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Urban theory

The Arts: Part of the Solution

The OAC has developed this new Web page to provide access to resources that will aid you in making the case for the arts in your community and beyond.

We know that maintaining a strong arts and cultural infrastructure is fundamental to strengthening the state’s economy and education system and to ensure that all citizens have hope for a better future for Ohio. Support for the arts and cultural sector is a sound investment of public dollars—an investment that provides significant returns in the form of stabilized, revitalized communities, a better quality of life, and an education system that prepares our young people to be engaged citizens and productive members of the 21st century workforce.

The arts are part of the solution for a better Ohio and this Web page provides you the resources you need to demonstrate these key points effectively to community leaders and elected officials across the state.

Complete the Streets!

The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.

Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.

Read More…

The Power of Place in Economic Development

New Michigan State University report urges focus on place in economic redevelopment
by Sven Gustafson | Michigan Business Review
Monday April 13, 2009, 4:58 PM

College-educated young workers who value quality of life issues above the availability of jobs and other factors will shape the new economy, a new report from Michigan State University concludes.

The report from MSU’s Land Policy Institute, entitled “Chasing the Past or Investing in Our Future: Placemaking for Prosperity in the New Economy,” recommends that communities make themselves more attractive by investing in green spaces, redeveloping downtowns and connecting the economies of urban and rural areas. The authors plan to release the full report Tuesday during the opening of the two-day 2009 Michigan Land and Prosperity Summit in Lansing.

The report finds that regional economic development clustered around assets could afford hard-hit Michigan communities with an opportunity to grow.

“Every place doesn’t have everything,” said Soji Adelaja, LPI’s director, in a statement. “But virtually every place has something that can appeal to certain segments of the population and create prosperity for communities.”

The report adds to an increasing body of research arguing that so-called knowledge workers age 25-34 are key assets for urban communities to try and attract.

It coincides with the planned release Tuesday by Ann Arbor-based think tank Michigan Future Inc. of its second-annual report detailing the state’s transition toward a knowledge-based economy.

Michigan Future president Lou Glazer has argued the state must do more to keep more of its talented young college graduates from leaving the state in order to prosper.

The new MSU report urges communities to leverage the knowledge base of existing universities. It also argues that investment in so-called green infrastructure, such as parks and trail systems, is just as important as investment in traditional infrastructure of roads and bridges.

The authors argue that urban policy makers should focus more on strategies to attract new economy growth than enacting tax incentives and other “fiscal competition” strategies, which they argue are ineffective in creating jobs.


When the market recovers, smartly located urbanism will claim a larger share. Here’s why.

By Kaid Benfield for Congress for the New Urbanism

Even before the recession began, the market for residential and commercial property in the US was changing away from a model of unmitigated suburban sprawl and toward one of more central locations, urbanity, and walkable neighborhoods. The foreclosure crisis, spike in gasoline prices, and then the full-blown recession have only placed the changes in the market in starker relief. I believe that we are unlikely to return to the old days of sprawl’s utter and complete domination of the real estate map.

Among the evidence, there is a clear geography to the changes in real estate prices we are now seeing: close-in locations are now more highly valued than they used to be, and sprawling locations are less valued than they used to be. I reported this most recently in my map of changing home values in the Washington, DC, region, which shows steep declines in sprawling locations over the last year, but only modest ones (and, in one case, an increase in value) in inner locations.

This is consistent with various maps showing the patterns of foreclosure, such as those in Denver and Houston, which depict, sadly, many more foreclosures in sprawling new suburbs than in urban locations. Something similar has been happening with regard to commercial properties, too, even before the recession.

A second set of indicators that things are changing reflects the way that central cities (save some egregious cases like Detroit) have experienced a building boom and influx of new jobs and residents. Dr. John Thomas at EPA has been analyzing the geography of housing permits, and he has seen dramatic rises in the central-area share (and, conversely, drops in the outer-suburban share) of new housing construction over the last two decades.

Read More…

Barack Obama, 1988; On Community Organizing and Inner City Outreach

By Barack Obama
(c) 1990 Illinois Issues, Springfield, Illinois

Over the past five years, I’ve often had a difficult time explaining my profession to folks. Typical is a remark a public school administrative aide made to me one bleak January morning, while I waited to deliver some flyers to a group of confused and angry parents who had discovered the presence of asbestos in their school.

“Listen, Obama,” she began. “You’re a bright young man, Obama. You went to college, didn’t you?”

I nodded.

“I just cannot understand why a bright young man like you would go to college, get that degree and become a community organizer.”

“Why’s that?”

” ‘Cause the pay is low, the hours is long, and don’t nobody appreciate you.” She shook her head in puzzlement as she wandered back to attend to her duties.

