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 (Philly.com) — and the city is hoping for more jobs by dredging the Delaware River another 5 feet (Philly.com). 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. (Philly.com)

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).

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Abu Dhabi: The Pointe Planned on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, Great Dubai Wheel Canceled But The World’s Lebanon Island Opens

Despite warnings that Abu Dhabi’s housing market is going to dip soon, investment in Dubai seems to be slowly on the rise again.

Nakheel has announced that it’s starting construction on The Pointe, an $80 million new mixed-use development on the Palm Jumeirah islands. No timeline. (Construction Week Online)

Despite Dubai Properties Group canceling Dubailand’s Great Dubai Wheel (Hotelier Middle East), the World Island Beach Club just opened on the World’s “Lebanon island.” Though there’s literally no infrastructure, 70 percent of the islands have sold (The National and The Atlantic: Cities).

In positive sustainability news, Abu Dhabi property developer Aldar is partnering with Epic Green Solutions to reduce water use (Zawya), Bee’ah is introducing residential recycling in Sharjah (Khaleej Times) and Dubai is building a solar power plant
(The National).

Forthcoming recycling bins in Sharjah. / Photo via Khaleej Times.

Nationwide, the UAE is improving its customer service for government agencies, and last year established subsidized neighborhood food distribution centers and car transport for people with special needs (Gulf Today). Plus the UAE has the most branch campuses of any country in the world at 37, though new overseas campuses are trending to China and India (New York Times).

Elsewhere in the region…
Saudi Arabia is expanding its North-South Railway with a $600 million contract with Saudi firm Al Rashid. (Reuters) Atkins won a $100 billion contract to establish Doha, Qatar’s Central Planning Office to help plan billions in infrastructure projects (The National). BAM International is partnering with Jordanian firm MAG to build the new $65 million port in Aqaba, Jordan. (Port Technology)

The Qatari-funded “The Shard” supertall skyscraper in London is the last gasp of the heady “naughties” — big, bold and no look to the city’s past (Der Spiegel). New documentary “Zabaleen” profiles Cairo’s Coptic Christians who work informally to recycle 80 percent of the city’s waste (The Atlantic: Cities).

The Shard skyscraper looms over London. / Image via Der Spiegel.

Beyond the Middle East…
In the former USSR, Almaty, Kazakhstan has a new metro (The Atlantic: Cities) and “Russia by Rail” is NPR’s great travelogue of Trans-Siberian Railroad (NPR).

Incredible read on urban planning in Soweto, South Africa — is there any place in the world whose spatial divisions so completely reflect the racial segregation of the past 100 years? (Design Observer) Meanwhile, Cape Town is starting to figure out public space (Future Cape Town). Hopefully they can be helped by citizen cartographers, who are taking a greater stake in urban planning my mapping infrastructure (NYT).