Archive for May, 2011

A 72 Hour Challenge Will Make a Dallas Street into a Grand Boulevard, Shared by All

by Alex Davies for Treehugger –

Images Courtesy of Better Block

TreeHugger spends a good deal of time bemoaning the arch-rivals of good urban design in America: suburban sprawl and cities that are designed around cars, not people.

Agreeing that things need to change, a Texas-based group called Better Block has been busy in the last two years transforming ordinary, car-dominated streets into what they call “complete streets” : spaces shared by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, where people gather and a sense of community is fostered.

Building “Complete Streets”

Better Block calls itself a “planning tool for the urban retrofit,” and has pulled off projects to temporarily redesign city streets in a bunch of cities in the Texas area. The idea is that when people see that their streets do not need to be dominated by cars, that they can be safe, communal spaces, they will be inspired to take action. To change local ordinances and ways of thinking, and make the Better Block installation a permanent reality.

In April 2010, the group hit Dallas’ Oak Cliff community: they cut a street’s three car lanes down to one, installed a bike lane, and enlarged the sidewalk into a wide patio. They installed pop-up businesses and cafes, set up a kids’ art studio and brought in local musicians. The amazing thing? They did it in one day, for less than $1,000.

Check out the results:

The Challenge

Now, Better Block is setting its sights on a bigger project: a 72 hour challenge to give Dallas its own, albeit temporary, grand boulevard. The goal is to remake 11 blocks of Ross Avenue to include a market, an art gallery, a music venue, a food court and a transit plaza.

Those interested are invited to sign up in teams and make their contribution. The “Build a Better Boulevard” challenge is set for June 24-26 and will coincide with Dallas’  Summer Streets program. It’s unclear whether and how a winner of the challenge will be designated, but it’s a sure bet that competitors and visitors to the “grand boulevard” will go home happy.

Interested in building a Better Block in your city? Check out their how to.

For more stories like this, follow me on Twitter.

More urban transformations:
Ritzy Parisian Boulevard Goes Rural as French Farmers (and Their Cows) Take Over Champs-Elysees
Spectacular Urban Transformation in Student Green Roof Design Competition
Parking Day NYC Isn’t Activism, It’s Unintentional Performance Art


May 28, 2011 at 8:42 am Leave a comment

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed names Obama executive to head city’s development arm

By David Pendered for

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced today the city’s development arm will be headed by a man who now works in President Obama’s administration.

Reed named Brian McGowan, who now is a deputy assistant secretary/COO in the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, as president and CEO of the Atlanta Development Authority.

In choosing McGowan, Reed passed over longtime ADA executive Ernestine Garey, who now serves as the ADA’s interim president. The third finalist for the job was Daniel Gundersen, who formerly served as New York’s commissioner of economic development and has White House connections.

Brian McGowan

Brian McGowan

“I believe that Brian McGowan’s extensive experience having worked at all levels of government will help the Atlanta Development Authority continue to move the City of Atlanta toward economic recovery,” Reed said in a statement released by his office.

“We’ve made great strides over the past 16 months with initiatives such as the ongoing revitalization of the Historic Westside District, the redevelopment of Fort McPherson, and the relocation of Porsche’s headquarters to the city.

“I am confident that under Brian’s leadership, we will build on that strong foundation and generate even more economic investment and development opportunities for the City of Atlanta.”

McGowan’s resume says he worked on the gulf disaster recovery in addition to devising economic development policies for cities in Serbia and Bulgaria.

“I am honored to have been selected as the new President/CEO of the Atlanta Development Authority, and I am grateful for the confidence that Mayor Reed and the board members have placed in me,” McGowan said in a statement released by the mayor’s office.

“Atlanta is one of America’s greatest cities because of the value it has placed on innovation, education and connections to the global economy.  It’s an economic powerhouse and a city poised for 21st century leadership and growth,” he said.

“I look forward to working with public and private sector leaders throughout the region to accelerate that momentum and create jobs and opportunity for the people of Atlanta,” McGowan said.

The mayor chairs the ADA board and handpicks the president and CEO of an authority that is not accountable to the Atlanta City Council.

The ADA dispenses money to promote the city through bond issues that subsidize development; revolving loan funds for businesses; tax credits; and tax increment financing – known in Atlanta as tax allocation districts.

