CityLab

  • On the Table in Philly: a City-Wide Feast of Civic Engagement
    You know those corporate retreats, where people from different departments in a company get together for breakout events, brainstorming sessions, and a lot of eating and drinking? Imagine something like that, but for an entire city. You’d get On the Table, a one-day civic blitz put on by the Knight Foundation that uses meal sharing as a way to cook up civic dialogue.The first On the Table event was held in Chicago in 2014, and has returned every May since; the foundation has now spread the franchise to 30 communities nationwide. “On the Table is a pretty simple idea: It’s how do we get people to break bread together and then have solutions-oriented conversation about the community that they live in,” said Lilly Weinberg, the Knight Foundation’s program director of community and national initiatives. The program is part of a wave of similarly conceived philanthropic efforts aimed at busting Americans out of their ideological bubbles and salving the nation’s fractious political culture.“At a time where our country is incredibly divided, there’s really been a hunger for in-person, face-to-face conversations,” Weinberg said. “What we’ve found is that, at a hyperlocal level, what really matters is figuring out how to solve the challenges around us.”Philadelphia’s On the Table day, held last week, comprised 400 different gatherings around the city, which reached about 5,000 Philadelphians. The program presented a daunting smorgasbord of choices: One could graze at a bagel-heavy smart cities breakfast with business and city leaders on Walnut Street, hit a lunchtime wrap session with some transit-oriented players to talk about the city’s bus system overhaul, and then tuck into a community roundtable dinner at Philly’s public radio station.Knight program director and Philly native Patrick Morgan warned me to not overdo it, eating-wise: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”That’s the spirit of the whole day too. This isn’t a foodie extravaganza so much as a citywide wonk-fest, with eating as a means of connecting people who might not otherwise be lured to the same table. And it’s explicitly aimed at reaching beyond the usual community-meeting suspects, with an eye toward what comes next. According to a Knight Foundation survey, a third of those who met in 2017 made plans to get together again after their On the Table conversations. In turn, participants also become civic ambassadors for what’s discussed at the event. The event’s organizers hand out more than just sandwiches: In Philly, Knight offered up 50 micro-grants of $1,000 for participants to pitch an idea, in conjunction with the co-host the Philadelphia Foundation.“Philadelphia has made great strides in opening up opportunities for people to take part in civic decision-making,” said Patrick Morgan, Knight Foundation program director for Philadelphia. “On the Table builds on these efforts by giving Philly residents of all backgrounds the chance to weigh in about their concerns. We have much to share with other cities, and this national experiment provides a connective network to do just that.”Food may be a secondary focus, but it’s still an important part ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, November 16, 2018By Andrew Small
    4 hours ago
  • The Geography of Corporate Headquarters
    When Amazon announced this week that it would locate HQ2 in both New York City and Arlington, Virginia, major media outlets published articles complaining that big tech was reinforcing the growing gap between coastal superstar cities and left-behind cities in the middle of the country. Sure, the company announced a smaller facility in Nashville, but that hasn’t muted the outcry of criticism, fueled by nearly $3 billion in taxpayer-funded incentives—one of the biggest incentive hauls in modern memory.This is all as predicted: A chorus of urbanists including myself have said that the Amazon HQ2 was never about a single HQ2, but rather about crowdsourcing data on sites, talent pools, and local incentives, for future sites. For these and other reasons, since the announcement nearly every media story about Amazon has been negative, as the Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell tweeted. Local politicians and activists groups are already speaking out about how Amazon is taking its “winners” to the proverbial cleaners. A growing chorus of pundits and commentators are also calling on Amazon and other corporations to shift their operations away from coastal superstar cities and spur more development in the heartland.I’m the first to complain about the geographic inequality and winner-take-all urbanism of big tech and the broader tech economy. But a new database of corporate headquarters compiled by my colleague Patrick Adler and our University of Toronto School of Cities research team suggests that America’s corporate headquarters are actually spread much farther and wider across the economic landscape than is big tech. Our ongoing research projects tracks the location and changing economic geography of Fortune 500 headquarters for the past four decades from 1975 to the present.  Our research has one caveat: it excludes service firms, because back in 1975, they were not included in Fortune’s list.New York City may seem like a big winner with Amazon, and Google is expanding its footprint there too. But New York has actually seen a substantial decline in its corporate headquarters since 1975. While it is true that coastal tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., have all gained headquarters in recent decades, so have Sunbelt cities like Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Miami. Headquarters remain sprinkled across large and small places in the heartland, like tiny Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is quietly building its new “home office.”The map paints the picture, showing the total change in headquarters from 1975 to 2017 in the top 28 cities. While New York has the largest number of corporate headquarters, that number has fallen from 84 in 1975 to 70 in 2017, a decline of 17 percent. Los Angeles, America’s second largest metro, saw a similar 17 percent decline. And Chicago, the nation’s third largest metro, saw an even bigger decline, 28 percent, losing 19 headquarters since 1975. Despite picking up General Electric, Boston saw a 21 percent decline in its Fortune 500 headquarters between 1975 and 2017.Big tech has made the San Francisco Bay Area, which spans the San Francisco and San José metros, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, November 15, 2018By Richard Florida
    22 hours ago
  • CityLab Daily: The Movement to Derail Amazon HQ2 Incentives
    What We’re FollowingThanks, but you shouldn’t have: It’s only been two days since Amazon announced its HQ2 winners, and already politicians and activists in New York and Virginia are contemplating what they’d like to get in return for the massive incentive packages used to lure the tech giant. They may even have some ways to claw back some of the more than $2 billion that’s been offered to Amazon.In Virginia, the expenditures committed to Amazon must still be approved by lawmakers in the next budget, providing a potential avenue for resistance. Meanwhile, New York has a more complicated route, as city council members and state senators find ways to maneuver around a deal that Governor Andrew Cuomo all but renamed himself to ink. CityLab’s Sarah Holder has the rundown on all the ways that people in Queens and Arlington could thwart the economic incentives deals—or at least steer them toward more direct community investments. Today on CityLab: Inside the Movement to Derail Amazon HQ2 IncentivesAndrew SmallMore on CityLab Millennials Are More Likely to Buy Their First Homes in Cities New research finds that Millennials are 21 percent more likely to buy their first homes near city centers than Generation X. Amanda Kolson Hurley Communities of Color Are More Vulnerable to Wildfire A study finds census tracts that are majority black, Hispanic, or Native American experience about 50 percent greater vulnerability to wildfire. Nicole Javorsky A Car Ban That Paris and Its Suburbs Can Actually Agree On France’s most comprehensive car ban marks an important moment of cooperation for oft-quarreling municipalities. Feargus O'Sullivan Cities That Lost Amazon's HQ2 Contest Can Still End Up Ahead There’s a silver lining for the 235 places that did not win. Aaron Renn The Bitterest Lesson of the Brexit Deal Amid resignations, it's clear the U.K. government massively misjudged how leaving the European Union would play out. Feargus O'Sullivan What We’re ReadingWho’s bucking the trend on diversity in tech jobs? (Next City)What cities offered Amazon: helipads, zoo tickets, streets named Alexa (The Guardian)When Elon Musk tunnels under your home (The Atlantic)Why Uber and Lyft are rolling out loyalty programs (Quartz)How new cash to fight homelessness in San Francisco could mean less reliance on police (The Appeal)Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to hello@citylab.com. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, November 15, 2018By Andrew Small
    22 hours ago
  • The Bitterest Lesson of the Brexit Deal
