Skyline Stories: Philly’s Dilworth Plaza, Death of Coney Island, Beijing’s Failed Historic Preservation

IN PHILLY…the long-anticipated groundbreaking for the renovation of the dreary 1960’s-era Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall! The $50 million renovation is being coordinated by the Center City District, with partial funding from the DOT’s TIGER grants, and is being designed by Philly firm Kieran Timberlake, Urban Engineers and landscape architects OLIN. In 2014, there will be better access to the subways, plus a fountain/ice rink, lawn and cafe. Unfortunately, SEPTA’s $100-200 million renovation of the stations seems in doubt (Center City District).

Could Pier 9’s parking lot could hold the original Philadelphia shoreline from the 1600’s? (PlanPhilly) For the adjacent Ben Franklin Bridge, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) approved $350,000 to design the bridge’s new bike ramp; construction scheduled to start in 2013-2014 (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia).

Lots of hope for regeneration — from the distant hopes that a Casino Tourist District to resurrect Atlantic City (Philly.com), to an Inky billboard reviving Market East (NYT) to the long-shuttered Cubist? Tioga Theater being restored! (Hidden City). Meanwhile two fascinating TEDx-Philly videos on networking cities with Jennifer Pahlka (PlanPhilly) and mapping experiences with Amy Hillier (TEDx Philly).

Thor's Coney Island: Stillwell Avenue side of Joe Sitt's sterile and suburban looking new building in the new Coney Island. / Image via Amusing the Zillion and Tricia Vita.

IN NEW YORK…I never thought I’d write this, but the suburbanization of Coney Island has arrived (Amusing the Zillion). At least there are some relics of the past in Times Square (Forgotten NY). Twenty years after the Crown Heights riots, the neighborhood is in the path of being gentrified…for better or worse NYT).

Times Square’s pedestrianization seems to have ripple effect across the city, as developers are gobbling up parking lots — and not replacing the parking spaces (NYT). Intriguing study on taxi trips — they add to transit, not replace it! But if transit was more frequent and faster transit, then wouldn’t New York need fewer taxis like in European cities? (Atlantic Cities). Meanwhile a study shows that neighborhoods with higher crime cause people to walk less, but also take transit more (Mineta Transportation Institute).

Exciting times for sustainability in the city — Columbia has mapped energy use building-by-building (Solar One), tidal energy comes to Roosevelt Island (NYLCV) and new studies could play an important role in bringing urban agriculture into green infrastructure (Urban Omnibus). Watch for an upcoming film on Jamaica Bay, from my former Queens Chronicle editor Dan Hendrick (Queens Chronicle), and a fascinating interview with Michael Van Valkenburgh, the landscape architect who designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, on how he used topography to break the Manhattan grid (BMW Guggenheim Lab).

Plus a powerful photo essay on Cambodians in the Bronx
(Magnum Emergency Fund), and a cool audio-visual project by Benjamin Norman, tracing a year in New York with his iPhone (Milk Made).

NATIONWIDE… everyone is talking about redeveloping suburbs. Their built environment is literally killing us (NYT: Well) and developers are wondering how to redevelop around dead or dying strip malls (Atlantic Cities). Houston (of all cities) is adding green space with its Buffalo Bayou plan (Atlantic Cities), One Bay Area’s “Plan Bay Area” project hopes to make similar improvements (One Bay Area) and Boston is redeveloping the former Herald newspaper site on the waterfront (Boston.com),

Meanwhile, the Rails to Trails Conservancy published a groundbreaking study showing that people do walk and bike in rural America — in time for the hopes of restoring non-car money in the federal transportation budget (Streetsblog: DC). In transit news, high-occupancy toll lanes have reduced congestion but disappointingly not increased transit use (Atlantic Cities), but GPS tracking could improve transit (). Florida may have rejected high-speed rail, but Ft. Lauderdale is getting a downtown streetcar (Sun-Sentinel)

The USDA’s food desert map is a great idea — but with only a handful of Philly and New York City Census tracts showing food deserts, then how is it being measured? (USDA) Glad that it’s “the end of the segregated century” of American cities — but as the country re-urbanizes, could it swing back in the next 50 years? (Manhattan Institute) Could downtown cinemas hold the key to downtown rejuvenation? UCLA’s Film and TV Archive is now showing weekly films at the beautiful Million Dollar Theater (UCLA). The Architectural League announced its Emerging Voices awards (Architecture League)

Preservationists in Beijing awoke last weekend to find that the house of the famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin had been reduced to rubble. / Photo via NYT.

INTERNATIONALLY… China may have had its “Penn Station moment” of pushing for historic preservation, as Beijing destroyed the house of famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin (NYT). Meanwhile Indian cities are offering possibilities for low-carbon footprints (India Times), but are those too late for the rapidly growing Pearl River Delta mega-region of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, with 55 million people? (New Geography)

In Northern Ireland, Belfast is building a new museum for the Titanic in the shipyard neighborhood where it was built, opening for the 100th anniversary of its fated voyage next year (BBC), and Seville, Spain’s massive mushroom-shaped public art thing is actually successful? (Atlantic Cities)

Emotional mapping and the city — can the built environment improve residents’ moods?
BMW Guggenheim Lab A new study finds happy cities are beautiful, clean, safe and have safe drinking water Atlantic Cities. Maybe the real secret is building beautiful bookstores? (Flavorwire) I’ve only been to Paris’ Shakespeare and Co.