I’ve thought back on that conversation more than once during the time I’ve organized with the Developing Communities Project, based in Chicago’s far south side. Unfortunately, the answers that come to mind haven’t been as simple as her question. Probably the shortest one is this: It needs to be done, and not enough folks are doing it.

The debate as to how black and other dispossessed people can forward their lot in America is not new. From W.E.B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, this internal debate has raged between integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy, between sit-down strikes and boardroom negotiations. The lines between these strategies have never been simply drawn, and the most successful black leadership has recognized the need to bridge these seemingly divergent approaches. During the early years of the Civil Rights movement, many of these issues became submerged in the face of the clear oppression of segregation. The debate was no longer whether to protest, but how militant must that protest be to win full citizenship for blacks.

Twenty years later, the tensions between strategies have reemerged, in part due to the recognition that for all the accomplishments of the 1960s, the majority of blacks continue to suffer from second-class citizenship. Related to this are the failures — real, perceived and fabricated — of the Great Society programs initiated by Lyndon Johnson. Facing these realities, at least three major strands of earlier movements are apparent.

First, and most publicized, has been the surge of political empowerment around the country. Harold Washington and Jesse Jackson are but two striking examples of how the energy and passion of the Civil Rights movement have been channeled into bids for more traditional political power. Second, there has been a resurgence in attempts to foster economic development in the black community, whether through local entrepre­neurial efforts, increased hiring of black contractors and corporate managers, or Buy Black campaigns. Third, and perhaps least publicized, has been grass-roots community organizing, which builds on indigenous leadership and direct action.

Proponents of electoral politics and economic development strategies can point to substantial accomplishments in the past 10 years. An increase in the number of black public officials offers at least the hope that government will be more responsive to inner-city constituents. Economic development programs can provide structural improvements and jobs to blighted communities.

In my view, however, neither approach offers lasting hope of real change for the inner city unless undergirded by a systematic approach to community organization. This is because the issues of the inner city are more complex and deeply rooted than ever before. Blatant discrimination has been replaced by institutional racism; problems like teen pregnancy, gang involvement and drug abuse cannot be solved by money alone. At the same time, as Professor William Julius Wilson of the University of Chicago has pointed out, the inner city’s economy and its government support have declined, and middle-class blacks are leaving the neighbor­hoods they once helped to sustain.

Neither electoral politics nor a strategy of economic self-help and internal development can by themselves respond to these new challenges. The election of Harold Washington in Chicago or of Richard Hatcher in Gary were not enough to bring jobs to inner-city neighborhoods or cut a 50 percent drop-out rate in the schools, although they did achieve an important symbolic effect. In fact, much-needed black achievement in prominent city positions has put us in the awkward position of administer­ing underfunded systems neither equipped nor eager to address the needs of the urban poor and being forced to compromise their interests to more powerful demands from other sectors.

Self-help strategies show similar limitations. Although both laudable and necessary, they too often ignore the fact that without a stable community, a well-educated population, an adequate infrastructure and an informed and employed market, neither new nor well-established compa­nies will be willing to base themselves in the inner city and still compete in the international marketplace. Moreover, such approaches can and have become thinly veiled excuses for cutting back on social programs, which are anathema to a conservative agenda.

In theory, community organizing provides a way to merge various strategies for neighborhood empowerment. Organizing begins with the premise that (1) the problems facing inner-city communities do not result from a lack of effective solutions, but from a lack of power to implement these solutions; (2) that the only way for communities to build long-term power is by organizing people and money around a common vision; and (3) that a viable organization can only be achieved if a broadly based indigenous leadership — and not one or two charismatic leaders — can knit together the diverse interests of their local institutions.

This means bringing together churches, block clubs, parent groups and any other institutions in a given community to pay dues, hire organizers, conduct research, develop leadership, hold rallies and education cam­paigns, and begin drawing up plans on a whole range of issues — jobs, education, crime, etc. Once such a vehicle is formed, it holds the power to make politicians, agencies and corporations more responsive to commu­nity needs. Equally important, it enables people to break their crippling isolation from each other, to reshape their mutual values and expectations and rediscover the possibilities of acting collaboratively — the prerequi­sites of any successful self-help initiative.

By using this approach, the Developing Communities Project and other organizations in Chicago’s inner city have achieved some impressive results. Schools have been made more accountable-Job training programs have been established; housing has been renovated and built; city services have been provided; parks have been refurbished; and crime and drug problems have been curtailed. Additionally, plain folk have been able to access the levers of power, and a sophisticated pool of local civic leadership has been developed.

But organizing the black community faces enormous problems as well. One problem is the not entirely undeserved skepticism organizers face in many communities. To a large degree, Chicago was the birthplace of community organizing, and the urban landscape is littered with the skeletons of previous efforts. Many of the best-intentioned members of the community have bitter memories of such failures and are reluctant to muster up renewed faith in the process.