    After 28 months of wrangling, Britain may finally be on the verge of a Brexit deal. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled an agreement negotiated with the E.U. that allows Britain to officially renounce its membership of the union. So could this finally be the end of the country’s agonizingly slow pre-separation negotiation, allowing Britain to move on into a new chapter?Probably not. May has to get her agreement voted through Parliament, and there’s a strong possibility that won’t happen. Die-hard pro-Brexit forces find it too compromised; die-hard pro-Remain forces see it as a needless exercise in wrecking existing E.U. arrangements. This dissent extends to May’s own cabinet. This morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (the minister directly responsible for overseeing the process) resigned in protest at the deal. Three other ministers have also resigned, and others may well follow.If the deal scrapes through, it’s far from the brave new dawn that Brexit’s advocates insisted was just around the corner. It will still bind the country into accepting most E.U. rules (including a customs union) for the foreseeable future, while removing Britain’s ability to influence those rules as a union member. If a stalemate is reached, there’s even an outside possibility of a re-run of the referendum, or of the country crashing out of the union without any deal at all.Whatever happens, this awkward and painful saga has provided a tough, embittered lesson for Britain—one that Brexit’s boosters are already acknowledging. The path this saga has taken is reflected in bleak headlines in Britain’s media this morning, that stand in huge contrast to those immediately after June 2016’s pro-Leave referendum result. 2016 vs 2018. 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Tii0YkhYCM — Michael Steen (@michaelsteen) November 14, 2018The lessons it has brought are not just about the divisions present in the country—the gulf between between public opinion in relatively wealthy but deeply unequal London and depressed, struggling regions that feel left behind—stark though those lessons are. Internationally, the Brexit process has also revealed unrealistic, even vainglorious assumptions about the place and influence of Britain in the world at large.The Pro-leave campaign was initially fueled by bullish self-confidence: It presented a vision of a Britain poised to resume its rightful place as a world-straddling superpower. Figures like Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson assured voters that, thanks to Britain’s economic might, the E.U. would swiftly fall into line to broker a favorable deal, desperate to ensure that we kept on buying its goods at high volume. We were fed fantastical visions of a buccaneering, neo-imperial nation that would reject complicated entanglements with our European neighbors and reinforce muscular global trade links with states in the former empire. These states, it was assumed, would jump at the chance to rekindle closer economic relations with their former exploiter.Somehow, all this would be bought at no cost. British citizens would continue to enjoy frictionless travel to the E.U; goods and services would still cross borders with hyperloop-y speed and ease. But immigrants would find that Britain’s international entry points had ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, November 15, 2018By Feargus O'Sullivan
    1 day ago
  • Millennials Are More Likely to Buy Their First Homes in Cities
    If there’s a single question that has gnawed at urban economists and planners over the past few years, it’s this: Will Millennials’ well-known love of cities fade once they have kids and need space for double strollers and play kitchens, or is it a more lasting shift in how Americans will decide where to live? We’ve heard the argument that Millennials have “peaked” in cities and will eventually suburbanize from demographer Dowell Myers (cited by Conor Dougherty in the New York Times), and the counter-argument from City Observatory’s Joe Cortright and others. One researcher, Harvard’s Hyojung Lee, has tried to square the circle by arguing that Millennials are both urban and suburban.Although it doesn’t put the debate to rest, a new paper shows that Millennials are at least continuing to tilt urban as they stop renting and become homeowners.The paper, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, looks at whether Millennial first-time homebuyers (defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) are more likely to buy homes near city centers than their counterparts in Generation X. Authors Elora Raymond of Clemson University, Jessica Dill of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Yongsung Lee of Georgia Institute of Technology used a logistic regression model controlling for age and generation; they also controlled for income, credit score, car ownership, mortgage size, mortgage payment, and student-debt level. The upshot: The odds of Millennials buying near city centers are 21 percent higher than for Generation X.The study’s dataset was a random sample of more than 100,000 personal credit records from 2001 to 2016. Out of that, the researchers selected people who took out mortgages for the first time, then narrowed that subset to first-time buyers within a 10-mile radius of the country’s 50 biggest Metropolitan Statistical Areas. “It’s a random sample of a very large slice of the population, and it’s truly random,” said Raymond. Collecting 15 years of data let the authors compare Gen Xers and Millennials buying first homes at the same ages—but also at different ages.Interestingly, despite all we’ve read about ballooning student-loan debt and stagnant incomes, Millennials buying homes for the first time had a higher median credit score than their older counterparts for most of the study period. The median age of first-time homebuyers actually went down slightly year on year from the peak of the housing boom—from 35 in 2001 to 33 in 2014. Credit tightened more for older buyers than for younger buyers after the crash, possibly because it had loosened more for them during the boom. That “may explain why first-time home purchases have fallen faster for older buyers than younger buyers,” the authors write.First-time home purchases by birth cohortFirst-time homebuying trends of those born in 1975 and 1977 (Gen X) peaked between the ages of 27 and 29, while for the younger birth cohorts (1983 and 1985) they peaked between the ages of 24 and 25. For Gen Xers who came of age before the crash, their peak appears to be the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, November 15, 2018By Amanda Kolson Hurley
    1 day ago
  • Communities of Color Are More Vulnerable to Wildfire
    As wildfires have killed at least 50 people in California this week, many Americans have seen terrifying photos of homes ravaged by flames and a school bus charred from mustard yellow to dark amber. The photos may seem to suggest that nature is impartial with regard to who and what it harms. However, the effects of wildfires can’t be put down entirely to nature, and they are not equal.A new study published in PLoS One, “The unequal vulnerability of communities of color to wildfire,” takes a “social-ecological” approach to determine wildfire vulnerability across the 70,000-plus census tracts in the United States. The researchers find that communities of color—specifically, Census tracts that are majority black, Hispanic, or Native American—are about 50 percent more vulnerable to wildfire compared to other Census tracts. These three groups are overrepresented among the 12 million socially vulnerable Americans for whom a wildfire event could be devastating. (Asian and Pacific Islander Americans were included in the study, but tended not to live in places prone to fire or with low adaptive capacity, defined below.)“We looked at the problem similar to how people have looked at Katrina and other hurricane disasters, where you realize … the disaster part isn’t natural,” said Phillip Levin, one of the study’s authors, who is the lead scientist for the Nature Conservancy in Washington and a professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. “The disaster part is the result of the social, political, and economic context in which the environmental event happens.”The first map below shows wildfire hazard potential; the second, wildfire vulnerability. The latter takes into account both landscape wildfire risk and socioeconomic factors to discern how likely an area is to adapt to and recover from a wildfire. The researchers define adaptive capacity as “the ability of a census tract to absorb and adjust to disturbances, like wildfire, while minimizing damage to life, property, and services.” They measure it by using data from the Census’s 2014 American Community Survey on socioeconomic status, language, education, housing, and other factors.This map shows wildfire potential, as determined by the U.S. Forest Service, across the lower 48 states. The potential for an area to burn is calculated by considering factors such as burnable fuels on the landscape, vegetation, weather, and historical fire activity. (Ian Davies)This map shows wildfire vulnerability across the lower 48 states. Wildfire vulnerability takes into account both landscape wildfire risk and socioeconomic factors in determining how likely an area is to adapt to and recover from a wildfire. (Ian Davies)So, considering hazard potential alone, the Southeast generally exhibits moderate scores, with few places having very high potential for extreme wildfires. But considering the threat from a social-ecological perspective, the Southeast stands out as a region of high vulnerability to wildfire.The majority of the 29 million-plus Americans who live in areas with significant chance of extreme wildfires are white and socioeconomically secure. That obscures the fact that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans often have worse prospects ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Nicole Javorsky
    2 days ago
  • Cities Around Paris Strike a Rare Agreement to Ban Diesel Cars
