Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grumpy Cat likes Pittsboro Parks




"I like Pittsboro Parks - Don't tell anyone."

Friday, December 5, 2014

2014 Pittsboro Christmas Parade

The Pittsboro Christmas Parade will be held this Sunday December 7, 2014 at 3PM in Historic Downtown Pittsboro. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sprawl Linked to Bicycle Fatalities?

There was another bicycle fatality in Durham today, due to an automobile collision, the third in the last six weeks.

Raleigh Durham ranks number three (3) of the highest sprawl metro areas in the nation, just behind the Triad (Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point) at number two and Riverside-San Bernardino, CA at number one, according to a recent study by Smart Growth America.   



It would be interesting to see if there is a higher correlation of bicycle/car collisions in metro areas that are higher on the sprawl index than in places that are ranked lower on the scale.  There is a substantial body of research documenting the link between sprawl and automobile crashes.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sugar Skull Brownies

Check out this great Halloween idea . . courtesy of Hungry Happenings


The Economic Engine of a Vibrant City

A few excerpts from an insightful New York Times Article by Claire Cain Miller


"The population of young, educated people in Dallas, Charlotte and Raleigh is also growing more slowly than their populations as a whole."

"Even as Americans over all have become less likely to move, young, college-educated people continue to move at a high clip — about a million cross state lines each year, and these so-called young and the restless don’t tend to settle down until their mid-30s. Where they end up provides a map of the cities that have a chance to be the economic powerhouses of the future."

They want something exciting, culturally fun, involving a lot of diversity — and their fathers’ suburban lifestyle doesn’t seem to be all that thrilling to many of them,” Mr. Glaeser said.

Cackalacky is a welcome new addition to Pittsboro
A second part of Claire's series of articles:


Economists have debated whether jobs follow people or whether people follow jobs. Joe Cortright, who runs City Observatory, the think tank that published the report, said that companies are increasingly locating where large numbers of young, college-educated people live, because young people are pickier about location. One reason is that men and women are both likely to work, so couples seek a place they want to live and then find jobs, as opposed to wives following their husbands’ careers. Where they choose to live matters because a large young, educated work force is the economic engine of a vibrant city.

Link to the full articles for more info.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The death of the suburban corporate campus

Parks Blog readers know that parks and recreational opportunities play a vital role in enhancing quality of life. Many highly educated millennials are rightly making quality of life a primary focus. This is evidenced by the fact that many are choosing a great place to live before seeking out specific employment opportunities. It looks as though some major corporations are following these millennial trends by locating their corporate campuses where the talent is. Investments in parks, recreation, and creating great places to live pay huge dividends in resulting economic growth. A no brainer really.  

Mark Hinshaw, Better Cities & Towns


Political and economic shock waves rippled through two Puget Sound cities when Weyerhaeuser, the multi-national giant, announced in late August that it was moving its corporate headquarters from Federal Way to Pioneer Square in Seattle. Much has been made of the “game changing” impact this decision will have on Seattle’s First Neighborhood. The significance is not only economic, but cultural and architectural.

After many decades spent next to a grimy, undulating patch of asphalt, Occidental Square will soon be bordered along its east side by a contemporary symbol of global commerce. Designed by The Mithun Architects, the new Weyerhaueser headquarters (see rendering above) will undoubtedly stand as a testament to state-of-the-art sustainability and urbanity.

Just as momentous as its arrival in Seattle is the significance of Weyerhaeuser’s exit from the bucolic campus it has occupied for more than 40 years. Its iconic, terraced headquarters, deftly spanning a gentle valley and nestled alongside a reflective lake, was the subject of photographs and articles in scores of books and journals on design. It represents the apogee of the idea to insert a corporate symbol into the Arcadian ideal of American suburbia. The design was a collaborative effort between architects Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) and landscape architects Sasaki Walker Associates (SWA).



Not long after the building was finished in 1972, this bit of architectural mythmaking devolved into what we have since seen replicated all over the country: hundreds of soul-less “office parks” whose generic glass-walled or concrete tilt-up buildings could be anywhere. Office parks built along I-90 in Bellevue could just as easily been seen in the outskirts of Kansas City or Atlanta. When I travel around the country now, I see many of these buildings with their parking lots barely half full.

