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Posts Tagged ‘urban renewal’

“City Semester”: Learning about climate change and sustainability in the city

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 25th, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities

From “The High School Curriculum Every Urban Planner Wishes They’d Had” by Nate Berg:

[…]

City Semester is an immersive, city-focused course that combines classwork and field studies for juniors at Fieldston. It’s like other semester away programs run by the school, but instead of sending kids out to the Rocky Mountains or the Maine coast, students in the City Semester program turn their attention to their own neighborhood and city. Meyers has compiled a broad range of teachers from the school to participate, including teachers focusing on history, ethics, language, theater, literature, film, photography and music.

The program is divided into four main sections: sustainability, immigration and difference, power and conflict, and neighborhood and community renewal. This last section is centered around the Bronx River, located a couple miles from the school.

“We wanted to talk about neighborhood formation, and chronologically to talk about the recovery of the Bronx,” Meyers says. “We use the Bronx River as a means of discussing both human and non-human communities.”

One of the main parts of this section of the program consists of a two-day canoe trip down the river. The students collect scientific data about the water and the ecology and make presentations about both the history of the neighborhoods and the development of the river habitats. Meyers says this approach pulls in what the students are learning and relates it to things they see in their day-to-day experiences and the neighborhoods around them.

“Adolescents are at a place in their lives where understanding the relevance of what they’re learning can make an enormous difference in terms of their engagement,” Meyers says.

The program looks broadly at the city as a subject, even looking into the policies and politics that are driving change in New York. Meyers took the class to meet with officials from the city’s Department of Transportation to hear about the planning and implementation of bike lanes throughout the city. Then they rented bikes and rode the lanes. Meyers says this hands-on approach helps students to see the various ways what they’re learning can be applied in real-life situations.

And if delving into city politics isn’t enough to add a little more stress to high schoolers’ lives, one of the sections of the course had students role-playing and problem-solving their way through some not-too-far-off disaster scenarios brought on as a result of climate change. Rising sea levels create a flood in lower Manhattan that causes a blackout, in this scenario. During the power outage, a rumored hostage situation at the United Nations causes the whole subway system to shut down. Students had to imagine they were stuck in their school for 3 days – and to cope with all the logistical and psychological impacts such a situation would cause. They even engaged in community design charrettes to come up with feasible retrofit ideas that can help communities handle the potential threats they’ll face as the climate continues to change.

This section of the course was taught earlier this year by Alec Appelbaum, a journalist who’s covered urban planning for years. He says that high schoolers are maybe the ideal audience for this sort of lesson.

“They’re going to be living with the consequences of the misdirected debate that’s gone on about climate change,” says Appelbaum. “The carbon overload in the atmosphere is something that young people didn’t particularly cause and will have to survive.”

[…]

Read the full article by Nate Berg.


Collaboration for Urban Renewal in Quebec

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on September 27th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute


Photo: Jardin St Roch by meddygarnet via flickr CC

From “Citywatch: Quebec City uses food as pioneer species of urban revival” by Wayne Roberts:

I’ve long felt that Quebec deserves to be known as one of the world’s best examples of an oppressed minority – commonly referred to as “pepsi’s” and “French Niggers of North America” as recently as the 1960s – who’ve made it economically while enriching their traditional culture and distinctive identity. My chance overnight stay gave me a glimpse of the secret formula behind this success. Ironically, it’s very close to the strategy proposed in Jeb Brugmannn’s recent book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution, arguably one of the most important studies of city possibilities since Jane Jacobs. Those running as or voting for candidates in municipal elections across Ontario this fall might want to consider ways of translating Quebec’s success here.

Dog-tired and worried about the high cost of rooms in the height of Quebec’s summer tourism, we dragged ourselves into the reception area of a hotel called L’Autre Jardin Auberge, the Other Garden Inn. The first thing we saw was a wooden sculpture from Africa. The second thing we saw was a fair trade gift store, Boutique EquiMonde. Then we saw a sign describing the place as Quebec’s first “social economy” hotel. The hotel, launched in 1996, is the money-making arm of a Quebec charity, Carrefour Tiers-Monde (Third World Meeting Place), devoted to education for children’s rights and international solidarity and to the economic revival of the surrounding neighborhood. All 28 rooms boasted fair trade towels and rugs, eco-certified writing pads, and nighttime reading booklets on sustainable tourism and responsible shopping. The breakfast nook featured organic and fair trade foods. We knew that at least we would sleep and rise with a clear conscience.

Our early morning walk showed we were in the midst of more than a socially conscious rooming district. The other garden referred to in the hotel’s name was a block away, where a campus of the University of Quebec abutted the commercial district, serving as a meeting place where students, a few homeless people and other wanderers could share a quiet and green space dominated by a tiny waterfall. This was the project that launched the renewal of this down-on-the-heels district in 1992.

[…]

Food specialty shops are the city equivalent of the pioneer species that burst forth after an area has been ravaged by a forest fire. But very quickly, signs crop up that this is more than a unique shopping experience based on the delightfully spontaneous jumble of cultural creative-and counter culture-inspired hangouts. A huge church, as was standard in Old Quebec, is at the centre of the street scene. Nearby is a public library that shares a section of the street with a low-end eatery, a budget hotel, regional headquarters for a credit union and trade union. A block away is a provincial office of the ministry of tourism and a large Mountain Equipment Co-op store. Since 2000, the entire street has been pedestrianized, given over to those who jaunt through neighborhood at a walker’s pace.

Almost all the housing in the area comes from Quebec’s iconic balconied triplexes, a mainstay of dense and affordable communities. A typical triplex has one floor for the, who pays a major portion of the mortgage with rental from two triplex tenants, thereby allowing working people to afford to buy handymen’s specials while providing tenants with low rents. What we see here is a distinctive culture of collaboration, not just a distinctive language group. In Quebec, which has pulled itself up by the bootstraps, people from many walks of life and all levels of government have learned to work together. In French, it’s called “concertation.” It doesn’t cost more. It’s about leverage from partnerships, not money.

[…]

Quebec’s traditions lend themselves to what urban expert Jeb Brugmann calls the Strategic City. It’s the antidote to the “crisis city,” torn apart by a two-way conflict that destroys both sides. It’s also the counterpoint to the “opportunity city,” where a jumble of creatives can’t break through to win support from political or economic power brokers. Brugmann, who lives in Toronto, doesn’t miss the chance to describe his adopted as the epitome of an opportunity city.

[…]

Read the full article by Wayne Roberts on Nourishing the Planet


Temporary Occupations for Urban Renewal

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 25th, 2011

Renew Newcastle was founded to help solve the problem of Newcastle’s empty CBD. While the long term prospects for the redevelopment of Newcastle’s CBD are good, in the meantime many sites are boarded up, falling apart, vandalised or decaying because they are is no short term for use them and no one taking responsibility for them. Renew Newcastle has been established to find short and medium term uses for buildings in Newcastle’s CBD that are currently vacant, disused, or awaiting redevelopment.

Renew Newcastle aims to find artists, cultural projects and community groups to use and maintain these buildings until they become commercially viable or are redeveloped. Renew Newcastle is not set up to manage long term uses, own properties or permanently develop sites but to generate activity in buildings until that future long term activity happens.

Renew Newcastle has been set up to clean up these buildings and get the city active and used again.

Find out more about the project and the collaborators (snapshot below) on their website http://renewnewcastle.org/