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).


Salam Street Expressway Reopens, Improving Traffic

Big transportation news as Abu Dhabi’s Salam Street expressway finally reopened! Well…only from Hamdan (5th) to Al Falah (9th) Streets. Still, traffic has been running smoothly, and businesses and residents are happy, per The National.

Traffic on the Salam Street Expressway, via The National.

The AED 5 billion megaproject — 2 km of surface roads, 3.1 km of tunnel — is slated to fully open early next year, after four years of construction. I’m eager to see if Salam will become a “complete street” with lanes for buses, trams and bikes.

High-speed rail could help transport people too, but curiously financing it is the main problem in the GCC, according to a Construction Week, citing a report by media group Terrapinn. It’s probably more difficult to change car culture, but Saudi Arabia is building light rail and high-speed rail so it can be done.

Dubai, which already has an incredibly efficient metro, now will be getting a master plan for 2020 plus a new planning commission. (Construction Week) Perhaps they’re taking notes from Abu Dhabi’s Plan 2030, which we looked at yesterday, as the capital hosted the Spanish city of Marbella to talk about urban planning. (Zawya)

Elsewhere in the region…

There are tons of new infrastructure projects in Iraq. Baghdad’s new metro is in the early planning stages, funding for reconstruction of the historic city of Babylon and the Dutch are helping rebuild the country’s ports. (Construction Week)

In neighboring Iran, could neighborhood cinemas close? The government may end electricity subsidies. (The National) Another neighbor, Turkey, is hosting a cool photo festival in Bursa, attempting to bridge West-East divides. (NYT Lens)