Friday, April 29, 2011

Lee County Fights to Keep their Plan

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners has petitioned their legislative representatives and directed their legislative lobbyist to work to stop bills in the Florida Legislature from being passed which would preempt local ability to plan the siting of mining (HB 991 and SB 1404). Dover-Kohl and Spikowski Planning Associates led a multi-disciplinary team to create the Prospects for Southeast Lee County plan, which included a sustainable approach to mining which would also satisfy regional needs for rock. The plan for the 83,000-acre water conservation area, which produces 80 percent of the county's drinking water, became effective last year. “(The County) didn’t just say no to mining,” Commissioner Ray Judah said in the Naples News, “We just said where it specifically can and shouldn’t occur.” The Southwest Florida News-Press in an editorial commended the plan for considering the “cumulative effect” of mining and deplored a return to piecemeal permitting. Prospects for Southeast Lee County received awards from 1000 Friends of Florida, APA, and a Charter Award from CNU.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marathon Weekend in San Francisco

Runners traverse
San Francisco's Presidio
“Marathon Weekends” are becoming a popular phenomenon around the world.  As more people turn to running to stay in shape, the ability to experience a new city while also challenging your endurance and potentially setting a new personal record for race time all in one weekend is very appealing.  Go to any marathon expo or runners magazine and you will see ads for races across the country – from the desert of Nevada to the chill of Alaska, each race offers a unique experience in order to draw in runners.  A race offers the host city a chance to show off what makes it special, surely an economic development boon not only during the weekend of the race as runners pack local hotels and restaurants, but also when the same runners return for longer vacations after their race weekend sneak-peak.

Hanging out a cable car, looking towards the Bay
Last month I participated in a marathon weekend in San Francisco, CA. (Actually, it was to run the US Half Marathon, but as runners say, 13.1 miles is not “half” of anything!)  Three days is time enough to begin grasping the essence of a city; no doubt there are many great treasures that would be discovered with a longer stay, but in a three day span there is time to walk a few neighborhoods, eat at local restaurants, and even indulge in a couple of tourist activities.  There are several things about San Francisco that make an immediate impact: the continuous urban fabric and regular grid of streets on the steeply sloped terrain set dramatic vistas in every direction.  Many streets have direct views to the bay in one direction, and views of city streets, sloping uphill, lined by buildings in the other.  Riding the cable car is a uniquely San Francisco experience – even as modern streetcars have been introduced to connect residents to other parts of the city and the surrounding bay, the cable cars (now designated as historic structures) remain.  It is interesting to learn the history of the city and specifically the cable car; the inventor was viewed with quite a bit of skepticism and his innovation was called a “folly”… until it worked.  Today the cable car is one of the most beloved attractions the city has to offer, with long lines of tourists waiting on each end to board.  (Locals know enough to board one or two stops after the end with no line – a trick we quickly picked up).  Even the iconic Golden Gate Bridge was viewed with cynicism when it was planned and constructed, as the thought of crossing the wide bay with a structure seemed improbable at the time.  One lesson we can take away from San Francisco as planners and urbanists is to think big, and not be dismissive about new ideas.

With its cool climate and stunning natural and urban backdrops, San Francisco is an ideal city to host a marathon weekend; it is so popular that there are a number of marathons and half marathons run throughout the year.  On Saturday morning, we walked the waterfront area and found many out-of-town runners doing a pre-race warm-up, enjoying the views.  We also witnessed local triathletes swimming in the bay, before retrieving their bikes for a ride through the Presidio.  These locals are lucky enough to live here and take advantage of San Francisco’s public waterfront and park system year-round.  On Saturday night, pre-race pasta was easy to find in the Little Italy neighborhood (and pre-race wine from neighboring Napa Valley was hard to resist).  Sunday morning was race day.  Although the route avoided the most steeply-sloped streets, there seemed to be no land that was flat; the run presented a great challenge to those of us from South Florida.  The race started off running uphill for a quarter mile, but then leveled off as we entered the Presidio, and then climbed again as we went over the Golden Gate; once we crossed to the other side of the bay we turned around and did it all in reverse.  The views made it all worthwhile; many runners forego setting a personal record in order to stop and take photos along the route. (Or maybe they were using their cameras as an excuse to stop and recover from running up a steep hill – either way, the number of runners stopping for photos seemed unique to this race!)

