A Review of Historic Preservation Planning

View north down Benefit Street in Providence, RI, USA, part of the College Hill Historic District, a National Historic Landmark District, accessed 2/17/14, Wikipedia

View north down Benefit Street in Providence, RI, USA, part of the College Hill Historic District, a National Historic Landmark District, accessed 2/17/14, Wikipedia

The wave of urban renewal as it was known during the 1950’s and 1960’s saw a lot of historic structures torn down. After the fact, many towns realized the importance of these historic structures.  Out of this era of urban renewal came the evolution of the historic district. There was a handful of cities that had their own form of historic preservation districts before the 1960’s. The first one being Charleston, South Carolina in 1931. What got the ball rolling was a study done by the Providence Preservation Society that was able to partner with the Providence City Plan Commission to produce a study of the College Hill area: 318 acres and 1700 buildings, including most of the city’s original 17th-century settlement. The resulting 1959 report — College Hill: A Demonstration Study of Historic Area Renewal — forwarded a new intent: “…to develop methods and techniques for a program of preservation, rehabilitation and renewal in a historic area which can serve as a guide for other areas with similar problems.” It was one of the only areas during the urban renewal era to decide to rehabilitate areas instead of clear areas of blight. Continue reading

The plan for Chicago.

The City Beautiful Movement of the 1890s was epitomized at the World Columbian

The Court of Honor and Grand Basin, 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair (Wikipedia 2014)

The Court of Honor and Grand Basin, 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair (Wikipedia 2014)

Exposition of 1893, which was held in Chicago and often referred to as the “White City” due to the coating of white paint on all the buildings.  Director of Construction Daniel H. Burnham brought in architects with backgrounds and training in the Beaux-Arts style to design the buildings of the city, the beautiful main court and, the open green spaces, all precepts of the City Beautiful Movement which stood in stark contrast to the urban blight of Chicago in the 1800s. Continue reading

In the garden of EPCOT.

Walt Disney - Wikimedia Commons, 02/18/2014

Walt Disney – Wikimedia Commons, 02/18/2014

The Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow (EPCOT) was Walt Disney’s unrealized dream. Sure, there’s a place called EPCOT down there in Orlando located within the vast city-unto-itself of Walt Disney World, but it isn’t Walt’s EPCOT. It aims in the same direction, but misses the mark by several yards. How so? Because Walt’s idea wasn’t a theme-park that resembled a City of Tomorrow, it was a City of Tomorrow that just happened to be planned near his theme parks. It was an actual plan for a technologically forward and green society that could be the model for the rest of the United States. The vision was huge – Walt didn’t do small. Interestingly enough, the idea wasn’t altogether new (then or now). In fact, Disney owes a great deal of his imagined City of Tomorrow to Ebenezer Howard and folks like Le’Corbusier’s Radiant City. We can’t talk about the future without talking about the past, it seems, and these imagineers seem to make that point clear. Lets take a look at some really nifty links, videos and articles that draw a line from the Garden Cities of Howard to the imagined implementations of the Disney age (and beyond), and other designs that have seen a similar influence.

Oh, and, please keep all hands and feet inside the ride at all times – for your safety, of course! Continue reading

Utopia or dystopia? Disney’s experimental prototype community of tomorrow (EPCOT)

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Photo retrieved from www.sterow.com on 2/18/2014

Near the end of Walt Disney’s life, Disney’s attention was less on theme parks and cartoons than his own plans to build a Utopian city, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). Disney’s vision for EPCOT was not just another real estate development, it was a plan to bring continual innovation into the community; to build a creative community environment, something akin to, but much grander than, an ongoing World’s Fair. Its purpose was to be a “community of the future” designed to stimulate American corporations to come up with new ideas for urban life.
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Welcome to your new urban destination

Over 150 years ago,the first governor of the Territory of Colorado, William Gilpin made the claim that Denver was destined to become the world center of trade.  It is now looking like his proclamation may not be all that far off. Denver is currently working on an Airport City Plan, which would convert the 9,419 acres surrounding Denver International Airport into an aerotropolis.  This aerotopolis would cluster air travel specific activities centered on the airport, much like the concentric zone model organized developments around traditional city centers.  For Denver, these clusters will include a city center, city gateway, logistics center, aero district, tech district and Argo districts, essentially reorienting an entire city to focus on its airport. Aerotropolis boosters argue that this development will position Denver to where it can effectively reinvent global manufacturing and research procedures. This new urban pattern will reorient the city’s economy, to one that’s entirely dependent on connectivity, speed and efficiency. An aerotropolis appears to be the next step for Denver to propel itself into the new realm of cities competing for a “frictionless” global trade hub. With our increasing reliance on air travel to further global trade, the idea of building a city around an airport is gaining ground in several cities—echoing John Kasarda’s theory that this new urban structure, will in fact be “the way we’ll live next.” Continue reading

How the Market Was Won

Residents and visitors perusing Pike's Place, accessed 2/18/2014, dazzlingplaces.com

Residents and visitors perusing Pike’s Place, accessed 2/18/2014, dazzlingplaces.com

As the first proposed project slated for Urban Renewal in Seattle, the Pike Plaza Redevelopment Project had big plans for what is now one of the most recognizable landmarks in Seattle.

So, how exactly did this once “blighted” area escape its slated doom and transform into the beloved neighborhood commodity enjoyed by residents and visitors alike today? Continue reading

Planning Utah: from Zion to Smart Growth

Brigham Young

Brigham Young, accessed 2/18/2014, wikimedia.org

The Envision Utah coalition has gained some visibility within the planning discussion in regards to their plan, and its influence in shaping the future of Utah. The coalition is well received in a state that is historical conservative, but it is not the first planning entity that has impacted Utah.  Led by early church leader Brigham Young, the Mormons brought with them plans for developing towns throughout the West. The founding father of the Latter -Day Saints religion (LDS) , Joseph Smith, took a lead role in crafting The Plat of Zion which was a religiously influenced document used as the basis for community planning of Mormon settlements. Early planning efforts led by the church served as a foundation for more than 500 western communities.  Today, recognizing the state’s planning past, the Envision Utah process,  has been able to guide the growth of the state into 21st century. Continue reading