Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DKP at CNU 19: Growing Local: "The Best Congress Yet"

CNU 19 concluded two weeks ago and many felt it was the best congress they’ve attended. Madison itself was a star of the event: the John Nolen plan that undergrids the City, the imprint of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the continued commitments to walkability, bikeability, farmland preservation, eating local, farmland preservation, and midwestern neighborliness.   At the congress itself, on the shore of Lake Monona, Professor William Cronon and author Ed Glaeser joined the best live dialogue available on improving America through planning and design.  Here are a few aspects of CNU 19 that the Dover-Kohl team has been talking about:

A City for Cycling 
Myriad bike lanes, paths, and trails, coupled with ample racks throughout the City and its bike-friendly drivers, make Madison one of the country’s most bikeable cities.  Madison is home to a large university adjacent to a lively downtown, so many of Madison's residents choose to get around, year round, on two wheels rather than four.  In addition to superb facilities for resident cyclists, Madison is also rolling out its new B-Cycle bike rental program.  B-Cycle is a bike share provider operating around the world. People who do not own bikes can rent a B-Cycle for as little as 30 minutes from stands located throughout the city and can return them at any other rack.
The CNU 19 program provided many opportunities to experience Madison by pedal-power.  Early morning fitness/touring rides were built into the event program and offered a great way to start the day. One tour even included an insider's take on Madison's bicycle infrastructure from the city's bicycle planner.  Additionally, B-Cycle distributed free passes to demo the rental system at its booth inside the congress.  The Ride the Drive cyclovia event on Sunday, June 5 featured over 6 miles of roads closed to traffic, providing a safe and secure loop for recreational riders of all ages, and on all types of bikes.  Beginning at the state capitol and traversing along John Nolen Drive, Lake Monona, and Monona Bay, the event was sponsored by a variety of local businesses which provided refreshments and tents along the way.  Ride the Drive was extremely well-attended and can serve as a model for other communities hoping to increase bike ridership and awareness.  
– Andrew Zitofsky

The Compact Communities Form-Based Code for Lee County, Florida was one of two codes chosen for the 2011 Richard H. Driehaus Form-Based Code Award. Commissioner Brian Bigelow accepted the award on behalf of Lee County. Jason King of Dover, Kohl & Partners and Bill Spikowski of Spikowski Planning Associates accepted the award on behalf of the large multi-disciplinary consultant team.  

The award ceremony also included a critique and question and answer from the jury and session participants. Participants asked how, in difficult economic times, communities can continue to commission form-based coding. Interestingly, both the Compact Communities Form-Based Code for Lee County and Opticos' City of Livermore, California Development Code that received Form-Based Codes Institute (FBCI) awards were done relatively affordably.  Both relied on template codes and precedents, yet both were informed by regional-scale regulatory mapping and tailored to the unique conditions of their study areas. One conclusion from the session, then, was that coding can be cost effective when it draws from codes that have worked elsewhere, but coding still demands a high degree of customization to fit the needs of the project.  
– Jason King

The Florida local host committee for CNU20 held a Friday evening salon to discuss the location and plans for next year’s Congress in West Palm Beach.  In particular, conversation revolved around the City of West Palm Beach’s fascinating recent planning history, which makes it such a compelling venue.  Anthea Gianniotes and Joe Minicozzi detailed their experiences working with the City to craft and implement a form-based code written by Duany, Plater-Zyberk and Company.  Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Chuck Bohl, Jaime Correa, and James Dougherty offered critiques of new infill development and revitalization efforts in West Palm Beach under the code, but also reaffirmed the important center of southeast Florida that CityPlace has become.  CityPlace is just outside the convention hall where most of CNU20’s events will be held.  CityPlace is one of the earliest and most complete new mixed-use town center projects in the country, and while presenting many lessons, is today quite successful.  Bob Gibbs offered a constructive review of the implementation of his retail recommendations for Clematis Street, downtown West Palm Beach’s historic main street.  From new infill guided by a form-based code, to a groundbreaking mixed-use town center development, to urban revitalization in the historic core (not to mention the fantastic historic fabric in nearby Palm Beach) West Palm Beach offers a striking range of urban conditions that promise to offer many valuable lessons for CNU20’s attendees.  
– James Dougherty
Dane County Farmer’s Market
The Dane County Farmer’s Market coincided with the Saturday morning of CNU19, and it was truly a sight to see. The market wrapped around Capitol Square and down several side streets. Green onions and spinach were evidently in season but the market had a lot more to offer, including fresh honey, home baked breads, cheeses, and seedlings for home gardens. Homemade crafts, grilled cheese sandwiches, coffee carts, ice cream, kids’ fitness sessions, and cows (attendees could see exactly where the cheese came from) made the event a family affair. Pedestrians flood the area each time the market opens and flow counterclockwise from vender to vender, making the sidewalk a one-way affair.  It's an extraordinarily well-managed tradition, so it was no surprise to learn that Madison's got the largest producers-only market in the country.