    Paris may already be known for tough anti-car measures, but in pushing for change, it has long faced a major barrier: the region around it. Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s plan to ban cars from the Seine Quays, as a prime example, has been bitterly criticized by mayors of surrounding towns, and was even challenged in court by the surrounding Île-de-France region, among others.This week, however, it seems that pattern finally broke.On Monday, a large group of suburban municipalities agreed to ban all diesel-fueled cars built before 2000 inside the A86 Beltway, starting in July. In 2025, this will be upgraded to a ban on all diesel vehicles from before 2010, plus a ban on more polluting gasoline-powered cars built before 2006.What’s ground-breaking about the law is the vast area in which it would ban a set of cars. The A86 is a major highway that lies far outside the borders of the official City of Paris. The new ban would thus extend far into the suburbs (themselves far more populous than the official city), into a region that has battled Paris’s mayor over anti-pollution measures in the past.The zone it covers is very large, covering 79 of the 131 communes in the Greater Paris area, and it’s expected to remove 118,000 vehicles from the road. For this step, the participating municipalities deserve great credit. Not only will the size of their diesel-free zone have a major impact, it will also be implemented in a relatively car-dependent area where the political stakes for such a decision are potentially high.The municipalities were able to make this happen largely thanks to a relatively new administrative structure called the Métropole de Grand Paris. The Métropole has been long considered, but was only finally inaugurated in 2016 to create better cooperation within the metropolitan region the French refer to as the Petite Couronne, or “Little Crown.” This is an area with roughly 9 million residents, containing both the city of Paris and the heavily-populated territory that forms a ring around it. (That region is commonly referred to as “suburban” in French parlance, despite many areas of high density and urban character.)The Métropole itself doesn’t have a particularly large shared budget or much executive power, and as a result was initially damned by some as toothless at its inception. It’s too early to say that this body for inter-municipal collaboration is succeeding, but the brokering of new anti-pollution measures across is a major victory for the Métropole, and may indeed show tentative signs of a partial end to the standoff between city and suburbs.If this talk of Parisian diesel bans sounds familiar, that’s because the city proper already introduced a similar ban two years ago. In 2016, the official city of Paris barred all pre-1997 cars from circulating within the city limits. This ban has since increased in severity each year, and will reach its ultimate extent in 2020, when all cars built before 2010 will be banished from the streets. Even though this ban restricted itself ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Feargus O'Sullivan
    2 days ago
  • Inside the Movement to Derail Amazon HQ2 Incentives
    Amazon’s long-awaited HQ2 reveal was received Tuesday morning with a mix of glee and disgust. Starting in 2019, the company announced, it will plop two new 25,000-worker headquarters in Long Island City, Queens; and a portion of Northern Virginia that’s been newly branded as National Landing. In exchange, Amazon will receive more than $2 billion in state and local subsidies. That is, if a growing opposition party of activists and politicians doesn’t stop them first.“Our subways are crumbling, our children lack school seats, and too many of our neighbors lack adequate health care,” read a joint statement from New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. ”It is unfathomable that we would sign a $3 billion check to Amazon in the face of these challenges.” Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. (New York has not committed incentives as high as $3 billion, according to documents released by Amazon.)“Frankly, I’m mortified,” Lee Carter, a Democratic Virginia House Representative, told me. “We’re paying for the privilege of making our own lives worse.”The negotiations may be over, but the agreements Amazon and regional leaders produced were written mostly in secret. The details of each package, including incentives, weren’t released to the public until Amazon’s announcement Tuesday—even to key political figures in both jurisdictions.And the deals are not technically done. Before contracts are signed and money is transferred, local politicians and activists do have a few legal avenues left to alter them. In Virginia, the expenditures must be approved by the state legislature, which will vote on the budget in the January legislative session—a process that for previous deals has been little more than a rubber stamp, but that activists are hoping might be stalled this time by public pressure. In Arlington, the county board will weigh in this February, too. In New York, a way forward is more complicated: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the deal as a General Project Plan (GPP), a special genre of development that doesn’t need to go through a state or city vote. So instead, some New York legislators are drafting new laws aimed at preventing as much blood-letting in the next bidding war. And others are trying to find a legal way to challenge the GPP retroactively.Says New York’s Gianaris, the number-two Democrat in the State Senate: “We’re looking to delete what just happened and reset.”The push to reverse New York State’s “boutique” and “bogus” subsidiesTypically, the political will to slash economic deals after they’re made just isn’t there, in New York or elsewhere; whether the public is angry or not. But in New York, it’s politicians who have been most vocally against the Amazon package.“I will always advocate for economic development and jobs in New York, but when the process is done behind closed doors, with zero community input and nearly $2 billion in subsidies to a global behemoth, I am going to be skeptical,” New York City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson, wrote in a statement. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Sarah Holder
    2 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: It’s Time for Some ‘Dark Store Theory’
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingDiscount center: As the “retail apocalypse” rolls on, many cities are struggling to make up for the lost tax revenue they’ve come to expect from brick-and-mortar businesses. As it turns out, some surviving big-box retailers—like Walmart and Target—have found a way to trim their own expenses in a way that only amplifies cities’ budgetary pain. And they are focusing their efforts on a forum that few residents might notice: property tax assessments.It’s called “dark store theory,” and it’s essentially a novel argument that bustling big boxes should be taxed more like vacant “dark” stores. That means tax assessments value these open, functioning outlets as it they were the shuttered “ghost boxes” that have become increasingly common on the fringes of towns and suburbs. With appeal after appeal, retail giants are succeeding in persuading tax assessors and judges to accept these lower valuations. (Madison McVeigh/CityLab)CityLab’s Laura Bliss went to the epicenter of this theory, Wisconsin, to meet the mayors, assessors, and lawyers dueling over dark stores. Since 2015, the Badger State has seen 230 appeal cases in 34 counties, many as repeat appeals on the same properties. These appeals can add up to millions in tax refunds across towns. In the wake of yesterday’s Amazon HQ2 news, here’s a different story about the shifting fortunes of the retail landscape, the creative ways big companies avoid taxes, and the handouts towns keep offering to lure them in. Read Laura’s report: After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax MeltdownAndrew SmallMore on CityLab Why Cities Must Tackle Single-Family Zoning As cities wake up to their housing crises, the problems with single-family-home residential zoning will become too egregious to ignore. Benjamin Schneider America Really Is a Nation of Suburbs Most Americans describe their neighborhoods as suburban. Yet we still lack an official government definition of suburban areas. Shawn Bucholtz and Jed Kolko Voting Rights Aren’t Just a Black Issue: They Affect Poor People of All Races The Poor People’s Campaign is building a multi-ethnic national force to “save the democracy,” and end the cross-racial poverty it sees as born of racialized voter suppression. K.A. Dilday Rediscover the Gilded Age’s Most Famous Architects McKim, Mead & White, Selected Works 1879-1915 highlights the nation’s defining classical structures from the late 19th century. Karim Doumar As Beirut’s Trash Crisis Drags on, Children Recycle to Survive Official waste management in the Lebanese capital is inadequate. Informal scavengers help fill the gap, but many are refugee children. Kareem Chehayeb Super City Spidey looks out over Stan Lee's New York City. (Marvel Comics)Marvel Comics maven Stan Lee, who died Monday at 95, was an essential New York storyteller. A Bronx native, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Andrew Small
    2 days ago
  • Rediscover the Gilded Age’s Most Famous Architects