As with many idealized concepts in design, it doesn’t take long for the mundane “merchant builders” to water down the original concept into buildings designed by accountants to maximize floor area and minimize costs. Of course, this actually translated into lower internal costs but higher externalized costs in the form of highways, long utility lines, widespread destruction of forests, farmlands and wetlands, and the slathering of suburban subdivisions across the landscape. It was the equivalent of pouring library paste across a bed of delicate lichen. That is, essentially, the story of the country over the last 60 years.

I once had a long conversation with a local elected official whose mission was to protect his beloved suburban community from what he saw as an onslaught of undesirable change: apartments occupied by “transient renters,” buildings higher than two stories and, of course, low-income minorities. He ended his monologue by exclaiming that suburbia was America’s gift to the world. Indeed, one can see that pernicious present playing itself out in the exurbs of Paris and London and, now, in Chinese cities.

Concurrent with the rush to build Levittowns and their countless carbon copies in the years following World War II, another trend was quietly taking place. In 1957, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company built its new headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut. The building was designed by Gordan Bunshaft, a star architect of the time who was with the New York office of Skidmore Owings and Merrill.

Three years earlier, SOM had designed the Lever Building on Park Avenue. Much more than merely a symbol of the soap company, the building came to represent a distinct departure for the ziggurat-shaped office buildings erected in the previous decades. (A year later, Mies Van der Rohe added his own riff on this with the nearby Seagram Building.) The Lever Building was a tailored, taught and tightly composed assembly of boxes sheathed in a gorgeous, green glass curtain wall.

For Connecticut General, SOM did something quite startling. It transported the same crisp, rectilinear box-like forms used in the urban Lever Building to the verdant countryside. This was the original “skyscraper on its side,” a phrase attached to the Weyerhaeuser headquarters 15 years later. The glass structure was not rooted in an urban streetscape in Manhattan but instead appeared to levitate above a pristine landscape. This was the idea of commerce separated from social space. The setting was merely a set piece for an enormous, free-standing, three-dimensional sign.

Decades ago, Willam H. Whyte memorialized this new social ethic in a major book titled “The Organization Man.” Smartly clad structures perfectly reflected their pinstripe suited, clean-cut occupants. It was a near perfect match of sociology and architecture. The male breadwinner toiling all day inside a glass box, coming home to the American Dream: a detached “Colonial style” house with a manicured lawn. The Betty Crocker cookbook of that era advised housewives to have a mixed drink ready for their husband’s eagerly expected return, along with tips on how to set a table when the domestic help had the day off.  We all know how that dream turned out.

It took a few years for the SOM building to fully command the attention of other corporations. Perhaps some companies did not initially embrace the idea that they didn't need to be downtown to conduct commerce. But a few more did.

In 1963 John Deere commissioned Eero Saarinen, another star architect of the time, to design its headquarters in the verdant countryside. Saarinen tucked horizontal stacks of steel and glass into a lush landscape. Several other major corporations followed suit. Then came the urban "race riots" of the late 60s. That was excuse enough to decamp to the hinterlands and the story of white flight to American suburbia began.

But we are in another century now. One with its own very different cultural and economic imperatives. The entire country, not just the big cities, is much more racially and ethnically diverse. We have exhausted the benefits of relentless horizontal expansion; economists even have a term for this: “diminishing returns.” And most importantly Millennials don’t buy into that American Dream. They were raised in it, and they had enough of its boredom and anomie.

Some Boomers smugly claim that Millennials will fall back into line as soon as they have children. Well, guess what? They aren’t having kids. They aren’t even marrying. Nor are they buying cars. And not because they can’t afford them. They don’t want them.

The folks who run Weyerhaeuser are a smart bunch. I’m sure they started projecting out how long it would be before they would have a difficult time recruiting younger workers to reverse commute. Silicon Valley firms are already seeing this kind of rebellion and are building office space in San Francisco.

In Seattle, Amazon saw it coming, and chose to headquarter in South Lake Union rather than some outlying location. Microsoft has already occupied a number of towers in downtown Bellevue. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was eyeing the soon-to-be-vacated Amgen Campus, near downtown, for its next big move. Imagine Microsoft on the Beach, with its Redmond campus converted to research and training for global employees.

The dramatic move by the Big W represents the end of an era.

Mark Hinshaw, FAIA, is an architect and urban planner at a Seattle architecture firm. He was an architecture critic for The Seattle Times and is the author of many articles and books, including "Citistate Seattle" (1999). He can be reached at editor@crosscut.com.
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