We couldn’t help but take some of the lessons from Madison back to Florida. Many farmer’s markets in the Miami area resell produce from other areas, or even other countries. An exception to this, however, is South Florida’s own fresh produce gem that is open every day, the enigmatically named farmer’s market and weekend destination known as Robert is Here. Located in Florida City at the doorstep to the Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, Robert is Here offers fresh local produce of all kinds, unique tropical food selections, and smoothies. Although a distance from West Palm Beach, Robert is Here should be on everyone’s radar that visits South Florida for CNU 20. 
– Pamela Stacy

Urbanism in the New Economy
One of the themes that emerged at this year’s Congress was the idea of a fast, nimble, and incremental approach to urbanism. Starting with the CNU NextGen Congress on Wednesday, there was a recognition that we have entered a new economy that demands new tools and approaches that allow citizens and governments to move forward with change without waiting through the years of planning, permitting and financing that supersized projects require. Ideas of incremental sprawl repair and tactical urbanism were shared, highlighting efforts to create the first seeds of change without the time and expense of a full, permanent investment. Mike Lydon from Street Plans Collaborative coined the idea of “previtalization” where techniques like “build a better block” yield demonstration projects that precede a more permanent revitalization. None of these ideas replace the need for planning, but rather provide techniques for investing in first phase changes that can help move projects forward, and build coalitions in support of urbanism.
– Kenneth Garcia

The Time In-Between
I have been intrigued by the annual CNU Congress since 2001 when I was just learning about the New Urbanism through an art history class at my small liberal arts college.  I was thrilled to have discovered the New Urbanism in the first place, because the movement articulated all of my discontent with the built environment and provided a forum for improving society through design.  The annual congress, however, was particularly appealing to my budding eco-hippie sensibility – a dynamic event where ideas for changing the world were brewed on site.  I imagined something like Woodstock with trace paper.     

I was able to attend my first Congress in 2007 and was not disappointed.  There weren’t any muddy fields or tents, music or illegal substances, but the spirit of camaraderie and optimism was palpable.  My favorite part of that CNU, and all of the congresses that I have attended since, was the “in between” times spent in the hallways between sessions with a constant stream of conversation, introductions, debate, and sharing taking place.  It may sound corny but I feel like the CNUs are my annual family reunion where I have a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues.  And I have found that even in moments where I don’t recognize a soul, it is simply a matter of turning to the person next to me and starting up a conversation to discover all of our shared challenges, victories, and goals in the profession of “world-changing.” 

CNU 19 in Madison was particularly successful because conversations were occurring not only in the hallways between sessions, but all over downtown Madison.  The scale and design of downtown, the heady University atmosphere, and the added bonus of vocal protestors on the steps of the State Capitol transformed our event location into an event all on its own.  We met fellow urbanists throughout the day in the streets, in the restaurants and bars, and at the breakfast table, and engaged in lively debate and problem-solving in many unlikely places.  The CNU is always striving to increase informal dialogue at the Congresses through Salons, Open Source sessions, and other interactive tools, but I must say that at CNU 19, the most successful tool was the City itself.  
– Megan McLaughlin

The View Only a Few Get to See
Credit: MononaTerrace.com
Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous renderings of his concepts for Monona Terrace show the building from its most dramatic angle, from offshore in the water of chilly, choppy Lake Monona. While today’s real-life Monona Terrace, constructed some fifty years after Wright’s sketches, strays noticeably from the details of the Wright design, it is still that signature view-- from the water-- that shows off the place as it is meant to be seen. One can either get this view of the megabuilding from a boat, or by getting wet, period. (2000 hardy swimmers snag this view in September each year as Monona Terrace plays host to the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. But they are racing, not looking at architecture.) So on a dare, Jessica Cogan Millman and I walked down the beach a bit, donned our wetsuits, and swam out there for half an hour—on a day when the water temperature crested at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. We swam parallel to shore until we reached the point of view set by Mr. Wright, to get the view only a few ever see. Then we swam right back. Promptly. Brrrr. 
– Victor Dover

Project Lodge
The Urban Project Lodge, sponsored by the NextGen in a storefront/performance space blocks away from the main congress in the city’s arts district, was a combination think tank, continuous low-level happy hour, and innovation cabal. The sessions were free-form conversations around a large note board. Glenn Kellogg made a welcoming host during our visits. CNU openly encouraged the Lodge; President John Norquist, Chair Victor Dover, and Florida Chapter Chair Chuck Bohl visited the Lodge early in the congress and urged others to go join in on the conversation. The “guest appearance” by Andres Duany was the best attended event of the forum, but social media networks started the Lodge before the actual space opened and the conversation has not ended yet. It’s a credit to the originators of the Urban Project Lodge that the event worked so well for a first attempt. Matt Lambert, Karja Hansen and the inventors of the Lodge are taking a similar approach to the emerging CNU+Miami group of the Florida CNU chapter. It will be interesting to see what the Lodge (or Lodges, plural, perhaps?) will be like at CNU 20 in our own South Florida backyard.
- Jason King

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