Dec. 19th Weekly Roundup

A lot of fascinating stuff flows through our trusty Twitter account on a daily basis. This post inaugurates a more-or-less weekly round-up of informative, provocative, or (occasionally) mind-boggling gleanings from the Twitterverse.

1. The City of Vancouver has inked a deal with a company that will, in theory, produce 95 tons (or tonnes, to our Canadian friends) of produce in a greenhouse built on the roof of a downtown, city-owned garage. The project sponsor says the facility will produce the equivalent of 16 acres of farmland using mostly ambient sunlight and some low-carbon, hydro-generated electricity.

2. We’re big fans of Kaid Benfield’s column on the NRDC’s “Switchboard” blog (and you should be, too). Since we do a lot of campus planning and design, we read his post about the College of William & Mary’s new eco-village plan with particular interest. And that was before we followed the first link to an April post he wrote about Emory University’s sustainability efforts. It includes some kind words (warning: preening alert) about our work at Emory, albeit buried far down in the story. We’re at work on three other campus projects (Drexel, Ohio State, and the University of Washington) that treat sustainability as key element of each school’s long-term success.

3. Looking for a way to finesse the hostility to transit funding in Congress, Charlotte has cooked up a new way to fund expansion of its Lynx light-rail system. The formula combines equal parts state aid, proceeds from a regional dedicated sales tax, funding from a tax-increment district, and revenues from a special-assessment district. All of which adds up to…no need for federal funds. An additional twist: the plan coordinates freight and commuter use of the rail lines and encourages “freight-oriented development” (FOD?) in less-dense areas along the line; manufacturers near the line could build a spur to their property and benefit from the new service.

4. Baltimore’s mayor has set an ambitious goal of attracting 10,000 new families to the city in a decade.


5. “Fast Company” offered an excellent look at the possibilities of urban manufacturing in rustbelt cities and unlikely urban areas like San Francisco and Brooklyn, the new epicenter of all things cool and coolly urban. Shortly after we saw that, we ran across a Joel Kotkin post on New Geography (originally written for in which he and Mark Schill crunched some numbers to show that manufacturing jobs still exist in the US—and are even expanding in some places. They argue that the US will become increasingly competitive as manufacturing costs rise in developing countries. Fun list for data geeks, too.

6. Detroit’s decision to scrap a planned light-rail system on Woodward Avenue in favor of a cheaper BRT system, in part because the cash-strapped US DOT backed off its support, got lots of media attention (and should make us all pause for just a second to think about the paradigm shift that could make transit look like the savior of the Motor City). The emergence of “Midtown” as an eds/meds employment center helped make the LRT plan look feasible (and many Midtown backers think it still is), as did a continuing strengthening in the city’s downtown, led by Quicken loans.

7. DCist, perhaps the least-successful name among all the “–ist” blogs, compiled a slideshow of “artistic” bike-rack designs in Washington. Although we’re going to object to calling them all artistic, they certainly get an A for effort

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