Monday, October 2, 2017

Revitalizing Post-Industrial Factory Towns

http://www.citylab.com; August 22, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to another abbreviated week on the blog.  This week and next, Jewish holidays are once again demanding Blogger's time.  That aside, the horror of another mass shooting has rocked the known Galaxy.  The shooting took place at Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada late yesterday evening, during a country music festival.  Two things struck Blogger: First, casinos, like Mandalay Bay, are heavily surveilled, cameras are everywhere, including places you would not think.  So, it makes Blogger wonder why no one noticed anything odd.  Actually, this is a rhetorical question because, we have been so conditioned to look for someone with brown skin and an Arabic name.  The gunman in Las Vegas was a sixty-four year old white guy with no criminal history.  You draw your own conclusions.

Next, the clock is ticking loudly.  The completed DACA-renewal application, a check, or money order $495 must be postmarked NO LATER THAN MIDNIGHT OCTOBER 5, 2017.  If you are reading this post, stop immediately and fill out the application, then come back to read today's post on "Temporary Urbanism."  Finally, Mr. Trump, Hurricane Maria was not "A real catastrophe?"  Are you serious?  Hurricane Katrina was a genuine tragedy that left over 1,800 dead and an entire parts of New Orleans underwater.  Hurricane Maria was a category 5 hurricane that leveled an entire island, a territory of the United States.  Thankfully only sixteen people were killed but it is no less a catastrophe.  Then you stand there, like some slick game show host, tossing out rolls of toilet and kitchen paper.  What was that about?  Sad.  Your response to the disaster in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island is deplorable.  Shall we move on?

Here is a question: "What will become of manufacturing town in a post-industrial world?"  This is the question Robin Chang asks in her CityLab article "How 'Temporary Urbanism' Can Transform Struggling Industrial Town,"  "What will become of manufacturing towns in a post-world in a post-industrial world?"  From the Ruhr region in Germany (the-conversation.com; June 23, 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017)  to the Rust Belt, onetime thriving factory towns are dealing with shrinking industry, disappearing populations, and existential questions about their position in the global economy.

One example is the city of Detroit, Michigan.  The population of this once bustling auto-making town has declined from 1.85 million in 1950 to 675,000 in 2017. (http://www.freep.com; May, 25, 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017)

Thus, the task at hand is "Reinvigoratoing these legacy cities (lincolnist.edu; May 2013; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017), as they are sometimes called, is not easy-but it is not impossible."  Ms. Chang has done research in Europe, inspired by the urban planning non-profit Die Urbanstein, located in her home base of Dortmund, Germany.  Ms. Chang has has identified several "innovative redevelopment models" that potentially offer lessons for all post-industrial cities.

Robin Chang reports, "These three movements focus on ephemeral, flexible solutions that are broadly applicable to any city seeking to reinvent faded manufacturing zones: tactical urbanism [http://www.citylab.com Mar. 2, 2012; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017], sustainable landscape [http://www.asla.org; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017], and the tiny homes movement [http://www.businessinsider.com; May 10, 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017]"

"Temporary, tactical urbanism (Plantage 9, Bremen)": the port city of Bremen, in Northern Germany, has struggled to adapt itself to the socioeconomic environment of the 21st century (http://www.planetizen.com; Sept. , 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017).

Today, Bremen is known for its success with tactical urbanism-inspired strategies (link.springer.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017).  The strategy, known as Street Plans Collaborative (street-plans.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017) encompasses a variety of short term, low cost, scalable measures that facilitate more long term community building change.

In Bremen, the ZwischeZeitZentrale (ZZZ; zzz-bremen.de; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017) is a local organization set up to be the "project middleman, set out to match underutilized urban spaces in Bremen with projects in need of a home."

One of the projects undertaken by ZZZ was Plantage 9 (plantage9.wordpress.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017), a former textile factory repurposed as a culture and innovation hub, "with over 30 independent, creative, and entrepreneurial temporary users, a food-truck kitchen, bike repair workshop, and studios and galleries for young artists."

Some of the business stayed for a short time.  Other have remained, and "in 2012 these users negotiated a new lease and management contract between the city and the collective."  Plantage 9 began its life as a pilot project, blossoming. Into a community association that has become a part of the city's cultural life.

Robin Chang writes, "As Plantage 9-style matchmaking revitalized lifeless spaces with exciting projects, Bremen's national reputation has changed, top-from struggling post-industrial city to dynamic urban innovator."