Needless to say, I did finish… and did not set a record for race time.  However, I enjoyed every minute, and look forward to returning to San Francisco soon.

The Dennis Port Revitalization Master Plan wins the Urbanism Award from the New England CNU Chapter

Dover, Kohl & Partners joined a multi-disciplinary team headed by Bill Dennis of B. Dennis Town Planners and Kara Wilbur of Wilbur & Company in 2009 to develop a revitalization plan for Dennis Port, MA. The plan illustrates a wide range of solutions to Dennis Port’s existing challenges, including transportation, public safety, economic development, land use, housing, historic preservation, alternative energy, and stormwater and wastewater planning. Plan suggestions focused around Dennis Port Village Center and beachfront, and the Route 28 corridor. One notable focus of the plan is the design of a complete pedestrian and bicycle network provided by Street Plans Collaborative. Suggested coding revisions for the seasonal cottage communities along Dennis Port’s shoreline have been approved and other recommended implementation initiatives are moving forward.

For more information visit

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run 2011

Dover-Kohl is excited to once again be part of the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run. The run will begin and end in Miami's Bayfront Park, and the 3.1-mile loop will traverse through Brickell and Downtown Miami.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Accessory Dwelling Units Now Allowed in El Paso

The City of El Paso approved an ordinance allowing accessory dwelling units on all single-family residential lots in the City as recommended during the Plan El Paso planning process. Accessory dwellings like garage apartments or "grannie flats" add affordable housing inconspicuously into single-family areas. “For Smart Growth or New Urbanism to work, accessory dwelling units are an essential element,” said Mathew McElroy, Deputy Director of Planning and Economic Development. The ordinance allows rental apartments to help homeowners pay the mortgage of the main house and the relaxation of side and rear setbacks to accommodate ADUs on even small lots. Susie Byrd, City Council Representative for District 2, said, “The way we currently meet affordable housing needs is with large garden apartments and apartment complexes at the periphery of the city… this is very expensive in terms of infrastructure and transportation costs to the City and the resident…I think this is a much better model.”

For more information about Plan El Paso visit

Lisboa (Lisbon)

Praça da Figueira seen from the Castle
The framework of Lisbon’s urban structure is evident from the vantage point of the Castelo São Jorge, the Moorish Castle that caps the hill shared with the Alfama District. The cascade of rooftops ends at the banks of the Tagus River, wide and calm as it meets the Atlantic. The Bridge named “25th of April” is reflected in the Tagus; its silhouette is similar to San Fransisco’s Golden Gate, but it is more slender and miniature. 

The diagram of the city is the opposite of the two other Iberian capitals, Madrid and Barcelona.  Both of those cities have an organic and medieval core surrounded by the regular blocks of their “eixample” (Catalán) or “ensanche” (Spanish).  Lisbon’s core is a rational grid, though it lacks the chamfers of the other cities, and is surrounded by the organic fabric of both older and newer districts.

We try to imagine the scene in November 1755 when one of the strongest earthquakes to have been felt in Europe leveled the lower city, “Cidade Baixa.” Then the calm Tagus retreated and returned as a fierce tsunami, sweeping away thousands of people who had fled to the docks and open squares after the quake. The wave inundated the Cidade Baixa and piled debris onto the already liquefied earth. When the debris was cleared, there was an almost blank canvas in the lowest, flattest part of the city. Over the next few decades, King José I oversaw the planning and reconstruction of the Cidade Baixa. The labyrinthine plan of winding streets in the Cidade Baixa was replaced by a tight grid of wide streets (20-25’!), still narrow by North American standards. The blocks, though large and uniform for Lisbon, are also small by North American standards (230’ x 85’). Chiado and Alfama, with their thick-walled ancient buildings and crystalline bedrock, suffered less destruction than the Cidade Baixa. Therefore, they retained their Medina-like plans and street dimensions.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

