — for a mere $65,000.

The next blight

Via Atrios, a preview of things to come: empty retail space in the ‘burbs. How long can something stay empty and still retain that clean, sterile look the ‘burbs are known for? How long until blight sets in?

Levittown, N.Y., aims to be first green suburb

Think the phrase “green suburb” is an oxymoron? Levittown, N.Y., begs to differ.

Financing green building and retrofits

A public policy silver bullet that’s available to fight global warming today

Steve Heckeroth’s piece "Solar is the solution" has been recommended all over the green blogosphere, first by Robert Rapier, I think. It’s great reading, but I wanted to hone in on one thing he mentions — a piece of public policy that has been woefully under-hyped. To wit: with today’s technology, we know how to make new buildings net energy generators, and we know how to retrofit existing buildings to reduce their energy consumption by well over 50%, in some cases 90-95%. We just need someone to pay for it. That, however, turns out to be the rub. An investment …

The Great Carnac I ain't

Assessing my predictions from last year

At the end of last year, I made 20 predictions for 2007. As a pundit in good standing I am, of course, unaccountable for my predictions. (How do you think we all stay employed?) Nonetheless, it’s worth looking back and seeing how the predictions panned out, drawing sweeping conclusions from the things I got right while minimizing and excusing the things I got wrong. Let’s see how I did! Al Gore will a) win an Oscar, b) announce that he is not running for president, c) continue his efforts at grassroots movement building, and d) announce plans for a sequel …

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