May 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Peachtree Creek South-Forkers Get Their Sling Blade On

Volunteers improve a path along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek to create a walking trail and connect green spaces of Atlanta.

By Margaret Landers | Buckhead Patch

The unceasing whizz of traffic echoed from beyond the bend in the creek, competing with the chirping melodies of birds in the tops of the maples. Two Canadian geese paddled along the creek water, now brown and thick with mud from the recent rains. The scent of honeysuckle lifted in the air, only to be quickly suppressed by putrid sewage fumes leaking up from their pipes underground.

On Wednesday, about 20 volunteers — armed with sling blades, chainsaws, clippers, cutters and Prosecutor solution — trekked through the overgrown trail alongside Peachtree Creek to fight for the life of the waterway and clear a path so the public can enjoy it.

Sally Sears of the South Fork Conservancy, which is heading up the project, commanded the troops from the trailhead, on the cul de sac of Armand Road. Machete Man Jeremy Dahl was there, armed with multiple machetes and a well-versed knowledge of forest sustainability. Professionals came from Jackson Spalding as part of the firm’s “Day in the Field” initiative. Other crew leaders came from the Conservancy, Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, and Peachtree Hills. 

Volunteer Dave Kaufman knows the trail and the creek well; he canoed it in the ’90s, and wrote a book, “Peachtree Creek ,” highlighting the watershed and its need for preservation. “Peachtree Creek is a well-kept secret in general,” he said. “I’d hate to see it just getting paved.”

The team’s efforts focused on clearing an open walking trail, hopefully suitable for buggies to roll upon, cutting down invasive plants from the forest, and building a culvert of stones to bridge the path across a minor trench. Sears’ vision is a safe and beautiful place for the Atlanta community to share and enjoy. She said, “This is for the mamas, the grandmamas, the babies…” She called Peachtree Creek a neglected treasure. “People have loved this creek for a long time,” she said.

Lindridge Martin Manor resident Bob Scott often walks the trail with his dogs. This spring the weeds have overgrown much of the remaining path. “Mother nature has taken over,” he said. Scott spent the first half of the afternoon hacking away at weeds and vines to clear the footpath near the trailhead. “It’s a lot tougher going than we thought,” he said, wiping sweat from his forehead.

Dahl knows the science behind the degradation of the forest. He said the biggest threat to a forest is insularization, or dividing a forest into pieces separated by urban development. “We (biology conservationists) call it the eternal external threat,” he said, “Divide, divide, divide.” Dahl explained that when a forest’s size is cut by dividers, the amount of plant and animal species in each forest section decreases exponentially, leading to extinction. But when forests are connected, the species growth is “fantastic.” The process is called the species area effect. “My aim is to connect up the forest,” he said. Dahl recognized the importance of upkeeping the health of Peachtree Creek. “The biological corridors are our streams.”

Sears recognized the proximity of Atlanta’s existing parks along Peachtree Creek, and she’s working with the conservancy and community supporters to make the connection. The project will encompass about two miles of trails, leading from the entrance behind the Cedar Chase condominiums off Lindbergh Drive, under Ga. 400 and I-85, to the confluence of the north and south forks of the creek.

One section of the path leads directly underneath 400 and 85, into a den of jumbled rock, spray-paint artistry and abodes of the homeless. Kaufman called the space a “cathedral of potential” for the future green pathway. He said it could be a sculpture garden or a skate park.

Sears said the project is gaining momentum and public awareness as the conservancy recei es modest grants and neighborhood support. Morningside Elementary School has provided support, as well as the Kendeda Fund and the MillionMile Greenway. Kaufman said completion of the project is a matter of manpower and money. “So far, so good,” he said

May 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

2011 Architect 50 / Number 1: Perkins+Will

By Fred A. Bernstein for Architect magazine

As co-director of Perkins+Will’s firmwide sustainability initiative, Paula Vaughan, AIA, has consulted on hundreds of projects, including one very close to home: the firm’s office in Atlanta, a 1980s building that it gutted and rebuilt with an impressive array of green features. Since moving in several months ago, Vaughan has been busy evaluating (and adjusting) the building’s performance, as well as giving tours to everyone from architecture students to Perkins+Will competitors. Of the knowledge the firm developed in designing the new office, she says, “We’re not seeing it as a secret competitive edge, but as something to share with the entire profession.”