Cool look at maps from Frank Jacobs of the Strange Maps blog: South Sudan expects to re-plan its two biggest cities in the shape of animals, entering the obscure but fascinating field of cartozoology! Plus the never-built “Sham Paris” during World War II, and the notorious land octopus

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Skyline Stories: Philly Pop. Growth, Old New York Being Destroyed, Tactical Urbanism, Las Vegas Revival?, Paris UX

DVRPC forecasts 11 percent population growth by 2040. / Image via PlanPhilly.

IN PHILLY… Great news as the Philadelphia metro region is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2040, including Philly gaining 7 percent, rising to 1.6 million, according to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). Of course, these long-term predictions are simply educated guesses, and it seems odd that the most growth would not be near transit. Check out the DVRPC’s cool interactive map (PlanPhilly) and (DVRPC).

Franklin Mint site redevelopment. / Image via Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance.

Lots of rezoning and master plans in the works — for the Lower Schuylkill and the Lower South and western Fairmount Park (PlanPhilly). Meanwhile, the new urbanist Delaware County town replacing the Franklin Mint site has been down-scaled from 3 million to 1 million sq ft, though will develop SEPTA’s Wawa commuter rail station and include a conference center and hotel (Delco News Network).

But not everything is great with development — the Inky architectural critic Inga Saffron writes about the “student slum” in Powelton Village (Philly.com), which is later accompanied by a map that proves she’s right (Policy Map). And Curbed Philly opens, featuring former City Paper columnist Liz Spikol as editor (Curbed Philly).

IN NEW YORK… tragic news as Kodak filed for bankruptcy. The city of Rochester too has suffered the same downward spiral, after “urban renewal” in the 1960’s gutted the city (Atlantic Cities).

Hollywood Theater from the 1920's. / Image via HuffPo and Kevin Shea Adams.

Old New York places are being closed and/or destroyed — the former Hollywood Theater (HuffPo), Bleecker Bob’s record store and newer music venue Southpaw
(NYT), Washington Height’s Coliseum Theater (Daily News). In Brooklyn, it’s J.J.’s Navy Yard (Vanishing New York) and possibly the port culture of Red Hook (NYT).

At least the Seaport Museum is resurrected by MCNY (NYT). In Brooklyn, its downtown skyscraper historic district was approved (NYT CityRoom) and take a tour of cool Floyd Bennett Field (Floyd Bennett Field).

Why is New York still going for two convention centers? It’s a no-win situation (Atlantic Cities and Next American City). Thinking smaller seems better — like in the Bronx, with No Longer Empty has a cool mission of site-specific art and community revitalization with the Andrew Freedman House (Urban Omnibus). Travel back to the Bronx in the 1980’s with En Foco, the borough’s Latino photo group (NYT Lens Blog). Could installing solar panels on school roofs hold the key to green jobs? (Scott Stringer)

NATIONWIDE… this smaller-faster-cheaper-better system of street makeovers is also called “tactical urbanism” (Miller-McCune), and a new term “Pop-Up Hoods” (Fast Company).

New report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking shows that spending on bike and pedestrian improvements yields huge dividends, but the country’s car culture is hard to change. More than 1/4 of all trips are less than 1 mile, but 2/3 of them are by car (Alliance for Biking and Walking). Turns out that Washington D.C. is the second-best city for both (TBD). On street-bike parking holds promise (StreetFilms).

Walkable downtowns, which pay more taxes than suburban strip malls (DC Streetsblog), can also be created by retrofitting old buildings (Atlantic Cities). Shouldn’t most cities just use street grids? (Great American Grid)

When you look at New York, the central spine of Broadway leaps out at you. But the other big spines are telling as well: They conform to subway lines. In New York, neighborhoods truly live and die by the subway. / Image via Fast Company.

But even with new urbanist ideals, can Las Vegas’ downtown be revived by Zappos’ CEO — with no background in urban planning? Why not let citizens participate? (Fortune Magazine) At least Vegas has affordable housing. (Atlantic Cities) But it and southern cities are heading towards huge droughts (Atlantic Cities). LA’s small farms, dating to the 1910’s, are fading (LA Times). Bad news for California high speed rail (NYT).

This is why the Northeast Corridor needs high-speed rail — to replace all the flights from New York City, the number one cause of flight delays in the country (NYT). Washington D.C.’s new streetcar system should push up home values (Washington Examiner), while there’s also a national competition to redesign the National Mall (UPenn Design).

Chinatowns, like those in D.C., are moving to the suburbs (ULI). Finally: so cool — Twitter maps of cities could help plan better transit routes! (Fast Company)

IN PARIS… the coolest story in years is of the urban collective UX that preserves untended sites — including repairing the Panthéon’s clock (Wired). The city is pushing some sort of transit along the riverbanks — perhaps an improved vogueo (water taxis)? (Association Grand Paris). Take a visit to the Little India neighborhood (T Magazine).

Two people per second move to a city. / Image via The Guardian.

INTERNATIONALLY, for all the talk of cities planning small, rapid urbanisation to megacities is presenting problems of basic infrastructure that seem almost insurmountable (The Guardian). Sony presents Futurescapes scenarios for sustainable living in 2025
(Futurescapes). And “green” buildings are catching on around the world (Inman News).

Sadly, with all the new technology that improves cities, could it cause the death of the flâneur? (Atlantic Cities) Finally, a fascinating look at American comics translated into Arabic in Egypt and underground comics in China at the awesome Tin Tin Travels blog (Atlantic Cities).