El Paso, Texas Adopts First Round of Ordinances Based on Plan El Paso Discussions

The City of El Paso last week adopted major initiatives based on ideas created during the Comprehensive Plan process headed by Dover-Kohl:

1) Reducing the minimum size of parks in new neighborhoods from 1 acre to ¼ acre provided those pocket parks meet certain design criteria including that they be lined with trees and faced by buildings;
2) Allowing pocket parks to be immediately fronted by homes without a throughfare between the two to create cottage courts and comfortable outdoor rooms with green spaces;
3) Allowing blade signs of a pedestrian scale as was once allowed during the City’s heyday; and
4) Resolving that Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach, by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and CNU be adopted as a recommended guideline for the City of El Paso by all departments.

The Plan El Paso project is still underway and the Comprehensive Plan document is being written, yet City planners are moving ahead with initiatives described in the plan.

For more information about Plan El Paso visit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dog-Walkable Urbanism

Outdoor dining is incorporated into the street space.
Walking the dog is a multi-daily event for most dog owners; it often serves as the beginning and end to our day.  For some, walking the dog is seen as a chore, for others it’s an opportunity to bond with “man’s best friend” and explore their neighborhood.  A dog walk might include a stop at the local park to sniff and run with the other neighborhood dogs, or a quick errand at a dog-friendly local shop.

Shea (our sheltie mutt-i-gree) is an energetic dog that loves her exercise, and my wife and I enjoy taking her on long walks, jogs and skates throughout Brickell.  We are fortunate to live in an area with a relatively tight street grid (blocks are about 300’ x 600’, not perfect, but better than is often the case), newly implemented bicycle lanes (which double as dog-skating lanes), a fine-grained mix of uses, and several public gathering spaces, including a neighborhood park (where dogs are sort of allowed).  On our excursions we’ve noticed both the good and the bad aspects of our public realm. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Importance of Art and Illustration in the New Urbanism

James Dougherty (Director of Design at Dover, Kohl & Partners) presented a lecture entitled “The Importance of Art and Illustration in the New Urbanism” at the University of Miami’s Lowe Museum of Art. The presentation focused on the role that vivid illustrations play in helping communities to visualize a more walkable, sustainable future. A great deal of technical skill and knowledge go into designing the details of great walkable places (block sizes, vehicle lane widths etc.), but much of what matters in the end is how a new place feels. New Urbanist illustrators are tasked with communicating how a place will feel to be in when all of the details come together - a picture is worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


The City of Miami Beach has been very active in bike initiatives and DecoBike is the most recent step in building a bike-friendly, bike-safe community. DecoBikes are now available throughout Miami Beach for both residents and tourists alike. As a non-bike owning resident of Miami Beach I find this very exciting. Deco Bikes create an added value to living at and visiting the beach. DecoBike stations are scattered throughout Miami Beach and from day one they have proven to be very popular.

While wandering around the beach on a Sunday a friend and I decided to try them out. Unfortunately, we were by Lummus Park at the time and were unable to get bikes because they all had been taken by happy tourists. So we wandered west, out of the main tourist area and found bikes in the neighborhood by Flamingo Park at 13th Street. We took our new found bikes for a test run around the beach. We bought sandwiches and biked down to the Bass Museum to have a picnic in the park. We then continued down to 41st Street for some truffles at my favorite chocolate store – followed by a trip along the Venetian Causeway bike path before heading home.

5401 North Approved by City Council - Raleigh, NC

Raleigh City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to approve an updated plan for 5401 North, a new community proposed in northeastern Raleigh. Construction is slated to begin next year on an initial phase of homes and offices at the approximately 400-acre site off Louisburg Road just north of Interstate 540. The plan calls for 2,200 homes on pedestrian-friendly streets lined with businesses, shops and restaurants.

Dover, Kohl & Partners collaborated with Tony M. Tate Landscape Architecture, Walter Kulash, PE (transportation planning), Kimley-Horn and Associates and Withers & Ravenel (transportation and civil engineering), and Robert Sharp, Sottile and Sottile, and Chael, Cooper & Associates (architecture) to produce the master plan for the site.