Skyline Stories: Philly’s Central Delaware Master Plan Wins AIA Award, Casinos, CA’s RDA’s Cut, TIGER Grants

Master Plan for the Central Delaware won the 2012 AIA's Honor Award for Regional & Urban Design / Image via PlanPhilly.

In PHILLY… big day as the City Planning Commission approved the Zoning Map Revision Plan, establishing the city’s first zoning revisions in 50 years, in tandem with a 5-year process of remapping each district (PlanPhilly).

The citizen-designed Central Delaware Master Plan won the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s Honor Award (PlanPhilly). Philly’s GIS system is one of the top in the country (Technically Philly).

PennDOT archaeologists uncover historic Dyottville Glass Works during I-95 excavations. / Image via PlanPhilly.

Nearly 50 Philly Catholic schools are closing — and developers are salivating ( — and the city is hoping for more jobs by dredging the Delaware River another 5 feet ( Thought I-95’s expansion will continue to block access to the river, archaeological work has discovered the soon-to-be-demolished Dyotville Glass Works in Kensington (PlanPhilly).

Why do cities continue to bet their futures on casinos? So much competition for decreasing profits. Atlantic City is hoping more casinos will push it forward, while Delaware hopes to protect its casinos. (

Nationwide, cities are pushing neighborhood livability — in Baltimore’s Downtown (Baltimore Sun), Washington D.C.’s The Yards (Atlantic Cities) and even Detroit, and offering housing stipends via the city (Nightly Business Report). Powerful video of Detroit’s scrappers, who melt down copper to sell to China…who sells it back to the U.S. Stayed tuned for the upcoming film “Detropia” (NYT). Cities are also trying to rethink their local and regional economies largely without federal help (Atlantic Cities).

Less than 10 percent of the nation’s metropolitan areas have recovered the jobs they have lost since the recession. Of the largest metro areas, Houston is the only one that has returned to pre-recession levels. / Image via NYT.

But cities are far from positive — less than 10 percent of metropolitan areas have recovered jobs (NYT), and California axed its redevelopment authorities (Atlantic Cities) and lots of departures from its High Speed Rail Authority (Systemic Failure). I’m on the fence about the RDA’s, sure they rebuilt inner cities with affordable housing, but also invested in neighborhood-killers like stadiums; and can’t their activities can be folded into more transparent city or state agencies?

TWA NYC 1960's. / Image via Atlantic Cities.

Improving transit infrastructure is the big theme this week, especially in the Southeast where a study finds the link between driving and obesity (Planetizen). But the new TIGER grants’ only urban project in the South is improving capacity for Charlotte’s light rail line. Chicago is the big winner with $20 million for overhauling the Blue Line tracks and expanding bike share. Philly gets $10 million for traffic signal upgrades (DOT [PDF]). Speaking of bike share, how cool would it be to have a card that could work on any system in the country? (Streetsblog)

Interstate system as a metro map. / Image via Atlantic Cities.

Cool maps and images:

• In New York, its ghost subway system WNYC and The City That Never Was (Untapped Cities), which reminds me of Skyscraper Museum’s 2007 “New York Modern” exhibit with Hugh Ferris drawings (Skyscraper Museum) Plus Project Neon (Untapped Cities) complements the New York Neon Blog (New York Neon).

• Federal highways as a metro (Atlantic Cities) and every tree in the country (Inhabitat). Paris’ RER-B line as the Eiffel Tower (Transit Maps) and the periodic table of city planning elements (Stephens Planning). Plus cool TWA posters from 1960’s — the best is Times Square (Atlantic Cities)

Paris RER B as Eiffel Tower. / Image via Transit Maps.

• Cool uses of citizen cartography (BMW Guggenheim Lab), but navigating the city with mental maps is more complicated than you’d think (Atlantic Cities).

Finally, architecture firm Perkins and Will has a new Transparency database to evaluate the health effects of construction materials (Urban Omnibus) and China is officially urbanized! It was 10 percent only 60 years ago (Atlantic Cities).


Abu Dhabi: Guggenheim concrete bids recalled, Etihad Rail awards contracts, UAE pavilion arrives.

Rough week for construction in Abu Dhabi — TDIC recalled the concrete bids for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, likely pushing the opening date past 2013. (The National)

A computer rendering of the Guggenheim Museum on Saadiyat Island. Its 2013 opening is likely delayed. / Image via The National.

The emirate was also named the worst construction market in the GCC, according to investment bank Arqaam Capital. (Construction Week) I don’t understand how, since all over the city there’s new construction of houses, hotels and malls.

Maybe the slow sales Sorouh’s mini-city on Al Reem Island — capable of housing an astounding 200,000 people — are indicative of the downtrend. (Construction Week) Rents are finally dropping in Abu Dhabi — or at least in the suburbs? — as 50,000 more homes are slated to be built by 2013. (The National) More developers like Emaar in Dubai seem to be focusing on affordable housing. (Construction Week).

The UAE Pavilion, at its new location on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. / Image via Construction Week.

Still, it’s not all bad news. Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council won an international award for excellence. (Zawya), the UAE’s golden dune-like Shanghai Expo pavilion by Foster and Partners is now on Saadiyat Island (Construction Week), Siemens broke ground on its Masdar City headquarters, slated to be completed by 2013 (Construction Week) and Sharjah hopes to turn its Souq Al Arsa into a UNESCO World Heritage Site (The National).

Transportation news is strong too — Etihad Rail awarded the $3 billion contracts to Dodsal Engineering and Construction, and Italian firms Saipem and Technimont and their northern freight rail network is slated to be done by 2014. (Construction Week)

Elsewhere in the region…
Qatar is spending $150 billion on infrastructure over the next 5 years, in the build up to the 2020 World Cup. They’ve started construction on Doha’s Festival City. And now they’re investing in Egyptian luxury accommodations. (Construction Week)

Oman is heavily investing in infrastructure and luxury tourism to sextuple its tourism from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 12 million visitors in 2020. (Construction Week)

In the Levant, could public space with more parks and room for pedestrians improve life in Amman, Jordan? (Tareeq) In Lebanon, Beirut could use more mass transit to relieve traffic. (Mashallah News)