    The biggest murder trial of the 20th century happened in its sixth year—not its 95th as viewers of the O.J. Simpson trial might claim. On June 5, 1906, Stanford White, the 52-year-old celebrity architect co-founder of the firm McKim, Mead & White and serial womanizer was shot dead on the roof of a New York City building he had designed, in front of a crowd of people, by the husband of his mistress.What followed was a drawn out trial that saw his murderer successfully use an insanity defense, and his murderer’s mother use her wealth and power to convince a captivated nation that it was White who was at fault, according to Mosette Broderick, a historian and architect at New York University who wrote a book on the history of White’s eponymous architecture firm five years ago.And now, with this month’s release of McKim, Mead & White, Selected Works, 1879-1915 their works are enjoying a new moment in the light.The firm was one of the Gilded Age’s most influential and prominent architecture firms, making the trial for White’s murder front page news. Together, the three architects and their large staff designed thousands of buildings between the 1870s and 1920s, introduced and normalized classicism into the American architectural landscape.“Today, you couldn’t tear down a McKim, Mead & White building,” said Broderick. “The preservationists wouldn’t let you.” But the firm’s long tenure at the top of the architecture field wasn’t always guaranteed. “They were the Ralph Lauren, the Rolls Royce of architecture,” Broderick added. “Then the modern movement started, and boy did they crash. From 1925, when white walls and European modernism began its takeover of architecture, McKim, Mead & White were poison to the profession.”Theirs was a classical style. Drawing inspiration from Roman and Greek forms, McKim, Mead & White are largely credited with bringing classicism to the fore in the United States. For it, they gained prominent reputations as innovators and geniuses—or copycats and sellouts, depending on who you asked.Take, for example, Washington Square Arch, the large marble triumphal arch in New York City’s Greenwich Village. For some, it was a grand, heroic, and fitting tribute to George Washington, built to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of his ascendance to the presidency. Others, notes Broderick, lambasted Washington Square Arch as a copy, and its architects as hacks—borrowing liberally from Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, the grand archway inaugurated some 50 years earlier.But whatever you say about their ingenuity and originality, there’s no denying McKim, Mead & White’s impact on America’s Gilded Age architecture, which the book’s new volumes aim to capture.***Reeling from the negative publicity of the 1906 murder and revealing trial of their name partner, McKim, Mead and younger partners from the firm (which retained its name until 1956, long after the two other name partners retired, and five years before it closed for good) embarked on a mission to restore their reputation. The first help: A year after the murder, they won a bid to design New York City’s ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Karim Doumar
    2 days ago
  • ‘Dark Store Theory’ Is the Fourth Horseman of the Retail Apocalypse
    WEST BEND, WI—Kraig Sadowkinow doesn’t look like an anti-corporate crusader. The mayor of West Bend, Wisconsin, stickers his pickup with a “Don’t Tread on Me” snake on the back window, a GOP elephant on the hitch, and the stars-and-stripes logo of his construction company across the bumper.His fiscal conservatism is equally well billboarded: In the two hours we spent at City Hall and cruising West Bend in his plush truck, Sadowkinow twice mentioned the 6 percent he has shaved off the Wisconsin city’s operating budget since becoming mayor in 2011, and stressed its efforts to bring more business to town.So you might be surprised to learn that Sadowkinow (he instructed me to pronounce his name like sat-on-a-cow) is personally boycotting two of the biggest big-box retailers in his town, Walmart and Menards, the Midwestern home improvement chain. He’s avoiding shopping at these companies’ stores until they cease what he sees as a flagrant exploitation of West Bend’s property tax system: repeat tax appeals that, added up, could undermine the town’s hard-won fiscal health.Sadowkinow is one of many unlikely combatants who have lined up against “dark store theory.” That’s the ominous-sounding term that administrators have given to a head-spinning legal argument taking cities across the U.S. by storm. Big-box retailers such as Walmart, Target, Meijer, Menards, and others are trimming their expenses in a forum where few residents are looking: the property tax assessment process. With one property tax appeal after another, they are compelling small-town assessors and high-court judges to accept the novel argument that their bustling big boxes should be valued like vacant “dark” stores—i.e., the near-worthless properties now peppering America’s shopping plazas.To hear it from opponents, this emerging legal phenomenon essentially weaponizes an already grim retail landscape. But it’s not always clear who’s right and wrong—dark store theory is a battlefield muddied in the cryptic laws and upside-down logic of commercial property valuation. The potential slam to vulnerable tax bases is tangible, however. If the stores prevail in West Bend, for example, it would reduce property values by millions of dollars, force the city to refund hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, and set back payments on the public infrastructure that the town built to lure these retailers in the first place. That could result in higher taxes for residents, fewer police officers, firefighters, and teachers, and potentially, a mess of public debt.“They are holding the communities for ransom,” said Shannon Krause, the assessor in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where Lowe’s, Nordstrom, Best Buy, Meijer, and others have also appealed their valuations, year after year after year.Wauwatosa and West Bend are two of the countless communities around the U.S. confronted with dark store appeals that cities worry could be ruinous. A survey conducted by CityLab of the International Association of Assessing Officers, a society for property valuation and tax policy professionals, found that these types of appeals have been filed in at least 21 U.S. states over the past 10 years. The appeals likely number in the thousands, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Laura Bliss
    2 days ago
  • America Really Is a Nation of Suburbs
    The geography of America is shifting. Population and job growth are happening faster in suburbs than in urban neighborhoods. At the same time, crowded urban neighborhoods are getting richer and their housing is getting more expensive. There are clear statistical differences among Americans living in urban, suburban, and rural parts of America when it comes to voting patterns, attitudes on social issues, labor and economic outcomes, and health outcomes.  The distinction between urban and rural matters to the federal government, and there is an abundance of official federal definitions of urban and rural. And yet among these definitions, none includes a third category: suburban.The lack of an official federal definition of suburban means that government data are not reported separately for suburban areas. That makes it hard to measure the reach and impact of federal programs and to produce vital statistics about Americans and their communities.Much of America looks suburban, with neighborhoods of single-family homes connected by roads to retail centers and low-rise office buildings. For the first time, government data confirm this. According to the newly released 2017 American Housing Survey (of nearly 76,000 households nationwide), about 52 percent of people in the United States describe their neighborhood as suburban, while about 27 percent describe their neighborhood as urban, and 21 percent as rural.These results echo those from a 2015 survey in which one of us (Jed Kolko) and colleagues at Trulia asked more than 2,000 people around the nation the same question. We found then that 53 percent of survey respondents described their neighborhood as suburban, 26 percent as urban, and 21 percent as rural.Because there is no official definition of “suburban,” asking people to describe their neighborhood is the first step in formalizing a definition. Kolko showed that household density and other neighborhood characteristics are strongly associated with how people describe their neighborhoods. Others have used those density cutoffs in geographic analyses, including of the midterm elections.Official geographic definitions should catch up with how Americans describe their neighborhoods. These definitions do a good job at distinguishing rural neighborhoods from the overwhelmingly non-rural majority of the population, but fare poorly at differentiating urban from suburban neighborhoods.Finding the suburban in urban dataWe wondered: Do existing government definitions of urbanization reveal that more than half of Americans live in the suburbs? We compare each AHS respondent’s answer to the neighborhood question with how their address is classified by two main federal definitions of urbanization: the Census Bureau’s Urban Areas and the Office of Management and Budget’s Core-Based Statistical Areas, which include Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Micropolitan Statistical Areas.We draw two conclusions from these results pertaining to Urban Areas. First, the good news: if Urban Areas are understood to mean urban and suburban neighborhoods, they do well at distinguishing rural neighborhoods from the urban-plus-suburban majority of America. Our analysis reveals that over 95 percent of households living in Urbanized Areas (that is, Urban Areas with more than 50,000 people) consider their neighborhood to be either urban or suburban, while 79 percent ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Shawn Bucholtz
    2 days ago
  • Single-Family Zoning: The Biggest Battle in the Generational Housing War