"Sustainable landscapes (Zomerhofwartier; Rotterdam)": the residents of Rotterdam, Netherlands have created comprehensive urban revitalization processes in an neglected neighborhood.  The finished product Zomerhofwartier (ZoHo; zohorotterdam.nl; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017), "the new face of a former industrial area near the city's central train station."

ZoHo was first conceived in 2013 as a temporary intiative by a small group of community organizations, later reconfigured a ZOHOCITIZENS, ZoHo is now composed of a permenant communal workspaces, as well as studios that are host to events, classes, and green spaces.  The process has taken a decade to come to fruition-what developers call slow urbanism (thecityateyelevel.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017)-the area has grown into one of Rotterdam's core makers areas.

One of ZoHo's innovations is climate proofing (urbanisten.nl; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017), the site acts as an "urban laboratory for ecological adaptation and transition."  So far, ZoHo has implemented a water collection, storage systems in public spaces, green rooftops, urban gardens, and has reduced hard surfaces.

The final goal is "to increase the whole district's ecological resiliency and the socioeconomic vitality of the district through the micro-greening of the specific locations in the urban concrete fabric."

"Tiny Houses (Berlin)": Tiny houses (thetinylife.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017) is something that might work in the Los Angeles as rents continue to be "too damn high."  Robin Chang describes the Tiny House Movement as relying on "small modular units that recall images of cottage..."  The movement has gained traction in the United States in the wake of the housing crisis, as an alternative for affordable housing.  These minuscule residences, sometimes standalone and other times as secondary units, have inspired the reality show Tiny House, Big Living (hgtv.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017)

The Tiny House Movement has established a firm foothold in North America, but is still developing in Europe, according to the Tiny Home website (tinyhomebuilders.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017).  

Robin Chang writes, "While the typical context for tiny homes is residential, the Bauhaus Campus Berlin [bauhauscampus.org; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017] collaboration between Tinyhouse University and Bauhaus Archieve from the Museum of Design in Berlin is demonstrating how these units can temporarily reconceive unused space for social justice, learning, and research."

Germany has embraced the Tiny Home movement as a way to provide housing for new residents and refugees.  The challenge of creating new housing has inspired an educational forum and workshop earlier this year that teaches people how to build their own tiny home.

The Tiny Movement was featured in the German media (theconversation.com; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017), together with similar projects, the Bauhaus Campus Berlin included "12 tiny homes on the front lawn of the museum and promotes tiny house building through design Creasy courses, panel discussions, and other cultural gatherings."

"Scaling innovation": thus far, the European examples present the resilient direction of temporary urbanism, working with the context the neighborhood scale, using informality to engage the stakeholders, and make sure that local governments respond effectively and inclusively to contemporary urban challenges.

Temporary urbanism, at the street and neighborhood level, can take on many forms and not limited to post-industrial cities and Europe (planetizen.com; Aug. 28, 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017).  For example, the city of Denver , Colorado used a tactical strategy to launch on the the United States' first large-scale bike-share programs (tandfonline.com; April 5, 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017) in an extremely automobile-centric city.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania incorporated pop-up landscapes as part of its revitalization effort of the Delaware River waterfront (Ibid; Jan. 17, 2017; date accessed Oct. 2, 2017), "...engaging entrepreneurial municipal officials, urban planning agencies, and landscape designers to strategically harness and catalyze investment."

Clearly, someone is doing something right.  However, Ms. Chang says, "But for a scholarly perspective, we still know little about the mix of enablers and drivers that inspire such transformative moments."  One of the key questions is "What, exactly are the factors that make one temporary urbanism project succeed where another fails?"

The academic jury seems to be stuck on the question of whether or not these ephemeral interventions have as  just as much affect as intended, and "whether citizens are entitled to create effective urban revitalization as professional planners are?"  As to this last question, Blogger wonders why this is even a question.  If you are professional planner, dealing with communities, Blogger believes that citizens are absolutely entitled to create effective urban revitalization because they are the stakeholders.  Whatever interventions a professional planner can come up with is meaningless without their input.  Ms. Chang continues, "And most current research on temporary use is descriptive or expository-narrating and cataloging the process and types of users, formats and instruments seen in tactical initiatives."  

Constructive criticism is helpful in furthering our understanding of change.  Nevertheless Ms. Chang opines, "But I believe that this adaptive practice is the next frontier in city planning."  Blogger concurs with this thought.  Interventions at neighborhood level creates a more personalized form of urban planning and design.

Ultimately, there has to be more precision in temporary urbanism.  Municipal officials and planners need to refine their broad strokes down to exact doses, numbers of identified stakeholders, processes, and instruments in order develop "recipes" "for more resilient temporary urbanism."