Abu Dhabi Won’t Have a Times Square

One Times Square

Abu Dhabi won’t have a building like One Times Square in New York, which is covered in billboards. Photo: stephenbaron via Flickr.

Buried in this Construction Week article on new signage regulations, is the revelation that Abu Dhabi won’t have a (non-mall) central shopping/entertainment district with neon billboards like New York’s Times Square, London’s Leicester Square or Tokyo’s Shibuya district.

“New signage design guidelines indicate that no sign or portion of a sign may cover an integral architectural element of a structure, obstructs views into and out of business premises, or advertise third-party products,” writes Gerhard Hope. “The intention here is plain, but again it raises the issue of regulation and enforcement.”

Though I like Abu Dhabi’s mishmash of signs — especially the neon ones along Hamdan and Electra Streets — the government should be commended for its continued push for standardisation, and keeping traffic and people moving.

The UPC also approved Broadway Malyan’s masterplan for a 55,000-person neighbourhood on Yas Island, which had won the “Best Masterplan/Urban Design Project” at the Abu Dhabi Cityscape Awards 2011.

In Dubai, the RTA has awarded the Sufouh Tram project maintenance contract to France’s Alstom Co and the Emirati-Belgian Cofely-Besix Co., and Emaar is set to add another 93,000 square meters to the Dubai Mall, reclaiming its spot as largest in the world.

Qatar is also looking at transportation projects, with construction on Doha’s metro beginning in 2013, with Qatar Railways signing a USD 535 million contract for the Lusail light rail line. Darwish’s Lagoona Mall, near Doha’s The Pearl, opened.

Farther in the region, it’s fascinating to read about the mixed bag of Soviet-era architecture of occupation in Afghanistan, from middle class housing blocks to schools, a bread factory and abandoned pool.


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

Skyline Stories: Kunming Bike Lane A/V Project, Franklin Court Renovations, HSP’s SEPTA Archive, Freight by Tram

Before we get in to serious stuff…check out this incredible multidisciplinary media project (left) of the bike lanes of Kunming, China — combining pictures, maps and recorded sounds of riding in the bike lane. Reminds me of the Detroit Escalator Company and bio mapping/emotional cartography. (CoLab Radio)

Traffic is just one of the problems with the world rapidly urbanizing — the urban population of developing countries is expected to grow by a million people every five days through at least 2030 (!) — but Americans have halted internal migration due to the recession, which is also causing suburban poverty to spike. (NYT)

The “ghost house” rendering of Benjamin Franklin’s home in Philadelphia. / Image via Philadelphia Business Journal.

In Philly, Franklin Court is scheduled to undergo a $21 million renovation (Plan Philly), more details on the Dilworth Plaza renovation (Landscape Online), Code Philly returns for a second year and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is funding new bike trails (Plan Philly. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is ready to open an archive of PTC/SEPTA materials (Plan Philly, and longtime journalism Jim Smart has recreated the 1876 centennial in the new book “Adonijah Hill’s Journal.” (Philly.com)

In New York, the High Line received a $20 million grant to help plan the final section (NYT) and the Grand Concourse is now an historic district (NYT CityRoom).

Meanwhile Paris plans on experimenting with the complicated idea of urban freight distribution via tramway. (Transport Politic.) New French blog Banlieues 21, I think about re-thinking Parisian suburbs in the 21st century, is one of three cool new ones this week, along with the Times’ Borderlines that examines cartography and culture, Transit Maps and

Finally, a line from “A Man, a Bike and 4,100 Miles” about biking cross-country:
But I’m no longer as eager to put the past behind me as I was in the past. If there’s one thing the ride this time has impressed on me, it’s that the present is where I want to live. Never wish away distance. Never wish away time.

Skyline Stories: AbuDhabi ‘s massive projects, Yas Island water park, U.S. suburbanization & poverty and Times Sq. redesign.

Abu Dhabi's waterpark, opening 2013. Photo via The National.

Abu Dhabi is not immune from the financial crisis — construction and infrastructure contracts are down 81 percent — but there are still massive projects underway. There are airport/port/industrial zones expansion, redeveloping suburbs Shahama and Bahia and Saadiyat Island. (Gulf Construction) Plus major investment in green space. (The National)

Abu Dhabi’s “green” market could be worth nearly USD 3 trillion in 10 years. (Zawya) Apparently the proposed Yas Island water park is going to be sustainable, as the UPC awarded it a “one pearl” rating for “for its efforts to reduce water consumption on the site.” (The National)

Hopefully Abu Dhabi’s rapidly developing suburbs are going to model American ones built before the 1930s, when the FHA required cul-de-sacs in suburban planning. Connectivity with a street grid also helps against foreclosure. (The Atlantic: Cities) Now poverty is spreading to inner-ring suburbs. (Pedestrian Observations) And the U.S. South, often dominated by cul-de-sac suburbs, is hit hardest by the recession. (NYT)

But besides Detroit, maybe urban downtowns aren’t booming? Suburban office space and taxes are still cheaper. (The Atlantic: Cities)

Lightsaber Battle. Photo via Gothamist.

Why is the developing world’s middle class stuck in the car-centric mindset of 1950s America? (NYT) At least the industrialized world has hit “peak travel.” (Miller-McCune)

First MTA CEO Jay Walder announced he’s leaving, now Port Authority’s Executive Director Christopher Ward, too. (NYT) The new MTA head may be able to coordinate light rail on Staten Island’s North Shore. (Second Ave Sagas)

Times Square’s pedestrian plazas (do they have a name yet?) are going to be rebuilt from the ground up (first time in 50 years!) for pedestrians and cyclists. (Streetsblog) In another iconic public space, Washington Square Park, Newmindspace held its awesome annual lightsaber battle. (Gothamist)