    In my neighborhood in San Francisco (or, more accurately, my parents’ neighborhood) there’s a plan afoot to build 42 units of new housing in two parking lots, just steps from a light rail line. Thanks to the city’s inclusionary zoning laws, 18 to 20 percent of those units must be offered at below market rates, on streets lined with single-family homes worth around $1.5 million, and renting for around $5,000 per month, according to Zillow.Construction could still be years away, due to the city’s byzantine approval process. But the neighbors are already buzzing about the plan, expressing fears that the development won’t fit the neighborhood and preparing demands to scale the project down. It’s Bay Area NIMBYism-as-usual—except that my neighbors are progressive enough to blanch at that now-loaded term. They’re still YIMBYs, as one writer on our local listserv insisted—just the kind whose “yes” to new housing is a bit more qualified.Such is the state of housing politics in late 2018, on the bleeding edge of a land-use revolution. Booming, expensive cities need more housing, especially the affordable kind. The question is, where will it go? Downtowns are sprouting with cranes, but land values are such that all market-rate development is uber-expensive. And there’s lots of housing, both market rate and affordable, going up in once-low-income neighborhoods that are now gentrifying. Meanwhile, neighborhoods like my own—full of single-family homes—remain virtually untouched by new development.Convincing—or forcing—the homeowners who rule these neighborhoods to accept new housing that is not consonant with the existing fabric of million-dollar homes is an oft-overlooked front in America’s housing wars, and one that could have a huge structural impact. Adding dense or below-market-rate apartments in high-income neighborhoods close to job centers allows more people to live and commute in an environmentally friendly manner, increases economic mobility, and counters the shameful legacy of segregation.In Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America, San Francisco tenant activist Randy Shaw paints a picture of a nation beginning to wake up to its housing crisis, but unsure of what to do about it. For years, the discussion around housing affordability in big cities has focused on gentrifying neighborhoods like San Francisco’s Mission District and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. But according to Shaw, not enough attention is being paid to the wealthier, usually single family home neighborhoods that have effectively walled themselves off from all new housing construction, creating a sort of spatial class privilege that is rampant in America’s most progressive cities. “These high-opportunity neighborhoods must serve more economically diverse residents,” he said in a recent interview in CityLab. “[C]ities that claim to promote inclusion cannot just relegate the non-rich to economically segregated parts of town.”Generation Priced Out makes the case that providing a wider variety of housing options in these neighborhoods is the missing policy intervention for addressing America’s housing crisis. In his detailed descriptions of successful and not-so-successful housing strategies from around the country, Shaw demonstrates that cities are starting to create a policy playbook that addresses ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, November 14, 2018By Benjamin Schneider
    2 days ago
  • Voting Rights Aren’t Just a Black Issue: They Affect Poor People of All Races
    On November 1, a few days before the midterm elections, Reverend William Barber II took the stage at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. He was there to talk about the movement he planned to help lead—the coming fight for “the soul of our nation.”In an auditorium off the hall where Langston Hughes’ ashes are interred, Barber and Reverend Liz Theoharis—a black male Southerner and a white female Northeasterner, respectively—spoke about class, voting rights, politics, and morality. The two are the co-chairs of the recently launched Poor People’s Campaign, a rekindling of the wider movement that Martin Luther King, Jr. was building shortly before he was assassinated.“If you are white, or you are black, or you are red, or you are yellow, or you are brown, and you don’t have enough money to pay your light bill, we’re all black in the dark, so we have got to have this conversation,” said Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina (and a newly minted MacArthur “genius” grant awardee). “That is why a true revolution—a mobile poor campaign—cannot just be a black movement. It has to be a black, brown, white movement that takes race and poverty together.”Fifty years after King’s death in 1968, the Poor People’s Campaign is returning to face the same problems, and with the same principle: that people of all races who are suffering the effects of rampant greed at the hands of oligarchs share common oppression, and thus must make common cause. Theoharis, who is the founder of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice in New York City, joined Barber in Harlem to bring the message that to speak and act in “silos” of identity activist groups—black, poor, Native American, white, LGBT—falls prey to the right wing’s divide-and-conquer tactics.Poverty, they insisted, does not honor the perceived borders of these silos. Today, a greater percentage of Native Americans live in poverty than people of any other ethnicity; there are more white people who are living in poverty than any of other race; more than a quarter of blacks and nearly a quarter of Latinx are poor.(Poor People’s Campaign)This perspective may seem counter to the current narrative of the left in general, and of black activists in particular, with their focus on black poverty and white supremacy. But Barber asked the audience to examine the state of things more closely: “All of the states that have passed voter suppression laws have elected politicians who cut taxes for the wealthy, who are against workers’ rights, who are against insurance and immigrants, against gay people and public education. They all get elected somewhat because of racialized voter suppression. But when they get in office they pass policies that hurt mostly white people.“Barber pointed out that on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court removed a key provision of the voting rights act and “threw it to Congress“ to fix. “They have been sitting on fixing the voting rights act for … five ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, November 13, 2018By K.A. Dilday
    3 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: Amazon HQ2: Just Another Winner-Take-All?
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingProceed to checkout: Welp, it’s finally here. After 14 months, Amazon officially announced that New York City and Arlington, Virginia, will share the duty of hosting its second (and third?) headquarters. The announcement comes as no surprise after leaks blew HQ2’s cover last week, but the choice to split it across two of America’s most affluent cities has left many of the 238 city participants soured on a bait-and-switch bidding process. “I still feel this entire Amazon process was a big joke just to end up exactly where everyone guessed at the start,” Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop tweeted Monday night.Today’s grand reveal does yield some new details, though. There’s a small consolation prize for Nashville, and we also get an actual glance at the economic incentives offered by each of the three selected cities. For a good subplot, look to Washington, where everyone is perplexed by Northern Virginia’s curious decision to rebrand the newly HQ2-ed area as “National Landing.” (We’re determined to find out more.) CityLab’s Sarah Holder has what you need to know about the announcement, and will have updates as we learn more: Amazon HQ2 Goes to New York City and Northern Virginia.Even if the HQ2 contest followed a familiar winner-take-all pattern, CityLab’s Richard Florida writes it’s not necessarily a sign of where big tech companies are moving overall. Andrew SmallMore on CityLab The Housing Crisis Seems to Be Hitting Some Veterans More Than Others A new study finds that Post-9/11 veterans struggle with home prices at a greater rate than earlier generations of vets and more than other non-vet civilians. Sarah Holder Stan Lee’s New York City The Marvel Comics maestro gave his superheroes a city that’s colorful, dangerous, rude, quippy, and full of heart. It might be his greatest creation. Kriston Capps Why Some Home Prices Rebound Quickly After a Forest Fire A ruined view following a wildfire affects property values, but only because it's a painful reminder of risk, economists find. Sophie Yeo For Sale: A Piece of the Eiffel Tower A section of the tower’s original staircase is up for auction in Paris this month. Feargus O'Sullivan A Neglected Art Deco Gem in Puerto Rico Becomes a Community Staple Just after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, a historic movie theater in Ponce was restored and reopened as a family-run bakery. Rebecca Gale What We’re ReadingIf you drive in Los Angeles, the cops can track your every move (Wired)What would a smog-free city look like? (The Guardian)The out-of-control price of American homes in one map (Fast Company)Relocate your own personal headquarters to Tulsa? (Quartz)Landscape preservation’s urgent challenge: Civil rights historic sites (Curbed)Tell your friends about the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, November 13, 2018By Andrew Small
    3 days ago
  • HQ2 Is Only Part of the Story of Big-Tech Expansion
