The Suburb That Tried To Kill the Car – By T.R. GOLDMAN October 2015


What Works

Evanston was failing as a suburb, so it reinvented itself as a mini city. Now the city of Chicago wants to follow its lead.

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At first glance, downtown Evanston, Illinois, doesn’t look revolutionary—just another a gentrifying urban core with the obligatory Whole Foods, the local organic sustainable restaurants serving $14 cocktails, the towering new, high-end luxury apartments filled with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. The booming downtown feels increasingly hip; this summer it was featured as a “Surfacing” destination in the New York Times Travel Section. “I have everything here,” says Joanne McCall, pausing one evening on her way inside Sherman Plaza, a soaring, 26-story condominium building. “The post office, the dry cleaner, the movies, I work out upstairs, the Whole Foods is over there, the hair dresser over here. And the Uber thing is getting big here.”

It takes, in fact, a few extra minutes in the neighborhood to realize what’s different—and what’s missing. Downtown Evanston—a sturdy, tree-lined Victorian city wedged neatly between Lake Michigan and Chicago’s northern border—is missing cars. Or, more accurately, it’s missing a lot of cars. Thanks to concerted planning, these new developments are rising within a 10-minute walk of two rail lines and half-a-dozen bus routes. The local automobile ownership rate is nearly half that of the surrounding area.

Which again, may sound like so many other gentrifying urban areas. Who owns a car in Brooklyn, after all? But Evanston isn’t Park Slope—the city, now 75,000 strong, is quintessentially a suburb, somewhere to escape the density of nearby Chicago, a place to get extra room and, especially, a place to drive your car, jetting down Lake Shore Drive or the Edens Expressway to the Windy City. The houses in Evanston were so idyllic, in fact, that filmmakers came to use it as the beau ideal of postwar suburban life—it was where Hollywood came to film all-American suburban movies like Sixteen CandlesDennis the MenaceUncle Buck, and both Home Alone 2 and Home Alone 3.

And the whole point of the suburbs, reinforced by decades of local zoning laws and developers’ plans for a car-centric lifestyle, was that you weren’t supposed to live on top of your neighbor, that there was supposed to be plenty of parking everywhere you went and that you weren’t supposed to walk anywhere.

But Evanston had a different idea: What if a suburban downtown became a place where pedestrians ruled and cars were actively discouraged? As it turns out, what looks like normal urban gentrification actually marks the success of one of the most revolutionary suburbs in America. And its approach to development is fast becoming a model across the region—a model even embraced by its urban neighbor to the south, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Evanston, Chicago and their neighbors all now want to attract more people like Tyler Hauck, 27, who pays $2,200 a month for his 1½ bedroom apartment, which he says is “definitely a high-end” building close to one of the region’s transit lines. “On the neighborhood list serve, people say things like ‘You’re paying all this money and you don’t have room for a car?’”

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Urban density got a bad rap sometime in the mid-19th century—nobody found any redeeming value in the overcrowded Victorian slums of London—and by the beginning of the 20th century, the Englishman Ebenzer Howard’s concept of the “Garden City,” a series of outlying satellite villages to a larger, established central city, became the dogma of city planners around the world.

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8 CITIES THAT SHOW YOU WHAT THE FUTURE WILL LOOK LIKE


Cities used to grow by accident. Sure, the location usually made sense—someplace defensible, on a hill or an island, or somewhere near an extractable resource or the confluence of two transport routes. But what happened next was ad hoc. The people who worked in the fort or the mines or the port or the warehouses needed places to eat, to sleep, to worship. Infrastructure threaded through the hustle and bustle—water, sewage, roads, trolleys, gas, electricity—in vast networks of improvisation. You can find planned exceptions: Alexandria, Roman colonial towns, certain districts in major Chinese cities, Haussmann’s Paris. But for the most part it was happenstance, luck, and layering the new on top of the old.

At least, that’s the way things worked for most of human history. But around the second decade of the 20th century, things changed. Cities started to happen on purpose. Beginning with New York City’s zoning laws in 1916, development began to occur by commission, not omission. Laws and regulations dictated the shape of the envelope. Functional decisions determined aesthetic outcomes—not always for the best.

So let’s jump to now: A century, plus or minus, after human beings started putting their minds toward designing cities as a whole, things are getting good. High tech materials, sensor networks, new science, and better data are all letting architects, designers, and planners work smarter and more precisely. Cities are getting more environmentally sound, more fun, and more beautiful. And just in time, because today more human beings live in cities than not.

In this year’s design issue, we’re telling the stories of some of those projects, from the detail of a new streetlight to a sacred city in flux, from masterful museums to infrastructure made for bikes (and the algorithms that run it all). The cities of tomorrow might still self-assemble haltingly, but done right, the process won’t be accidental. A city shouldn’t just happen anymore. Every block, every building, every brick represents innumerable decisions. Decide well, and cities are magic. —Adam Rogers

http://www.wired.com/2015/09/design-issue-future-of-cities/

The Construction Industry Struggles to Rebuild its Worker Ranks – By KRIS HUDSON Sep 11, 2015


While debate rages on about whether demand or supply factors are more to blame for the sluggish home-construction recovery, most industry observers and participants agree on at least one point: Construction labor is in short supply.

Scant availability of skilled construction workers has hampered home construction at various times in the past few years of recovery. But the shortfall seems to have grown more acute of late, as new-home sales are up 21.2% so far this year from the same period last year and commercial construction has increased steadily.

Construction employment isn’t quite keeping pace with that rebound, and workers with certain skills, such as carpenters and sheet-metal installers, are hard to find.

