Each time I leave my neighborhood to freshly re-paved County Road 535, I am so disheartened. It sickens me that the County would spend all this money and time pouring new asphalt and restriping all while making no improvements for safety through this area.

Just north of the intersection of Chase Road and CR 535, this roadway was improved with curbs, a lower speed limit, and possibly a reduction in lane width, which all aid in reducing the speed at which a driver feels comfortable moving his vehicle.

The newly “improved” section, from Chase Road and southward, is composed of extra wide lanes, no curbs, and broad flat shoulders large enough to accommodate an extra vehicle lane. These factors aid in a driver feeling comfortable moving his vehicle faster, no matter the posted speed limit.

“Orange County is focused on making the roadways and shoulders safer for the citizens and visitors of Orange County. Presently through our paving program every year we identify many roadways that require the milling and resurfacing of the roadways. Many of these roadways have paved shoulders allowing the traveling public to safely leave the main roadway, should it be necessary.”

In addition, Orange County Roads and Drainage has let us know that this improvement should last 15 to 20 years with proper maintenance. Wowzas! I guess there is no plan for traffic calming measures through this area. Nevermind that hundreds of school children and parents walk across CR 535 to Sunset Park Elementary each and every school day. I guess slowing the traveling public down for safety matters only for those in vehicles, not for those without a steel shield around them.

At a time when Metro Orlando was named the fourth most dangerous city for pedestrians in the country, it is time to look at context sensitive solutions!

During a recent discussion on infill architecture through Orlando’s CNU and Rethinking the City, Tom Lowe of Charlotte’s Civic By Design, explained that even contemporary architecture, which many of us disregard, can be appropriate infill if properly massed and proportioned. “It’s not the style, but the urban form that matters.” Even today, one of the real offenders, in any style, remains the snout house with its protruding garage composing much of the front mass. [...]

Victor Dover, of Dover, Kohl & Partners, was at Rollins College last night to give a lecture on his new book, Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns, which he co-wrote with John Massengale. Mr. Dover’s firm redesigned Park Avenue in the mid-1990s and, a decade later, designed the Rollins College Gates. Victor is an excellent and approachable speaker and knows Central Florida well!

Victor’s lecture, as reflected in the book, incorporated many great visuals, including before-and-afters, which are quite persuasive. He contends that visuals are important to sell any idea to people. As he explained, and I love this, “People are hard-wired against growth and change because they’ve seen so much of it in their lifetime, and it wasn’t good.” [...]

Some improvements to our intersection at County Road 535 and Overstreet occurred over the summer, and we recently received an update from Commissioner Scott Boyd as follow-up from our April 2012 meeting regarding traffic and pedestrian safety at and around the school. You may click here to open a pdf from Orange County Traffic Engineering, but these improvements were: [...]

A developer who wishes to make a substantial change to an intended use or zoning in Orange County must first participate in a community meeting with surrounding residents. After attending several about proposed work here in Horizon West, I have noticed some common and consistently shared arguments which I feel are not nearly as effective as those who share them believe they are. Let me explain.

“But when I bought here I was told…” [...]

I chose to live in Tennessee for my five years of college, so it became a special place to me. This news about the Tennessee Department of Transportation was a delightful surprise.

TDOT recently partnered with Smart Growth America to review the state’s transportation system. The report that ensued changed TDOT policy on easing road congestion. Rather than widening roads or constructing bypasses, as has been the default and unquestionable practice for decades, TDOT is now looking at context sensitive solutions and simpler cost-effective methods to accomplish traffic improvements.

A single highway running across the state may amble through rolling hillsides and suburban communities and may even be Main Street in downtown. It shouldn’t receive the same treatment through each of these. Thus, context sensitive solutions will promote appropriately designed streets for each of these environments. This can potentially revitalize downtown and spur economic growth and place-making.

Economically, there are ways to improve congestion that don’t require adding another lane of asphalt such as removing curb cuts or optimizing traffic light timing. We pour so much money into road infrastructure, and this will save the state millions of dollars.

The new policy requires a new set of performance metrics such as economic impact, job creation, cost saving potential, sustainability, and ease of implementation. And it should end the endless cycle of building wider and faster state roadways.

 

 

How do you transform an urban neighborhood in 320 square feet or less? A handful of cities are implementing parklets, small urban oases converted from one or two on-street parking spaces.

Construction and maintenance costs of parklets vary but can be $15k to $20k. In most cases though, they are being paid for by private investors, business owners who would like to beautify their blocks and attract foot traffic. Even so most cities require that the furnishings not match those from an adjacent business to further indicate that the parklet is a public space rather than an extension of any particular business.

Parklets may feature cafe tables, built-in furniture, benches, or even grass. Granted the finishes and furnishings selected give some a more permanent appearance, while some appear to be temporary additions to the street. One “parklet” search on Google turns up many ideas, and the idea is ripe for experimentation.

To read more about parklets as seen in the June 2012 issue of Governing magazine, click here.

By Philly Bike Coalition / Flickr

By Philly Bike Coalition / Flickr
June 29th, 2012

Dream Project Part 1

Want a glimpse into the mind of this architect? I’m sure that all architects, whether experienced or not, have that certain project type on which they would love to work. We’ll call it a dream project.

There’s no such super sleek glass and concrete stucture in my dream.

For a long time, mine was the adaptive reuse of an old abandoned textile mill. There were four abandoned textile mills in my hometown of Rock Hill, South Carolina. I find beauty in the aged masonry and the rhythmic pattern of large windows often with jack arches. I always felt these would make great loft spaces for residential or commercial purposes with tall ceiling heights, plenty of natural light, and textures such as exposed brick and aged pine floors.

These monolithic structures were the centers of communities and were important economic engines. Below are some links to similar projects that have been completed.

The Lofts of Greenville

Greystone Lofts

Mebane Mill Lofts

We patronize Winter Garden Village on Daniels Road more often than any other shopping/dining destination because of its convenient location. I can’t help but reflect each time I’m there on missed opportunities.

What a great room in the upper portion of that tower!

[...]

“Our feet and legs relate inversely to our bellies and bottoms. When we use our feet and legs less, our bellies and bottoms grow larger. And vice versa.”

In “Walking the Walk” in the April 2012 issue of Governing Magazine, Alex Marshall asks “How do we encourage walking and biking in our spread-out landscape?” He explains that physical proximity is important and that our metro areas have been increasing in size faster than our population has been growing. We’re spreading ourselves out too far.

Marshall speaks to the merits of living more compactly and how state and local governments might manage this. He also explains through reference to Patrick Condon’s 2004 study Canadian Cities, American Cities, and I found this comparison very interesting, that up until World War II, Canadian and American cities were very similar in form. Afterwards, American cities began to sprawl outward quickly as we built more highways and funneled more tax revenue to building roads. The result is that we spend much more time in the car than our neighbors to the north.