    When word got out that Amazon is going to split its HQ2 between New York City and greater Washington, D.C., as the company made official today, many saw it as evidence of the widening gap between America’s coastal superstar cities and the heartland. Amazon is expanding from Seattle, a successful tech hub on the West Coast, to the world’s leading global city (New York) and the capital of the most powerful nation on Earth (Washington), both of which sit on the East Coast Acela corridor, equivalent to one of the world’s largest economies. With Google planning yet another expansion in New York, here is another example of winner-take-all urbanism.While that is certainly true, there are signs that some big tech firms are expanding away from the San Francisco Bay Area, long the dominant player in tech, to smaller and non-coastal places.The maps below—from a new report by commercial real estate research firm CBRE on recent office expansions of big tech firms outside their home markets—shed light on the complex, evolving geography of big tech.(All graphics courtesy of CBRE Research)The first map shows the pattern for Amazon’s home city, Seattle. Big tech firms based there mainly expanded in three other leading tech cities: San Francisco, New York, and Boston. (Interestingly, not greater Washington, D.C., where Amazon will locate a piece of its HQ2.)Now look at the pattern for big tech firms headquartered in Boston. Their biggest expansions are in San Francisco, followed by New York and Seattle.Next, consider New York, the nation’s largest headquarters city by far, where half of HQ2 is going. Its big tech firms are expanding in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also in HQ2 losers Austin and Chicago.The most illuminating map is the one of the San Francisco Bay Area itself. For one thing, there are a lot more expansions outside of home base. Bay Area tech firms are expanding in New York, taking on considerable footprints in Washington, D.C., and Boston, establishing a big presence in L.A. and Southern California, and even more so in the Pacific Northwest.But San Francisco’s big tech companies are also setting up shop in less obvious cities, such as Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, and Austin. This is likely a reflection of San Francisco’s metastasizing new urban crisis of high housing prices, escalating office rents, increasing competition for talent, and growing inequality.Big tech may reflect a winner-take-all geography, but some changes are afoot. Take a look at the chart above, which compares high-tech talent to office-market strength in the 30 leading tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.The far-right corner shows “Growth Leaders.” Here we find the established tech hubs of Silicon Valley and Seattle, and the smaller hubs of Austin, Raleigh-Durham, Denver, and Portland. None of America’s larger superstar cities make this category. San Francisco is listed in the lower right-hand quadrant labeled “High Potential,” along with Toronto, Montreal, Indianapolis, and St. Louis.Leading superstar cities (New York, Boston, and D.C.) appear in the bottom-left quadrant, “Lagging,” along with Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, November 13, 2018By Richard Florida
    3 days ago
  • Stan Lee’s New York City
    “New York is a large city… and, in such a vast, sprawling metropolis you’ll find all kinds of characters and kooks!”Stan Lee wrote those words in 1964 to set the opening scene for Daredevil #4. When a man strolls into a Manhattan bank dressed head to toe in purple—from his suit to his hair to his skin—nobody bats an eye, Lee’s floating text balloon explains. It was a mood.“What an odd-looking man!” offers one passerby, her sense of shock still intact, as the villainous Killgrave exits the bank with a bag full of cash. “Hmmph… probably some new type of beatnik!” her companion suggests.Lee embodied that sardonic everyman New Yorker. Over the past decade, the impresario delighted audiences in that wisecracking role, through cameo appearances in all umpteen Hollywood blockbusters that make up the Marvel cinematic universe. These were always homages to the New York he brought to life in his pages. Marvel’s maestro died on Monday at 95, leaving behind a behemoth engine for pop culture and a conflicted legacy as a creator. Whatever else he was or wasn’t, he was an essential New York storyteller, one whose tales span decades.Lee was a creator behind some of the most dynamic figures in the superhero genre. Like Lee himself, a native son of the Bronx, his heroes are all New Yorkers. There’s Daredevil, the acrobat–turned–defense attorney–turned–crimefighter whose charge is Hell’s Kitchen. His appearance in the Marvel universe followed closely behind that of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, who calls Queens home. The Fantastic Four are more frequently found in the Negative Zone than New York, but they hold the fort in a 35-story tower in Midtown. All of these and many more were Lee’s modern fairy tales of New York.Lee and his collaborators made characters out of places. When he and artist Bill Everett launched Daredevil in the 1960s, Hell’s Kitchen—which readers may know better today as Clinton—was still a predominantly Irish American neighborhood. Matthew Murdock (that’s Daredevil) was its avatar and protector, the son of a boxer, Jack, who was killed after he refused to throw a fight. Hell’s Kitchen changed, of course, and so did Daredevil, from the pulp crime procedural book of the 1970s to the darker Catholic anti-hero storylines of the 1980s. With the High Line and Hudson Yards encroaching just to the south, Hell’s Kitchen today is so bougie that Daredevil’s Netflix series goes to elaborate ends to explain why the area is still awash in ninjas from The Hand. (Because the trickster god Loki’s invasion from space, naturally.)  While Lee stopped writing the books in the early 1970s, the storylines that he and other creators set in motion still swing like a pendulum. More often than not, for a certain set of Marvel publications, it was New York itself driving the plot. Karen Page—one of Daredevil’s best friends, introduced during his earliest adventures—returns in a 1986 storyline as a strung-out porn star. Back then, who didn’t?Colorful, dangerous, rude, quippy, and full of heart, Stan Lee’s New ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, November 13, 2018By Kriston Capps
    3 days ago
  • Amazon HQ2 Goes to New York City and Northern Virginia
    Updated: 2018-11-13 Amazon announced today that Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Virginia, will be sister hosts to its second and third headquarters. In Nashville, Tennessee, Amazon will put a smaller Operations Center of Excellence. The decision—which was already partly spoiled by leakers last week—closed the final chapter in a contentious, 14-month-long selection process that pitted cities across the U.S. (and Canada) against one another in what might be the most high-profile public bidding war in modern history.Amazon will bring more than 25,000 full-time jobs to each partner region; along with 4 million square feet of office space (that might eventually expand to $8 million), and a projected $2.5 billion in investment. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, in a statement. In Nashville, it will hire 5,000 full-time workers, occupy 1 million square feet of office space, and inject about $230 million in investment, according to Amazon’s statement.For the chance to win high-paying tech jobs, cities and states offered as much as $8.5 billion in tax incentives, revamped their transit plans, and staged elaborate marketing campaigns to lure the company.These regions bid, too. According to Amazon, the company will be given more than $2 billion in performance-based incentives, partly contingent on the number of jobs with salaries over $150,000 they create: $1.525 billion from New York State, and $550 million from  Virginia. It will also receive $23 million in cash grants from Arlington, which will come from a slow increase to a local hotel room tax.Cities have also been making targeted investments for months, in part with Amazon in mind: Long Island just announced $180 million in planned expenditures targeted at transit, infrastructure, and housing; and in March, the D.C. metro area made $500 million in investments to its metro. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered to change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” in a joking demonstration of just how much he would do to bring the company to his state.Besides the physical and economic shockwaves an Amazon headquarters will likely set off in Northern Virginia and New York City, the selection process could also signal a paradigm shift for these kinds of economic development deals. By publicly releasing a North America-wide Request for Proposals last September, Amazon breathed drama into the once-obscure site selection process. In Hunger Games-style elimination rounds, Amazon whittled down a pool of 238 competing regions to 20 in December, and has spent almost a year bring that down to one.To gain a competitive advantage, some cities and states altered their tax codes or introduced new legislative measures to free up more funding. Others unearthed little-used economic development plans (like one in Illinois that returns some of employees’ income taxes back to the corporation), or considered letting Amazon control what social programs their tax dollars would fund. Newark’s $7 billion and Maryland’s $8.5 billion offers were the flashiest numbers, but many ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, November 13, 2018By Sarah Holder
    3 days ago
  • The Housing Crisis Seems to Be Hitting Some Veterans More Than Others
