The New Brooklyn by urbanexus

Go here to listen to a great podcast in which author and Manhattan Institute fellow, Kay Hymowitz discusses her book, The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back, with City Journal editor, Brian Anderson. In this book, Ms. Hymowitz, focuses on the remarkable transformation of large parts of New York City's largest borough from a symbol of urban decay to a remarkably vibrant and innovative urban environment. But, as she notes, challenges remain.


Kay Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She writes extensively on childhood, family issues, poverty, and cultural change in America.  

College course planning by urbanexus

While planning an undergraduate course for the first time in several years, I was perplexed by the question of how much reading and writing to assign. I turned to Google and, after a few blind alleys, found a helpful article at a blog maintained by the Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University.  The blog post is  "How Much Should We Assign? Estimating Out of Class Workload" and the author is Elizabeth (Betsy) Barre. The nifty thing about this article is that it includes a calculator for estimating the time required to complete reading and writing assignments. The following screenshots give you an idea of how it works.

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David Fahrenthold and news as collaborative intelligence by urbanexus

Here is the story by David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) of the Washington Post about how he spent a year reporting on Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump). It began with asking questions about charitable contributions. Mr. Farenthold uses the Internet and social media to increase his productivity as described by Tom Rosenstiel in a Brookings article:  News as collaborative intelligence: Correcting the myths about news in the digital age.

The Penquin in Santa Monica by urbanexus

The Penquin Restaurant building at the northwest corner of Olympic Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard--as designed in 1959 and in 2016.


After housing a coffee shop until the early 1990s, the structure housed a dental office. Now it looks like it will become a restaurant once again. See this Santa Monica Lookout posting for details.

Too little leverage for equitable TOD in Seattle area by urbanexus

The participation of a variety of organizations and government agencies in creating a fund to stimulate affordable transit-oriented development for lower-income households is laudable. But this $21 million loan fund is miniscule in comparison to the $54 billion dollar transit investment program approved by Seattle area voters in November 2016. It is simply not enough, at least at inception, to make a significant difference.

Optimistically, a loan program like this one might achieve a 10:1 leverage ratio--that is for every dollar from the fund, perhaps as much as $10 of other funding (loans or equity investment) could be mobilized. This would result in approximately $210 million of housing investment.

In the Seattle region, acquiring land and constructing new housing costs at least $300 per square foot, or about $300 thousand for 1,000 square foot apartment or condominium. If all of  $210 million of funding goes toward new housing development, it would create no more than 700 units of new housing. At an average household size of three persons, this new housing would accommodate 2,100 people--in a region that is currently growing by over 75,000 persons per year

New housing development does not occur overnight, especially when a multiplicity of programs have to be mobilized to reduce costs for buyers or renters. At best, it would take at least five years to put these 700 units in place. Based on this timing and current growth rates, the program would generate new housing for less than one percent of the population added to the region between 2017 and 2022.

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Snout house in Seattle by urbanexus

A few "snout houses" are still being built in Seattle. This brand new 1,900 sq. ft. house is 8 miles south of downtown and priced at $420,000. 

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The inside looks a lot better than the outside.

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Susan Christopherson (1947-2016) by urbanexus

Cornell University economic geographer and regional development scholar Susan Christopherson died on December 14, 2016. At the time of her death, she was chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP.) She joined the CRP faculty in 1987 and became first female full professor and chair of the department.  I had the opportunity to know and work with this remarkable woman while I was at Cornell from 2009 to 2013. An obituary is posted on the AAP website.

Susan Christopherson (1947-2016)

Susan Christopherson (1947-2016)

Healthy places by urbanexus

Public health professionals are concluding that our metropolitan environment influences our physical and mental health. A blog posting of December 8, 2016, went so far as to state that, "  .  .  .  One number stands above all others as the best indicator of good health. It's not your blood pressure, cholesterol level, average daily calories, or even the age at which your grandparents die. It's your zip code."  And the website of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a feature where you can type in your zip code to see data on average life expectancy. Picking up on this idea, the folks at Project for Public Spaces have prepared a report on "The Case for Healthy Placemaking: Improving Health Outcomes through Placemaking."