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CNU 24 Detroit

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Jun 13, 2016

We are back from Detroit, and our annual pilgrimage to the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU 24).  As many know, Detroit, MI went bankrupt in July 2013.  So as urbanists, we were both curious and intrigued to see how the images of vacant and boarded-up buildings (those that remained) could be transformed.  During the drive, we contemplated what the urban landscape might look like, and what if anything has been done to repair it since 2013?  Suffice it to say, we were pleasantly surprised with the City's resilience and the efforts to rebuild - all of which subscribe to the principles of New Urbanism.

So what were the highlights?  We started with a tour to Grand Rapids (where ironically, they are decidedly missing from the Grand River).  Here we saw a greenfield project with customized neighbourhood amenities and the use of interesting building materials.  Grand Rapids Grand RapidsWe saw an intact downtown main street returning to prosperity, neighbourhoods reclaiming parks, retail commercial finding customers clamoring for urbanism and neighbourhoods transformed from a history of crime to beautiful mixed use places with affordable housing.  Other tours included Ann Arbor, Greater Downtown Detroit and Birmingham, MI – all of which had something we could learn from.

The seminars didn't disappoint either...always entertaining Andres Duany introduced newcomers to the principles of New Urbanism, and Jeff Speck reminded us of the importance of walkability.  I was particularly impressed with Joe Minicozzi's 'Cash Flow of Urbanism' which convincingly demonstrated how urbanism is profitable for cities and why Walmart isn't the tax goldmine municipalities believe it will be; and Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City’s former transportation commissioner, who gave a powerful presentation on the lessons learned when we give our streets back to pedestrians.

As always, we came away with renewed vigor to design and build better neighbourhoods.  If you haven't yet been, I encourage you to attend the next Congress to learn how to build places people love.  Hope to see you next year at CNU 25 Seattle, WA!

 

Posted by: Daniel Romanko