A related problem involves the aforementioned exodus from the inner city of financial resources, institutions, role models and jobs. Even in areas that have not been completely devastated, most households now stay afloat with two incomes. Traditionally, community organizing has drawn support from women, who due to tradition and social discrimination had the time and the inclination to participate in what remains an essentially voluntary activity. Today the majority of women in the black community work full time, many are the sole parent, and all have to split themselves between work, raising children, running a household and maintaining some semblance of a personal life — all of which makes voluntary activities lower on the priority list. Additionally, the slow exodus of the black middle class into the suburbs means that people shop in one neighborhood, work in another, send their child to a school across town and go to church someplace other than the place where they live. Such geographical dispersion creates real problems in building a sense of investment and common purpose in any particular neighborhood.

Finally community organizations and organizers are hampered by their own dogmas about the style and substance of organizing. Most still practice what Professor John McKnight of Northwestern University calls a “consumer advocacy” approach, with a focus on wrestling services and resources from the outside powers that be. Few are thinking of harnessing the internal productive capacities, both in terms of money and people, that already exist in communities.

Our thinking about media and public relations is equally stunted when compared to the high-powered direct mail and video approaches success­fully used by conservative organizations like the Moral Majority. Most importantly, low salaries, the lack of quality training and ill-defined possibilities for advancement discourage the most talented young blacks from viewing organizing as a legitimate career option. As long as our best and brightest youth see more opportunity in climbing the corporate ladder-than in building the communities from which they came, organizing will remain decidedly handicapped.

Read More…

US Census Bureau Releases American Community Survey; Link to Dayton Region’s Data and Narrative

Social – Education, Marital Status, Relationships, Fertility, Grandparents…
Economic – Income, Employment, Occupation, Commuting to Work…
Housing – Occupancy and Structure, Housing Value and Costs, Utilities…
Demographic – Sex and Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, Housing Units…
Narrative – Text profile with graphs for easy analysis…

Dayton, OH Urbanized Area
Population and Housing Narrative Profile: 2005-2007
Data Set: 2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates
Survey: American Community Survey

New Tricks With Old Bricks: How reusing old buildings can cut carbon emissions

Many house builders claim that new homes are four times more efficient than older houses. This study shows that refurbished houses can be just as efficient as new homes.



“New properties are “greener” than older ones”. – Sunday Times October 2006.

“New homes are more environmentally friendly and sustainable than at any time in
recent history” – Home Builders’ Federation 2007.

New homes are over four times more energy-efficient than older homes and therefore
‘greener’. – Smart New Homes 2007.

“New homes can be up to eight times more efficient than a typical Victorian property.”
– Peveril homes 2007.

It is increasingly common for developers to make environmental claims for the
buildings they produce. A significant body of wider opinion holds that demolition of
existing housing and replacement with new housing (built to high energy efficiency
standards) is broadly preferable in many cases to refurbishment.  A key foundation of
this argument is that the operational (in-use) carbon emissions of highly efficient newly
build housing can be far lower than those from existing properties.  Often these claims
are well founded. It is undoubtedly true for example that new homes are better
insulated than homes built in the past; when the majority of the UK’s older houses
were built there were no mandatory standards governing energy efficiency or
thermal comfort. Some claims however are harder to quantify. Assertions of the
superior environmental performance of new housing are sometimes used by
developers and regeneration planners to justify supplanting existing homes with new
homes. It is also sometimes used to explain building new developments when there is
an existing supply of unused buildings that could be used.

This approach has profound implications for the whole housing stock.  For example,
the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University has set out a “vision” in which
the rate of house demolition in the UK would rise to 80,000 per year by 2016,
continuing at that level until 2050, giving a total of 3.2 million demolitions from 2005-

A contrary argument also exists and is increasingly used by environmental
campaigners and heritage organisations in promoting alternatives to new
development. Their argument is that new buildings consume huge quantities of energy
in their development, energy that could be saved by reusing existing buildings.  In
addition, the high standards of energy efficiency assumed for new buildings are
entirely dependent on enforcement and achievement of very high construction

There are also critical elements missing from the calculation: the carbon embodied in
existing buildings, the energy required to demolish them and dispose of any waste
(around 24% of all waste is generated by demolition and construction4), and the
energy cost of extraction, production, transport and use of new materials – not to
mention the wider environmental effects of minerals extraction and demolition and
construction disturbance.

(accessed at www.adaptivereuse.net)

Now consider the potential for Dayton’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program to act as an anchor for Green renewal efforts:

NSP Neighborhood Stabilization Program, NSP

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President on July 30, 2008. The legislation contained $3.92 billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding.

On September 29, 2008, the City of Dayton was awarded a special allocation of $5,582,902 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to be used for foreclosed and abandoned properties in the City as part of the NSP. You may view the Notice in the Federal register at nspnotice.pdf.