    For generations of veterans, getting help achieving the American dream of homeownership was a built-in benefit of military service. After World War II, GI Bills began providing educational and housing subsidies to veterans and their families; and government-backed Veterans’ Assistance loans (mostly to white vets) helped them easily secure mortgages. As a result, today, even as a housing crisis wracks the country—and as an estimated 40,000 homeless veterans go unsheltered each night—veterans are more likely to own their home than civilians.But zoom in, and you’ll find that the advantage breaks down by war. According to a new report from Apartment List, veterans who served post-9/11 are actually more likely to struggle to afford housing—far more than any group of veterans before them, and even a little more than the average non-vet American citizen. Nearly 35 percent of them are cost-burdened (meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing) and fewer than half of them own their own homes.“When you look at the landscape in the way we support our veterans in the housing market, most of it happens on the margins of homelessness, or on the margin of homeownership,” Igor Popov, the author of the report, told CityLab. What this report reveals, he says, is that especially for post-9/11 veterans, focusing on those margins has left out an increasingly unstable middle.Far fewer Post-9/11 veterans own their homes than any other veteran generation. Almost 90 percent of 1955-1964 American veterans owned their own homes, compared to less than half of Post-9/11 ones. (Apartment List)Part of the variance in housing outlook could be explained away by changing demographics, Popov says: Veterans today are younger, and younger people are renting more than they’re buying. They’re also the most diverse cohort in history, meaning they’re more likely to be shut out of the housing market and saddled with intergenerational poverty.“Underrepresented minorities have unique challenges they face in the housing market,” Popov said. “Whether through implicit discrimination or other things, like the long-lasting effects on neighborhoods of residential segregation.” These are issues that veterans’ assistance policies weren’t initially designed to address—and in some cases, issues that they exacerbated. Today, though African-American and Hispanic veterans only account for around 15 percent of the total U.S. veteran population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, they account for 45 percent of all homeless ones.These younger and more diverse demographics do likely account for the homeownership gap, Popov says, but not all of the variance in cost burden. When comparing veterans’ ability to afford housing compared to a civilian cohort of exactly the same age, race, and gender, post-9/11 veterans’ handicap is staggering: While Vietnam veterans are 10 percent more likely to afford their housing costs than their civilian peers, and Gulf War veterans are a full 25 percent more likely, post-9/11 vets are actually 5 percent less likely to be able to afford their housing costs.Even controlling for demographics, Post-9/11 vets were more likely to be cost-burdened than their civilian counterparts. (Apartment ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, November 12, 2018By Sarah Holder
    4 days ago
  • A Neglected Art Deco Gem in Puerto Rico Becomes a Community Staple
    For Carlos Colón and his family, rehabilitating a former Art Deco theater building in downtown Ponce, Puerto Rico, has been the very definition of a labor of love. Committed to revitalizing their hometown by restoring its beautiful historic buildings, the Colóns spent four years and $400,000 of their own money transforming the vacant building into an airy community bakery that pays homage to its past.Since the building’s genesis in 1940 as El Teatro Argel, it had been used as a movie theater, a disco, a storage space, and a church. The artful structure was the work of Pedro Mendez Mercado, a native of Ponce who received his B.A. in architecture from Syracuse University in 1926 and went on to design many of the Art Deco-style theaters around Ponce, in addition to his most famous work, the Miami Building in Condado. However, in 1990, a powerful fire melted some of the iron beams that held up the ceiling, leaving the grand theater vacant for two decades until Ponce businessman Carlos Colón moved in across the street.In 2008, Colón started La Nueva Victoria bakery on the street that was once the main avenue for business in the city. Another project quickly caught his eye: The empty shell of a 1940 movie theater that sat vacant across the street. “Every day when we opened the doors to our bakery at 5 a.m., as we saw the old theater in front of us,” Colón’s daughter Tatiana explained, “[My father] could feel that the building was screaming to be saved. That it deserved a new life.”Colón asked the building’s owner about purchasing the historic property, but was repeatedly turned down until finally reaching an agreement a few years later. In February 2013, the Colón family started work on the place. A mere four walls and a ceiling damaged beyond repair, the place needed a fresh reimagining—and a lot of time and money—before it could get back on track. For a year, all the profits from the bakery went to rehabbing the theater. “We decided that everything we made on the bakery was going to the other building,” Tatiana commented. “It was an investment that [is paying] off now. It was a difficult year, but my father had this idea in his mind, and he was going to make it happen no matter what.”Colón, an experienced contractor, oversaw the renovation and did much of the work himself—and with such a damaged space, there was no shortage of work to do. The roof had to be replaced and the interior reconstructed.Colón did research on how to give the building a historic feel, and every significant change made to the space had to be approved by the city’s historical commission, who also helped pick the bold teal color that now graces the building’s exterior.Since the building’s genesis in 1940 as El Teatro Argel, it had been used as a movie theater, a disco, a storage space, and a church. Its architect, Pedro Mendez Mercado, was a native of ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, November 12, 2018By Rebecca Gale
    4 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: A Tiny Way to Address Chronic Homelessness
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingTiny in Texas: You’ve likely heard of the “housing first” approach to addressing homelessness, which focuses on getting people into permanent, safe housing before dealing with other issues like unemployment or addiction. In Austin, Texas, one nonprofit is taking that idea a step further, by putting community first. The Community First! Village is a planned development of tiny homes and RVs that’s optimized for socialization, with front porches, grouped facilities and amenities, and outdoor kitchens intended to gather residents, all of whom are men and women who have struggled with chronic homelessness.Founder Alan Graham, who started out by feeding people out of a pickup truck with church friends, was inspired by seeing how RV parks and campgrounds could instill a sense of neighborliness among short-term residents. “There was this inherent sense of community,” he says. “I think now it’s because of the small spaces.” Now he’s building what’s set to be the biggest tiny-home community for the homeless in the United States. The 27-acre village just broke ground on an expansion that will nearly double its size and bring its total population to 480 people. That’s roughly 40 percent of the estimated 1,200 chronically homeless people living in Austin. Today on CityLab: In a Texas Town of Tiny Homes, the Chronically Homeless Find CommunityAndrew SmallMore on CityLab How a Dutch Housing Agency Rescued An Amsterdam Street From the Drug Trade Frustrated by rampant heroin trade, residents of the street Zeedijk forced a public-private real-estate partnership to protect the street while preventing community displacement. Deborah Nicholls-Lee Why the Vote to Secede From a Black City Failed in Georgia There were many reasons to oppose letting Eagle’s Landing tear apart the city of Stockbridge, but it shouldn’t have even been on the ballot in the first place. Brentin Mock Amazon’s HQ2 Spectacle Isn’t Just Shameful—It Should Be Illegal Each year, local governments spend nearly $100 billion to move headquarters and factories between states. It’s a wasteful exercise that requires a national solution. Derek Thompson Photos: Wildfires Are Decimating California Cities Northern California’s Camp Fire has destroyed thousands of homes and claimed many lives. Meanwhile, the Southern California Woolsey Fire has left much of Malibu under mandatory evacuation. Karim Doumar To Find Community, Wake Up Early and Dance Radha Agrawal, inventor of Daybreaker early-morning dance parties, wrote a book on how make more friends in an isolating world. I tried to follow her advice. Sarah Holder Corporate Raid(Chris Carlson/AP)Bloomberg has an eye-opening story about ICE raids on 7-Eleven stores and how those raids might be used to take back convenience stores from its independent franchise operators. That’s the fear that hung over Gurtar Sandhu when ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, November 12, 2018By Andrew Small
    4 days ago
  • Photos: Wildfires Are Decimating California Cities
