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20-Minute Community on Portland’s inner fringe

Portland is trying to be North America’s most walkable city by employing a vision for 20-minute communities in much of its current planning. There’s a lot of power in this idea, and if done right, it can be influential beyond the Rose City. The key though, as I see it, is not to embellish Portland’s thriving boutique districts, but instead to strengthen the places that are lacking structural riches. If the city can do this, it will have accomplished something that can inform planning everywhere. read more

Weekly Video: Tiny Houses

Alright, so I’m late on this one — people have apparently been excited about tiny houses for awhile now. Regardless, I’m joining their ranks. As cities of greater urban density make attempts at infill development, such as Vancouver’s laneway housing, these diminutive domiciles might look a little out of place in some areas…

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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Weekly Video: Preservation on Main Street

While it might be nice if our cities and towns were built around squares as is the case in much of Europe, most places in North America developed around a main street. As such, Main Street programs have developed all across the United States, with average returns of $25 to the local economy for every $1 invested. Still, beyond its economic force, the program’s greatest strength is the sense of ownership is grants community members in celebrating their hometowns.

The following slideshow covers the Maryland Main Street Program, which is but one of many… Read more

Top Five Urban Design Solutions

With this highlight of urban design winners, we hope to draw out a discussion around public space and built form.  The focus of this list is current trends in urban design, ones that have been built rather than ones that haven’t happened. There are heaps of exciting ideas coming from firms, competitions and students that are very innovative. The real winners, however, are the ones that actually happen.  Today, high quality urban design is widely applied in our urban centers as a critical element in any municipal density initiative, as it is recognized to have positive impacts on ecological, economic and social well-being.

1. Urban ecology

The Dockside Green neighborhood in Victoria, BC received LEED designation, in part because of its attention to urban ecology. Thanks to J. Scratchley on Flickr for the great Creative Commons photo!

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WIN WEEK – Planning Hero

Understanding past-mistakes is essential to avoiding them in the future, however, hindsight is 20/20 and we here at Planning Pool are cognizant of this truth. With that in mind and with eyes toward sunnier days, we’ve decided to respond to last month’s Fail Week feature with some of the more hopeful developments in the world of planning: Win Week…

Chicken Week!

As some of us recover from the spectacle of Super Bowl Sunday, we thought it’d be an appropriate time to kick-off our own grand event — chicken week.  Now, as many a city councilperson can tell you, the idea of city-slickin’ chickens stimulates some compelling, if not maddening debate (evidenced here).  In tough times, urban livestock definitely has some appeal for those who’d take their victory gardens one step further.  Will chickens supplant dogs as the preferred family pet?  Or will future generations merely associate chicken with greasy, dinosaur-shaped bricks of life-shortening goodness?  Maybe something in between

To get a sense for the realities of chicken-keeping in an urban context, our latest Planning Pool Original visits a bonafide chicken enthusiast in Portland, OR, where backyard fowl are accepted members of the community.

Enjoy!… Continue Reading

Reducing barriers to renewable energy

Solar panel

Solar Panel by Flickr user futureatlas.com

There are lots of reasons why we don’t use more renewable energy, like solar or wind power. A huge reason is cost – often a system can take 10 to 15 years to payback from energy savings. Another factor is regulatory. Sometimes, zoning laws don’t allow solar power or adding photovoltaic panels may require a construction permit.

Portland is trying to make it easier for homeowners to add solar panels to their houses. While Portland may not be solar power mecca, the city boasts a number of renewable energy firms and has a strong commitment to sustainability, hoping to reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent before 2030 and 80 percent reduction by 2050 (see Portland’s Climate Action Plan). So, the … Continue Reading

Libraries aren’t just for books

Photo by Flickr user Landschaft

One of the great things about being a student is having the luxury of coming up with really fun ideas. Last semester, some classmates and I worked on a re-imagining of a Vancouver neighborhood around the Britannia Community Center (here’s a link to the project / sorry for the Flashtastrophe). One feature that we put into our design was the idea of a tool library.

Basically, a tool library is like a book library, except that rather than borrowing books, people can borrow ladders, lawn mowers, power tools, circular saws and other tools that people only use infrequently. Our group placed the hypothetical tool library in a light-industrial warehouse and paired it with a “Maker Shed” and … Continue Reading

Portland’s Plans to Be The Greenest City in the World – Resilient Cities Conference

Who will be the most sustainable city in the world? Vancouver, British Columbia, unveiled its Greenest City Initiative today, which sets 10 ambitious targets for resource use reduction, to achieve by 2010. Portland, Oregon, is a close competitor for this “greenest” city title, having already won the number one spot in US city rankings by Sustain Lane and Popular Science.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams is urging Portlanders to not rest on their laurels. At the Gaining Ground Resilient City conference, Adams and his team outlined an innovative strategy to advance their city’s sustainability. The vanguard of this effort is a 25 year strategic planning effort that will push a triple bottom line for the city, to ensure “that Portland is a thriving and sustainable city and our people are prosperous, healthy and educated.”

Planning and … Continue Reading

Snapshot: Street Food

Snapshot_Street Food

The sights and smells of street food can be one of the great experiential pleasures of a city, and every city is different. Carts sell roasted chestnuts on London’s street corners in the wintertime, while New York’s streets bristle with hot dog carts.

Portland, Oregon, shown above, is known for its array of food carts. They seem to sell every kind of food, and some even offer folding chairs to accommodate a leisurely meal.

Meanwhile, the City of Montreal, Quebec, has banned conventional street food carts for decades. While the waffle vendor shown here does technically sell street food, since it is both purchased and consumed on the sidewalk, the food is cooked inside a building and served through a window. Locally, the lack of street food is … Continue Reading

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