Sunday, March 2, 2008

Consultants in Economic Development by Creating an Urban Place

I posted this on the main page, too. This is a consultant firm that, from what I gather, can see what your city needs to create the active urban environment that's optimal for economic health. Don't know how successful they are in creating results. They're called "Cool Town Studios."

From their website:

"CoolTown Studios is the 'weekdaily' newsite blog of CoolTown Beta Communities, which focuses on implementation (see diagram here) as a crowdsource-based placemaking and economic development firm committed to codeveloping natural cultural districts for creatives, by creatives. This newssite blog (and only the blog!) is a free public service (including all 1200+ archived entries) toward building better places to live/work/play.

"Who are we?

"Neil Takemoto is the founding director of CoolTown Beta Communities, a crowdsource-based placemaking and economic development firm codeveloping natural cultural districts with creatives. His work over the last 14 years has been committed to the development of places with significant economic, environmental and social benefit, currently working in Syracuse, New Orleans and Washington DC.

"Neil is the founder of CoolTown Studios, a ‘crowdsourcing cool places for creatives’ blog/news site that attracts 30,000 unique visitors a month. It has been featured in Architect Magazine and the ULI’s annual developers conference.

"He is also the cofounder of CoolTown Investments, linking investors with developers of urban smart growth developments for the creative class. CoolTown Investments’ partner is a capital management company with a $150M resource seeking to invest $2-$10M in equity in redevelopment projects in second/third tier cities in the eastern half of the U.S.

"With Andres Duany, Neil co-founded the National Town Builders Association in 1997, the only business trade group of Smart Growth/New Urbanism real estate developers. Prior to that, he founded a national nonprofit educational clearinghouse for the New Urbanism field.

"Kennedy Lawson Smith is an associate partner of CoolTown Studios. She is one of the nation's foremost experts on main street district revitalization and a leading authority on mom-and-pop businesses. Kennedy joined the staff of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Main Street Center in 1985 and has served as its director until 2004. Under her leadership the Main Street program assisted nearly 2,000 districts in towns and cities of all sizes across the United States and abroad, experiencing a net increase of 57,000 new businesses, 231,000 new jobs, and attracting more than $17 billion in new investment. In March 2002, Fast Company magazine named her to its first-ever list of Fast 50 Champions of Innovation, recognizing creative thinkers whose sense of style and power of persuasion change what our world looks like and how our products perform."

Mayor makes city more pedestrian; Case: Burlington Vermont

From "Cool Town Studios":

How do you create a great outdoor place?

Think about what makes a great indoor destination - a memorable, well-defined space, an inspiring creatively-designed room rather than a series of long hallways amid small, compartmentalized spaces. Yet the latter is how most of our streets are designed.

Church Street in Burlington, Vermont is an extremely popular outdoor destination mainly because it doesn't feel like a street. It feels like a grand room. One side is terminated by a grand building, and either side of the streets are alive with unique buildings, trees, and patrons at the outdoor dining rooms.

Now imagine an endless stream of cars zooming down this street. That's the typical city street in the U.S., and why so many people eat at strip malls, fast food joints or in front of their TVs. The good news is cities are realizing how wonderful (translates to profitable) these outdoor rooms can be.


There are three cities in US that I would love to live in: San Francisco, Boulder and Burlington. Luckily I live in Montreal, so I don't have to move there to fulfill my dream of living in a culturally diverse, pedestrian friendly and just beautiful city.

Mayor makes a city more pedestrian (Case: Guayaquil, Ecuador, South America)

(The following is from it's wikipedia entry:)"Malecón 2000 is the name given to boardwalk overlooking the Guayas River in the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil. An urban renewal project focusing on the old Simón Bolívar boardwalk, it stands along the west shore of the river for an approximate length of 2.5 km. (1.5 mi.) Several of the greatest historical monuments in the history of Guayaquil can be seen along its length, as well as museums, gardens, fountains, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, food courts, the first IMAX theater in South America, as well as boarding docks where several embarkations offer both daytime and nighttime tours up and down the Guayas River. It is one of the largest works realized in Guayaquil and it is considered a model of urban regeneration by global standards, having been declared a healthy public space’ by the Pan-American Organization of Health (POH)/ and the World Health Organization (WHO)."

Mayor Moves to Make a City More Pedestrian (Case: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

Pedestrianize Gore Park: Mayor

Posted 2007/10/01 | By: Ryan McGreal

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger just made a presentation to the Public Works Committee recommending that the city look at pedestrianizing Gore Park:

We need to create a truly unique environment that has a clear identity that citizens can understand and relate to. For downtown Hamilton, that identity historically has been Gore Park. The Gore was a popular social gathering place, a hub of retail and commerce. We need to re-establish the Gore as a hub once again. A place where all citizens will point with pride when they think of downtown.

I would like for us to consider the idea of pedestrianizing the Gore - closing it off to through traffic and creating a public plaza. [emphasis added]

Citing successes in other cities - Ottawa's Sparks Street, Regina's Scarth Street Mall, Montreal's Prince Arthur Street, and the city of Debrecen, Hungary - the Mayor argued that a similar initiative in Hamilton would attract new development and increase property values by creating a more lively, people place in the heart of the city.

Eisenberger noted further that the presence of Gore Park in our core gives Hamilton a unique opportunity to create a real civic plaza with an existing space, and that growing awareness of the need to reduce automobile dependence, the plan to move the Gore bus terminal to another location, and the planned rapid transit initiative all align toward reclaiming the core for people, not cars.

(He even noted that one rationale for building the Red Hill Expressway was to reduce traffic through the core.)

It's exciting to hear a Hamilton mayor expressing a hopeful vision for the downtown that is based in lessons from other cities, not outmoded planning dogma. However, to be realized, this plan will require acceptance from the Public Works department, which has traditionally placed ease of driving above other priorities.

It will also require buy-in from the Downtown BIA, which in the past has pinned too many of its hopes on making it easier to drive downtown.

Most hopeful is the fact that the Mayor seems to understand that transforming the downtown core will require transforming our understanding of what makes cities work:

Downtown renewal efforts have had a measure of success, but we require a rethinking of how we approach downtown - its strengths and potential, if we are to take renewal to the next level.

This initiative suggests that the mayor regards transformation as a real goal, not just empty rhetoric. We'll be sure to follow this story to see how it develops.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a process and service analyst, web application developer, writer, and journal editor. Ryan also works part-time as the coordinator for the Hamilton Transit Users Group (TUG). Ryan writes occasionally for CanadianContent, and (very occasionally) maintains a personal website. A few of his essays have been published in the Hamilton Spectator.

By Ryan |
Posted 10/1/2007 4:23:24 PM

The Mayor pitched some possible ways of implementing the idea:

* Closing off one side to traffic, or both.
* Continuing to allow public transit and delivery vehicles to pass through.
* Seasonal/Time of Day closures.

It's too bad he included the third choice, because it will allow people in Public Works who still don't get it to make like they're compromising without really effecting a transformation.