    The wildfires that ravaged California over the weekend are showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. In Northern California, the Camp Fire leveled the city of Paradise late last week, engulfing and destroying the town in a matter of hours as desperate residents fled the wall of flames, some being overtaken in their cars.“Ninety-five percent of the town is gone,” town council member Michael Zuccolillo told the San Francisco Chronicle.  In Southern California, nearly all of Malibu was under mandatory evacuation orders, as was Thousand Oaks—still reeling from Wednesday’s mass shooting—as the Woolsey Fire tore through the hills and advanced all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The evacuation has displaced 170,000 people.Flames consume a home as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, California, on Thursday. (Noah Berger/AP)Together, the immense infernos have made 2018 one of California’s deadliest fire seasons, even as it’s still recovering from 2017, when a devastating series of wildfires in California’s Wine Country claimed 44 lives and caused $3 billion in damage, and Los Angeles burned again and again.A structure is engulfed in flames in the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)Already, the Northern California Camp Fire has claimed 29 lives, and 228 people are reported missing, according to the Sacramento Bee. The 115,000-acre fire has also destroyed 6,400 homes and 300 other structures. It has matched the death toll for California’s deadliest wildfire, and it’s believed to be the most destructive in the state’s history, NBC News reports.Still, it’s just 25 percent contained as firefighters from across the state and country—including prisoners making $1 per hour—battle the blaze.A view of Paradise Estate, destroyed by the Camp Fire. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)Harrowing stories have emerged from survivors, like Greg Woodcox, who watched the Camp Fire overtake his neighbors’ cars before fleeing on foot and taking shelter in a 3-foot deep stream as the fire raged overhead.Investigators have found multiple incidents of people killed in their cars as they attempted to flee.An abandoned and burned school bus and cars in the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)Across the state, thick smoke from the fires has blocked out the sun and blanketed cities as residents struggle to breathe. Because of the air quality, schools across the Bay Area closed Friday, and residents were urged to stay inside as small but dedicated groups of advocates attempted to secure masks for the homeless.A vehicle drives through smoke from a wildfire near Pulga, California, on Sunday. (Noah Berger/AP)Many fleeing residents Mablibu, caught in traffic and trapped between the fast-moving flames and the ocean, took shelter at the beach, its deep blue ocean and picturesque sand transformed into an apocalyptic hellscape.Smoke over the ocean as the Woolsey Fire burns in Malibu, California. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)The growing strength and destruction of California’s incredible infernos can be attributed to a few things. For one, years of drought have left the state’s massive forests incredibly dry, like tinder boxes ready to explode.A satellite image of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on November 9. (DigitalGlobe/Handout via Reuters)In ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, November 12, 2018By Karim Doumar
    4 days ago
  • In a Texas Town of Tiny Homes, the Chronically Homeless Find Community
    There are a lot of things that Richard Devore likes about the 250-square-foot tiny home he’s lived since early last year. He loves the wood cabinets in his house, the sprawling oak trees providing shade outside, the goats roaming in the pasture nearby. But most of all, he loves “the fact that I’m supposed to be here,” says Devore, who was homeless for the 13 years before he moved in. “I can relax and belong here.”Devore lives at Community First! Village, a 27-acre master planned community just outside Austin, Texas, where more than 200 people who were once chronically homeless live in tiny homes and RVs. Everyone who lives at Community First! pays rent, ranging from $225 to $430 per month; many residents are employed on-site.“Before I moved here, I honestly didn’t think my life would have anything other than being a homeless drug addict,” Devore says. He’d lived in an apartment for two brief stints during the years he was homeless and once held a steady job. But old habits were hard to break. “I hung out with the same people. I didn’t know any of my neighbors. I was living the same life, just with shelter,” he says. “Eventually I decided I wanted to get high more than I wanted to pay rent. If nothing changes in someone’s life, when the money runs out, they’re going right back to where they were.”This is the idea that fuels Community First! Village. “They have a saying upstairs,” Devore says. “Housing will never cure homelessness, but community will.”That’s a variation on the “housing first” model of addressing homelessness, which focuses on getting people into permanent, safe housing before dealing other issues like unemployment or addiction. “Community first” takes that idea a step further, with a singular focus on providing housing within community. While there are several tiny-home villages built for the formerly homeless across the United States, Austin’s Community First! Village is distinct in its communal focus.It’s also the largest such community—and it’s about to double in size. In October, Community First! broke ground on a 24-acre expansion, which will add 110 RV sites and 200 micro-homes, alongside a permanent 20,000-square-foot health facility. That would bring the village’s total population to 480 people—roughly 40 percent of the estimated 1,200 chronically homeless people living in Austin, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition—and make it considerably larger than any other tiny-home community for the homeless.Community First! Village is the brainchild of founder Alan Graham, a real estate developer who started feeding people out of a pickup truck with four friends from Austin’s St. John Neumann Catholic Church two decades ago. They called it Mobile Loaves & Fishes and stocked the truck with fresh food and clean clothes. In 2003, Graham started spending nights out on the streets, deepening the relationships he’d formed through the food truck. “We started asking: What is it that you desire?” he says. “Community was what emerged.”A gardening shed at Community First! Village. (Courtesy Mobile Loaves & Fishes)He ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, November 12, 2018By Megan Kimble
    4 days ago
  • How a Dutch Housing Agency Rescued An Amsterdam Street From the Drug Trade
    Distracted by the ornate gable stones and characterful stores and cafes, most visitors to the Zeedijk, one of Amsterdam’s most popular streets, fail to notice the small metal plaques affixed to buildings. The red squiggle under the estate-agency name depicts the L-shaped contour of the street. This is the symbol of the real estate agency NV Zeedijk, a community scheme without which this cheerful high street might never have existed.Draped like a protective arm around the northeastern shoulder of Amsterdam’s oldest settlement, the medieval Zeedijk (pronounced sea-dike) once held back the sea. As the city expanded and the wealthy merchants moved further out, the street took a different battering, lurching from sailors’ sex den in the 18th and 19th century to Amsterdam’s most notorious street in the 1970s and 80s, when drug dealers, thieves, and heroin addicts made it their territory.“If I had somebody coming over to have dinner, I had to pick them up. I had to guide them through the area, otherwise it would have been too dangerous,” recalls Eddy Appels, an anthropologist and documentary-maker who moved to the Zeedijk in 1985. “It’s not nice to open your curtains and see junkies and dealers and people getting ripped off. There were needles everywhere … I’ve seen people stabbed, robbed at knife-point—it was really, really bad.”Much of the heroin originated from the East, and the Zeedijk, the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinatown, was an obvious marketplace for it. Addicts, drug tourists, impoverished Dutch-Surinamese immigrants, and tormented artists such as Beat Generation poet Gregory Corso and jazz musician Chet Baker—who would die there—washed up on the Zeedijk, many in search of a fix.The residents began to move out. Some buildings were occupied by squatters—victims of high unemployment and a housing shortage. “There were a lot of houses that were abandoned and really falling apart,” remembers Appels. “Nobody wanted to invest in the area.” The residents watched their district implode.On May 19, 1983, they stormed the council chambers. Showering the room in icing sugar from small bags labelled “heroin,” they demanded that something be done to return the street to the people that lived there. The result was increased policing and a treatment-based approach to tackle heroin addiction. But it was the residents, led by Jack Cohen, chairman of a community security organization, who provided the biggest turning point by proposing that the municipality buy up the neglected houses and rehabilitate them.Under considerable political pressure to act, the municipality joined with the city business association and the community center, to put up financial backing that was later supplemented by investment  from banks and property firms that feared the decaying Zeedijk would devalue real estate in neighboring areas: Limited company NV Zeedijk was founded in 1985 under the directorship of Jack Cohen.Bulldozing the dilapidated buildings and replacing them with modern structures might have been more cost-effective, but this public-private real estate agency, like the original sea wall, had a mission to preserve and protect.The Zeedjik in the 1980s, during its period of renovation.It ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, November 12, 2018By Deborah Nicholls-Lee
    4 days ago