As Jane Jacobs so eloquently described it in The Death and Life of American Cities, much of the essence of urban living is reflected in the “sidewalk ballet” of people going about their daily errands, wandering along the margins of public spaces (streets, sidewalks, parks and squares) and in and out of quasi-private spaces (stores, salons, bars, boutiques, bars and restaurants).

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Clusters of these quasi-private spaces, which are usually neighborhood businesses, activate a streetscape, both drawing life from and adding to a steady flow of people outside.

In an effort to begin to quantify this key aspect of neighborhood vitality, we’ve developed a new statistical indicator—the Storefront Index (click to see the full report)—that measures the number and concentration of customer-facing businesses in the nation’s large metropolitan areas.


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Party for Public Space and Places

We know placemaking isn’t a “new” term. But nothing prepared us for this…

An archaeological team recently uncovered a lost city within a site believed to be over 600 years old, revealing structural foundations from public places like plazas and squares, and evidence of a very social civilization.  Dug up alongside decorative bowls and animal remains, several large cryptic stone etchings were also found.  After extensive study, experts believe that the markings on these petroglyphs read “Start with the petunias.”

h/t  Project for Public Spaces


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Affordable Housing, Berlin style



Berlin has become the first city in Germany in which effective legislation has come into force in a bid to put the breaks on some of the fastest rising rents in Europe.  From Monday, landlords in the capital will be barred from increasing rents by more than 10% above the local average. Such controls were already in place for existing tenants but have now been extended to new contracts.

“The rent ceiling is very important for Berlin because the difference between the rent paid in existing contracts and new contracts is so high,” said Reiner Wild, managing director of the Berlin Tenants’ Association. “The other problem is that we have 40,000 more inhabitants per year. Because of this situation the housing market is very strong.”

Berlin is pioneering the rent cap after the national parliament approved the law, aimed at areas with housing shortages, in March…


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Land Banks – a How To…

Land Banks and Land Banking Cover(1)
Land banking is one of many tools that can be used to
address vacant and abandoned properties. As its title suggests,
this publication is focused squarely on land banks. But it
also highlights the many important links between this tool
and other systems that govern the use and reuse of land,
including, perhaps most critically, property tax enforcement.
In addition, it explores in what context a land bank is likely
to be most impactful and when a community might be
better served looking to other tools, entities, or strategies.
Indeed, one of the most valuable lessons contained in this
edition is the recognition that each community’s challenge
is a little different and that the first step in any community’s
fight against vacancy and blight must be to understand and
diagnose the problem. Only then will it become clear which
tools or strategies, including land banking, need to be part of
the solution.
Communities that are considering the creation of a land bank
and communities that are looking to improve the operations
of an existing land bank would both do well to spend time
studying these pages:

The “Forgotten” Father of Greater New York: Andrew Haswell Green

MCNY Blog: New York Stories

November 13, 1903. An 83 year old man leaves his office at 214 Broadway and gets on the Fourth Avenue street car by City Hall to join his nieces for lunch at his home. At 38th Street and Park Avenue, he disembarks the car and walks toward his house at 91 Park Avenue, a mere three houses away from the station. At his front gate, a man rushes at him, accusing the older man of turning a woman’s affection against him. (For a highly dramatic take on the confrontation read the opening of this Daily News article.) A passer-by hears the older man shout, “Who are you anyway? I don’t know you! Get away from me!” Five shots are fired, and the older man falls dead, right inside of the gate to his property. The shooter stands over the body with his revolver, his shoulders heaving, but his feet rooted…

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There Will Be No Tall (Seaport) Tower

Save Our Seaport

[Download Press Release]

New York, NY (November 6, 2015) – “There will be no tall (Seaport) tower on the New Market site ”says an Howard Hughes Corporation (“HHC”) spokeswoman.

“That is not happening.”      (As quoted in Thursday’s New York Post).

Save Our Seaport’s Michael Kramer said that the grassroots group was encouraged by today’s announcement.  “Both the Seaport Working Group and Manhattan Community Board One have strongly opposed inappropriate development at the historic Old Fish Market site. We echo their call to extend the South Street Seaport Historic District to include the New Market Building, that further there be no “tower” on that site, and ask for a Master Planning Process to find a way to re-use this unique structure and its location to honor its maritime history with a water dependent or enhancing use.”

David Sheldon of Save Our Seaport added: “there is a certain sense of…

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Hunters Point South

Deep Dive into the Hunters Point South Project
Friday October 16, 2015 5:30 pm-8:00 pm
Archtober Hall @
159 John Street, South Street Seaport

The Harbor and The Hudson Class Blog

Hunters Point South is the future site of the largest affordable housing project since the 1970’s. The proposals for development include up to 5000 housing units, parks, bike lanes, beaches, a high school, retail space, a kayak launch and much more. The full plan can be seen here: Plans

The total area that is proposed for all this development is 30 acres of water front land, that is bordered by the East River and New Town Creek. This past Friday the 17th of September, many construction companies bid for the large scale project, which will be highly subsidized by the city, because of the plans to designate 60% of the housing for low-middle income families. The construction is to take place in two stages, but there is still no estimate for the final date of completion.
This project is intended to stimulate the economy in the area, and among other…

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Los Angeles: False, Bogus, and Wonderful


“Because LA’s urban history is so compressed I’m really interested in what it can show us about how authenticity and artifice mix. And it all has to do with how we end up using that stuff.

We start using that mall as a street, it becomes a street even if its developer didn’t intend for it to be a street. We are ultimately the ones who determine what its use is.” — David L. Ulin

New Book: Sidewalking

Moshe Safdie, Global Citizen


Over the course of his 50+ year career, Moshe Safdie has realized the desires and aspirations of a wide range of different communities—and people—he serves, while also confronting the broader challenges of urban life. An exhibition of his varied international projects, currently showing at New York City’s National Academy on the Upper East Side, explores his distinctive work. The re-envisioned exhibition explores in particular what it means to create livable urban spaces, an aspect of Moshe’s career that stretches from his famous Habitat ’67 to the Yad Vashem holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and that he is now addressing with renewed vigor in today’s increasingly populous global cities.