Eligible uses of the NSP funds includes:

* Establish temporary land banks of abandoned or foreclosed properties to facilitate redevelopment;
* Demolish blighted structures;
* Purchase foreclosed or abandoned parcels
* Redevelop vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties; and
* Offer purchase and redevelopment assistance to income-eligible buyers of foreclosed or abandoned properties.

Read More from the City of Dayton…

And checkout the final Substantial Amendment…

Three Reasons Opensource Will Save the Economy

Hey, is your economy down?

All right, bad joke, but it is the country’s current collective bellyache. 760,000 jobs lost already this year according to the Bureau of Labor. Businesses are frantically jettisoning people-weight just to stay afloat. Times are tougher than Chuck Liddell. I think I saw my old CEO in line at the soup kitchen last Tuesday.

My friends, I’m here to tell you that in the face of grim economic turmoil there are opportunities. The fundamentals of open source are strong. Open source software is going to save the global economy.

Sir Isaac’s Third Law: spending trends in the marketplace are reversing course as companies search for faster, cheaper solutions to everyday business problems. Open source anyone?

Open source software is freely available, easily downloadable, and deployed and modified without any licensing cost. Though not strictly free-in-house administration and support costs money — open source software can provide a tremendous boost to struggling small and medium businesses. Three reasons open source is going to save us — watch out while I lay ‘em on ya.

You always make time when there’s less money.

You got two resources with which to do business: time, and money. Build vs. buy arguments die out when the economy softens because enterprise software is expensive. Take databases. MySQL, PostGres, and Ingres can be downloaded, installed, and up and running for little if any cost. Businesses will trade support time for fiscal cost.

Free software removes previous barriers to entry.

It’s cheaper and easier to start a business on open source. Microsoft SQL Server starts at $1,500. MySQL is free. Photoshop costs $699. GIMP is free. Microsoft Office costs between $149 and $499 depending on the version you purchase. Open Office is free. With only 20 employees, using Open Office can save you $3,000 to $10,000.

You buy the shovel, but you want the hole.

It’s amazing how easy it is to forget that software is just a tool. Companies purchase software so their employees can execute specific tasks. You don’t need a laser-guided shovel with built-in GPS navigation to dig your hole. A plain ol’ shovel will get the job done just fine.

So buck up, little campers, open source software even comes with a free pack of weenies and a bag of marshmallows. Seriously, folks, go take the money you save by going open source and invest it in keeping the people around who really run your business. They need those jobs now more than ever.

From Whurley, the Evil Genius

Bigger Houses, Smaller Families

Richard Florida

I’ve argued for a long time now that part of what’s going on in cities is smaller families – 1 or 2
people – taking over spaces that once housed much larger families or even groups of families. You can see this everywhere from Brooklyn’s Park Slope to Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Boston’s South End, and lot’s of other places. So I was delighted to see the folks over at Zillow have crunched the requisite numbers.

American families have shrunk dramatically and consistently over the past century. In 1900, the average American family was 4.6 people. By 1940 it declined to less than 4. In 1980 it slipped below 3, and hovers around 2.5 people today. Over the same time, our houses have gotten much, much bigger. In 1900, the average new home was about 700 square feet and most families lived in much smaller quarters than than. By 1940, the average new home was 1500 square feet where it hovered through the 60s and 70s. Before climbing to more than 2000 square feet in 1990 and around 2500 square feet today.

Or think of it this way. In 1900 the average American family in a new home was using up about 152 square feet per person. By 1940, each of them was consuming more than 400 square feet. By 1990, the figure was roughly 750 square feet. And today it’s about 1000 square feet each.

We don’t need all that space. In many ways, big houses have become a status good. And a costly one at that. The environmental costs and impacts of our super-sized housing are a no-brainer. But there’s also
the tremendous opportunity costs that come from… Read More!

Where a Recession Will Hurt the Most

If a recession hits Canada, as many think is already the case, will its turbulence affect all of us in the same way? Not if past history is a guide.

The good news is that it’s likely that the continuing shift in our economy from traditional blue-collar, working-class jobs to creative and service jobs will dampen the effects of job losses – over all. But those in the working class will feel the pain much more.

Our economy is composed of four classes, defined by the kinds of work people do. The first is the working class, consisting of workers who use physical skills and carry out repetitive tasks (for example, tradespersons, mechanics, crane operators and assembly line workers). Next is the service class, where workers engage in relatively low-autonomy occupations providing services, for example, food-service workers, janitors and clerks. Then there are those in farming, forestry and fishing. Finally, there is the creative class – the growing number of workers who are paid to think. These include scientists and technologists, artists and entertainers, and managers and analysts.

Defining our economy by the work people do is different than the conventional way of defining it by industries. Somebody may be working in the automotive industry but is not necessarily working on the assembly line in a working-class occupation. Actually, about a third of employees… Read More!

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