Perhaps that openness is the firm’s competitive edge. How else to explain the firm’s rise in revenue over last year (just one reason it tops the ARCHITECT 50). The firm has, for the most part, resisted cutting fees, says president and CEO Phil Harrison, FAIA, despite recession-related pressures. His concern isn’t about short-term profits. “You can go for a long time at break even,” he says. “The problem is devaluation of your services, and what that will mean, long-term, for the profession.” So instead of discussing fee reductions, Harrison says, he talks to clients about bigger-ticket items such as cutting energy use and speeding up construction through prefabrication. Pretty soon, any “give” in the architect’s fee is dwarfed by architect-initiated savings.

The firm’s buildings are also winning design awards, confirming the appeal of what Harrison calls “human-centered modernism”—a crisp but inviting look that is becoming recognizable as something of a firm style—though Harrison says it’s not the result of an aesthetic predilection so much as a commitment to certain principles. Those include “honest use of materials” and, of course, sustainability (which leads to generous use of glass for daylighting).

With more than 1,000 LEED accredited professionals, Perkins+Will has made U.S. Green Building Council standards part of its DNA. But Harrison says that the firm isn’t naïve enough to think that “we’re done as long as we’ve followed the checklist. Our firm strategy is to go beyond LEED, especially on the energy front.” To that end, the firm’s micro-grant program offers employees the chance to spend up to 40 hours of their time—at firm expense—on building-related research.

Perkins+Will has accomplished all of this without a major overseas expansion. (Only three of its 23 offices are outside North America.) One reason is that sectors in which the firm is most active—including education and healthcare—are strong domestically. Harrison would welcome growth abroad, he says, but, “frankly, we’ve been busy with the work we have here.”

May 6, 2011 at 5:38 pm Leave a comment

LLCC to Host Spring Planning Workshop

The Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition, in conjunction with urban design firm Perkins + Will, is excited to announce an upcoming Spring Planning Workshop on Saturday, 7 May from 8:00am – 1:00pm at The Center for Spiritual Growth & Meditation, to gain community feedback on the future development of our area. The Georgia Conservancy will be the facilitator for the event..

As you know, the LLCC’s aim is to improve the environment around us and the quality of life in our community.  We need your input to be able to influence the type of development we’ll see in the LLCC area.  The upcoming workshop will focus specifically on the area around Cheshire Bridge Road/LaVista Road/Lindbergh Drive.

The Center is located at 1893 Piedmont Road NE and has plenty of free parking.


Sponsors for this event include Halpern Enterprises, Selig Enterprises, Java Blues and Nakato’s Japanese Restaurant. 

To register for the Workshop, click HERE!

May 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

Atlanta Public Schools buys Buckhead land for high school

Aerial photo above shows the IBM tract off Northside Parkway that is the location for the new North Atlanta High School.

Atlanta Public Schools has finalized the purchase of a 56.6 acre land parcel in Buckhead for construction of a new high school.

APS’ share of the cost of the property is $55.3 million. IBM, which currently occupies the site, will pay $23.6 million to the former property owner, Jamestown Properties, to satisfy the remainder of its lease agreement,

Atlanta Public Schools has finalized the purchase of a 56.6 acre land parcel in Buckhead for construction of a new high school.

APS’ share of the cost of the property is $55.3 million. IBM, which currently occupies the site, will pay $23.6 million to the former property owner, Jamestown Properties, to satisfy the remainder of its lease agreement, according to a statement released by APS.

The new high school will replace North Atlanta High School. The newly refurbished North Atlanta High School will be converted to a middle school for the area, replacing Sutton Middle School. The new school is scheduled to open in August 2013.

According to APS, which finalized the sale on Monday, plans are to retain many of the existing structures on the property, including a parking desk and lots and buildings. The total estimated cost of the project is approximately $100 million, including the cost of the land.

“I want to thank IBM and Jamestown Properties for their partnership in completing this transaction in a timely fashion,” said Larry Hoskins, APS Chief Operating Officer. “We entered into a very equitable agreement for a prime portion of real estate in a highly competitive section of the city.”

Read more: APS buys Buckhead land for high school | Atlanta Business Chronicle

May 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment


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