Skyline Stories: Philly’s Callowhill NID, Knight Foundation Art, NY Street Grid, California High Speed Rail, End of Exurbs?

Reading Viaduct may take longer to develop without the Callowhill Neighborhood Improvement District. / Image via PlanPhilly.

PHILLY’s big news is that the Callowhill Neighborhood Improvement District is likely killed, putting the Reading Viaduct redevelopment in possible limbo. Businesses were split on raising new taxes for an improvement in basic services — I think it’s shortsighted on their part but understandable with the recession (Plan Philly). Plus the Ben Franklin Bridge’s Camden-side bike ramp is being delayed (BCGP).

In better news, the Knight Foundation is funding cool news arts and culture projects — my favorites are Nuit Blanche (all-night arts festival) and the urban drive-in on the Parkway! (

Meanwhile the country’s? first net-zero energy apartment is coming to Philly — for affordable housing, no less, by Philly architects Onion Flats. ( And the Storefront for Urban Innovation is coming to Brewerytown (Next American City).

"The Greatest Grid" sheds new light on the 200th anniversary of Manhattan's street grid. / Image via MCNY.

IN NEW YORK, two great exhibits on the Manhattan street grid are at the MCNY and Architecture League. Could it be extended to Governor’s Island? One proposal for a LoLoMa (Architect’s Newspaper).

MTA’s new head Joe Lhota may be able to extend transit to LaGuardia Airport as it undergoes a $4 billion upgrade (Second Ave Sagas). Meanwhile, the city plans on doubling recycling in five years (NYLCV) and the city’s Bike Share bikes will have GPS trackers to help plan bike lanes (Streetsblog).

NATIONWIDE, the focus is on California and Detroit.

California is getting killed in urban projects — the high-speed line may not be profitable (Washington Post) though it would capture about half of the leisure travelers who currently fly (The Atlantic: Cities). Why can’t there be the push like the UK for high-speed rail with its $50 billion HS2 plan to halve travel times by 2033? (The Guardian)

Meanwhile the state’s redevelopment authorities have been abolished — they’ve had a mixed bag of funding affordable housing and stadiums (Daily KOS). And a fascinating read on the history of city-killing parking lots that envelop LA (Los Angeles Magazine).

Detroit's proposed, shortened light rail line / Image via Transport Politic.

In Detroit, there are faint hopes that the shortened light rail will be built (Streetsblog), and a great piece about destruction and nostalgia in Detroit (Design Observer).

Is it the end of the ex-urban single-family home? Grim news as more poor Americans live in suburbs than cities (Business Insider) and American rental rates are at a 10-year-low (Bloomberg). But McMansions could be subdivided for multifamilies (, and there are innovative new ways to redevelop marking lots and dead malls (NYT).

Public housing project crime (here in blue waves) disappears when towers are torn down! / Image via Atlantic Cities, Urban Institute.

Turns out that bridge tolls don’t impact the poor or very poor, probably because most don’t own cars (Publicola), giving more fuel to congestion pricing (DC Streetsblog).

Congestion pricing is only one way to make healthy cities — good neighborhoods need walkable and well-connected streets (Atlantic Cities), tear down public housing project towers because crime simply disappears (Atlantic Cities) and D.C.’s bike share data could lead to traffic analysis and solutions (Greater Greater Washington).

WORLDWIDE, urban and suburban sprawl is a big problem — failure in the state and urban planning (UN Habitat), but cities can become “smarter” with technology and sustainability (Fast Company’s Co.Exist). Finally, sad news as Infrastructurist signed off (Infrastructurist).


One thought on “Skyline Stories: Philly’s Callowhill NID, Knight Foundation Art, NY Street Grid, California High Speed Rail, End of Exurbs?

  1. What a great run-down of urban news! You can bet I’ll be following you.

    To the comment: Looks as if bike sharing programs will pay off in unexpected ways in New York and Washington. I’ve concluded that looking at where bicyclists go now, where they pause and look perplexed, and noticing when they go out of their way are good clues as to where faciliteis should be made safer, more barrier-free, or more direct.

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