Friday, May 2, 2014

Fun Trainings Ahead! No, really!

Interested in learning a little about social media, downtown design, visual merchandising, or neighborhood safety as they relate to community revitalization? If you're around Carlisle, PA on Monday and Tuesday, May 5th and 6th, we'll be conducting training for the Elm Street and Main Street programs, as well as anyone else who wants to join. We start at 8 AM on Monday morning at 53 W. South Street. Here's the lineup:

MONDAY, May 5th:
  • 8:00 - Websites and Social Media 
  • 10:00 - Visual Merchandising and Curb Appeal
  • 3:00 - Elements of Design
  • 4:00 - Anti-Crime Programs for Community Revitalization
TUESDAY, May 6th:
  • 8:00 - Anti-Crime Programs for Community Revitalization
  • 10:00 - Elements of Design
  • 3:00 - Visual Merchandising and Curb Appeal
  • 4:00 - Websites and Social Media
Leave a comment here if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Solar Roadways!

You must click this link right now to go to Indiegogo and help these folks create a whole new pavement. The Solar Roadways people say their new paving system can melt snow, light up, treat stormwater runoff, AND create energy.

Imagine the possibilities if this became a widespread technology? All the dead pavement lying inert throughout the world could be converted to an energy-producing network. I do wonder though, about the efficacy of a pavement that is shaded by cars all day long, such as in a parking lot, or even an urban commuter street.

Still, that doesn't mean it isn't worth pursuing this big dream. I've made a personal donation to this campaign and I hope other folks will, too. It could be a world-changer, and you can't often say that about new inventions.

Good luck, folks!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Couple of Book Reviews

If you're like me and you really REALLY care about the health of the planet, as well as the health of its citizens, then I recommend a couple of books that I recently read.

One is Happy City by Charles Montgomery. It's subtitled: "Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design," and the premise is that if we create the right places, people will naturally flock to them. Methods of transformation include changing pedestrian activity, but also the places -- apartments and homes -- where we live. Montgomery uses examples from all over the world to drive his point home; and that is, people are too isolated and sedentary. It's killing us and it's killing the planet. He is especially hard on Americans (rightfully so) for our gas-guzzling habits.

The second is Walkable City; How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, by Jeff Speck. Interestingly, both books use a lot of the same examples and have pretty much the same thesis, though they approach the subject from slightly different perspectives.

I found Montgomery's book to be inspirational, with its vivid examples of how people's lives are transformed by the form their communities take. In one chapter, he tells the melancholy story of suburban homeowners who believe they are buying the American Dream when they snag the big house in the suburbs, only to find that they have such long commutes that they barely get to enjoy their new acquisitions. Their social lives have been reduced to the fringes of their days. Montgomery makes a strong case for how valuable those accidental interactions are that take place on the urban street. Suburban commuters miss out on all that.

On the other hand, Speck writes from the experience of an urban planner. His book seems more research- and experience-driven. He's worked with communities first-hand and understands where they go wrong. Speck gives precise details about street width and sidewalk depth. He discusses how traffic engineers view trees as a dangerous impediment while studies show that trees slow traffic down, resulting in fewer accidents. It's the kind of information you can take to a council meeting in hopes of amending city ordinances.

Both books are richly researched and full of good information, it's just that Montgomery's takes a more human approach, and Speck seems slightly more analytic. I liked them both, and though neither of them told me anything earth-shattering, they've inspired me to start making the case more emphatically to the communities with whom I work to take substantive steps toward creating more connected and walkable environments. This is not just about economic development, though that is a strong incentive. It's also about making us all healthier. It's about cutting our fossil fuel consumption, and working toward a healthier planet.

Now go read something.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I know I haven't posted in awhile but I have a good reason for that. A mediocre reason, really -- been busy. But I have new pictures to share, so here we go!
Photo credit: Dan Fennick

So how's this for a spectacle on the sidewalk? The Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I'm not photogenic at all -- what can I say? But it was a blast being there.

It's a very conservative city, and IMHO, the rumored rudeness of the French is simple reserve. The customer service was no more rude than it is here in America; we just didn't speak the same language. In fact, as soon as we started to converse in schoolkid French, they'd jump in in English to help us out. "No problem," everyone says.

Photo credit: Dan Fennick

My advice, if you're going to Paris -- especially in colder seasons -- is to wear black and be friendly. You get back what you put into the world, is my mantra. 

We met some wonderful people, too. Our first dinner out we were seated next to a gentleman whose mother had been French, but his father was a Scot, I think. He spoke fluent French and the proprietor was generous to all of us once he felt comfortable conversing in broken English with French to fall back on. The other gentleman was a South African now living in Texas. They helped us navigate the menu and translate with the proprietor. The food was fabulous, the wine was superb (of course), and the company made it a night to remember.