“We are finding a greater failure rate of subcontractors in the industry because they are not able to hire the skilled workers that they need,” said John Finch, chief executive of PBG Builders Inc. in Goodlettsville, Tenn., on a conference call with media on Thursday organized by the Associated General Contractors of America. “That’s resulting in some budget issues and work that has to be redone.”

The Associated General Contractors, the largest U.S. construction-industry association, on Thursday released the results of its survey of 1,358 construction firms about their perspectives on the labor market. Of the respondents, 86% reported difficulty filling jobs for hourly craft workers and salaried supervisors and specialists.

Asked which hourly workers are hardest to find and hire, 73% of respondents cited carpenters, 65% mentioned sheet-metal installers and 63% said concrete workers. In terms of salaried and management employees, 55% of respondents said project managers and supervisors are scarce, 43% mentioned estimating professionals and 34% cited engineers.

 

Oil-trading legend Andy Hall thinks everyone is dead wrong about one big thing – Akin Oyedele Sept 4 2015


crude oil spewing

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Andy Hall, hedge fund boss and the so-called god of oil trading thinks the market is wrong about how “oversupplied” the oil market is, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg.

Crude oil prices crashed 60% from highs last year, rebounded for a few months this year, and then tumbled into a bear market.

Many in the oil market attributed the collapse to a market that was heavily oversupplied.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, crude oil stocks are currently near an 80-year high.

But as Bloomberg’s Simone Foxman and Saijel Kdishan report, Hall’s most recent letter to clients said, “the world, whilst moderately oversupplied, is not awash in oil.”

Hall’s Astenbeck Capital Management hedge fund was, however, crushed by the ugly downturn in oil prices two months ago and lost about 17% in July — its second-largest loss ever. The fund was flat in August.

According to Bloomberg, Hall said in his latest note to clients there’s still room to store about 200 million barrels of oil, adding that current prices reflect a “worst case scenario.”

Again, official data from the EIA show that US crude stockpiles have definitively surged within the past year, though it seems that Hall doesn’t think this as dire a signal for the market as current prices reflect.

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/andy-hall-on-oil-market-oversupply-2015-9

 

Some Moved On, Some Moved In And Made A New New Orleans – Greg Allen AUGUST 26, 2015 4:28 PM ET


hurricane katrina: 10 years of recovery and reflection

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans today is smaller than when the storm hit, with 110,000 fewer people than the nearly half-million who had lived there. But the city’s recovery is a story that varies with each neighborhood. In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward, many residents never returned. Others, like the French Quarter, have seen many newcomers and now have more households than they did in 2005.

In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward (bottom), many residents never returned after Hurricane Katrina. Others, like the French Quarter (top), have seen an influx of newcomers.

In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward (bottom), many residents never returned after Hurricane Katrina. Others, like the French Quarter (top), have seen an influx of newcomers.

David Gilkey/NPR

With new residents, a different mix of people now calls the city home than before the storm. Proportionately, the number of whites has risen while the number of black residents has gone down. There are 100,000 fewer black residents in New Orleans than before Katrina. African-Americans now account for less than 60 percent of the population. That’s down from two-thirds.

And that has changed the culture of the city. “You can’t even hear the same dialect that you used to hear,” says Stan Norwood, a barber and leader of a community group in the Freret neighborhood. After spending so much time in Houston after evacuating during Katrina, Norwood says he’s even lost some of the city’s distinctive drawl. “The drag? The New Orleans drag? It’s hard to find,” he says.

After Katrina, Norwood says, many elderly were unable to return to flooded homes. Because the schools were in disarray, some families with children moved to other cities and decided to stay. Others found, even with federal assistance, they didn’t have enough to return and rebuild. And now, Norwood says, those who still want to return to the old neighborhood find houses have been priced out of reach. “Put it like this,” he says. “If you don’t own a property by now and you’re originally from this city and you’re from Uptown and you haven’t had one by now, your chances of getting one are slim to none.”

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http://www.npr.org/2015/08/26/434288564/some-moved-on-some-moved-in-and-made-a-new-new-orleans

“For far too long, people of color have been at the bottom of the pile”: Why black churches are embracing the clean energy revolution


Rev. Ambrose Carroll explains why black churches are moving to the forefront of the environmental justice movement

"For far too long, people of color have been at the bottom of the pile": Why black churches are embracing the clean energy revolution

Low-income and communities of color are on the front lines of climate change. They have, for that matter, been disproportionately shouldering the burden of our reliance on dirty energy since the beginning: nearly 40 percent of the people living and breathing in the vicinity of coal-fired power plants are people of color; not unrelatedly, asthma rates for African Americans are 35 percent higher than they are for Caucasians.

Fighting climate change, and the energy revolution that doing so requires, is for many such communities a question of environmental justice. It’s also, Rev. Abrose Carroll tells Salon, an incredible opportunity.

Carroll is the founder of Green the Church, a movement that’s “tapping into the power and purpose of the black church” as a moral and social leader on climate issues. It’s a project of Green for All, the organization founded by Van Jones to promote a renewable energy economy while simultaneously lifting people out of poverty, by empowering them to become a part of that charge.

This past week, African American faith leaders from around the country gathered for a three-day summit in Chicago. In the lead-up to the gathering, Salon spoke with Ambrose about why the climate movement needs the black church — and how the black community is poised to benefit from the changes our planet so desperately requires. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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http://www.salon.com/2015/08/23/for_far_too_long_people_of_color_have_been_at_the_bottom_of_the_pile_why_black_churches_are_embracing_the_clean_energy_revolution/