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Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category

Bike racks in Long Beach

Bike racks in Long Beach help attract customers to local businesses.

One of the truly encouraging trends we’ve seen the past few years is the gradual uptick in urban cycling around Sarasota. Many new bicycle parking racks have been installed and people are slowly catching on to the fact that the bike may just be the best way to get around the downtown area. Plus, the sight, smell, and sound of people riding bikes and walking is just so much more pleasant than those of cars, especially on Main Street. Even during a severe economic downtown, life in the heart of our fair city has become more vibrant, not less.

An article crossposted on Grist and The Nation took a look at Long Beach, California, as it works to better integrate the bicycle as a regular means of transport. Like Sarasota, Long Beach has a climate that accommodates year-round cycling (the only thing required in SRQ during the worst heat of summer is more shade from street trees), a high number of older and retired residents, and way too much traffic. That is changing, slowly but surely, in Long Beach and perhaps in Sarasota as well. Why? Well, besides being good for quality of life, bikes are good for business.

Of course, there are still plenty of cars in Long Beach…but bicycles are getting more respect, not to mention resources, than ever before. With help from state and federal grants and pressure from local cycling enthusiasts, the city government has installed 130 miles of bike trails, established protected bike lanes (that is, lanes separated from vehicular traffic by physical barriers) on major commuter thoroughfares, created bike boulevards that enable kids and parents to bike or walk safely to and from school, and installed 1,200 new bike racks.

Perhaps most innovative has been the city’s effort to establish bike-friendly shopping districts — the first in the country, officials say — engaging local merchants by showing them how, contrary to common belief, biking can actually bring more customers and vitality to shopping districts.

“The math is pretty simple,” says April Economides, the principal of Green Octopus Consulting and the leader of the city’s outreach to local businesses. “You can park 12 bikes in the amount of space it takes to park one car. And someone who shifts from owning a car to a bicycle tends to have more discretionary income, because, for a commuter, the typical cost of a bicycle is $300 a year, compared to $7,000 a year for a car.”

Separated bike lane in Stockholm, Sweden. Where the weather isn't nearly so favorable for cycling.

Besides putting extra money in your pocket, pedaling more and driving less makes it easier to remember why you chose to live in paradise in the first place.

“I like a line by Aristotle, ‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life,’” Long Beach mayor Bob Foster says. “Sometimes I can’t remember at the end of a day what I did the past eight hours. That’s moving too fast. A bit slower pace in life is a good thing.”

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Great article about the economics of mixed-use development, something we’re always pushing here at Laurel Park Management. Mixed-use helps makes places walkable and livable. It helps make them better, more beautiful, and more vibrant. So, naturally, it provides an economic boon as well. What’s more, the study below was also performed in Sarasota:

Are cities across the country acting negligently in ignoring the property tax implications of different development types? Joseph Minicozzi thinks so, and he’s done the math to prove it.

The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality.
— Andrew Jackson

Downtown Pays
Asheville, North Carolina — like many cities and towns around the country — is hurting financially.

It’s not that Asheville is some kind of deserted ghost town. Rather, it’s a picturesque mountain city with a population of about 83,000 that draws tourists from all over the world, especially during the leaf-peeping season. But it’s also a city that appeals to its residents, who revel in strolling about a true walkable downtown chock-full of restaurants and retail shops featuring locally grown and crafted products. Downtown is not only one of Asheville’s main draws; it also serves as a major driver in helping the city overcome its budgetary doldrums.

Most of us – city planners, elected officials, business owners, voters, and the like – understand that the city brings in more tax revenue when people shop and eat out more. However, we often overlook the scale of the property tax payoff for encouraging dense mixed-use development.

Many policy decisions seem to create incentives for businesses and property developers to expand just about anywhere, without regard for the types of buildings they are erecting. In this article, I argue that the best return on investment for the public coffers comes when smart and sustainable development occurs downtown.

We’ll use the city of Asheville as an example. Asheville realizes an astounding +800 percent greater return on downtown mixed-use development projects on a per acre basis compared to when ground is broken near the city limits for a large single-use development like a Super Walmart. A typical acre of mixed-use downtown Asheville yields $360,000 more in tax revenue to city government than an acre of strip malls or big box stores.

If you were a mayor or city councillor facing a budget crisis, this comparison should serve as an eye-opener, both in terms of your policies and your development priorities. The comparison should also get you thinking about not just how you could encourage more downtown development, but also what kind of development could increase the value of buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s not just officials in Asheville who should be asking these questions. In the growing number of diverse cities where we have studied this same equation (such as Billings, MT, Petaluma, CA, and Sarasota, FL) we’ve found that the same principle applies: downtown pays. It’s simple math. keep reading at planetizen.com

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As the quest for more viable renewable and alternative energy sources continues, some of the options suggested seem brilliant while others remain firmly in the world of the bizarre. Take, for instance, a biofuel mentioned in a recent article on portstrategy.com:

According to a recent report by the American Chemical Society, alligator fat could be the best option for fuelling cars; the oil found in the alligator’s meat and skin is apparently more practical than soya, the usual biofuel source, and the society says that the meat industry sends 15m pounds (lbs) of alligator fat a year to landfill.

Really? Gator gas? Gotta wonder whether the folks at the American Chemical Society are avid golfers who lost one too many balls to alligator-defended water hazards. Then again, it’s hard to justify wasting 15 million pounds of alligator fat annually. Might as well put it to use. As strange as gator fuel sounds, it is an interesting possibility, one that could lead to more locally sourced biofuels.

Another, more technologically oriented, potential energy source is the humble speed bump. A Maryland-based company has developed a speed bump that harnesses the kinetic energy of cars as they pass over it and  then converts that energy into electricity.

The company “is targeting installations in parking lots, border crossings, exit ramps, neighborhoods with traffic calming zones, rest areas, toll booths, and travel plazas. Electricity would power roadway signs, street and building lights, storage systems for back-up and emergency power.”

Traffic calming can make neighborhoods safer, more enjoyable, more humane places to live, so if it can also increase an area’s social, economic, and environmental sustainability who could complain? Downtown Sarasota has dozens if not hundreds of places appropriate for such a speed bump.

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Okay, so—in a follow up to our last post—here are some critics’ choices for the US of A’s best public spaces. The article quoted is from Planetizen, a wonderful clearinghouse-style site of urban-themed articles. Do you agree with the critics? Disagree? Any nominees for notable snubs? Could any of their picks offer inspiration that might take root in Sarasota?

For the past few weeks, we’ve been asking you to help us crowdsource the Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S. and Canada, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces. For a different perspective, we asked some top architecture critics and practitioners to give us their favorites.

If you still haven’t voted, head on over to IdeaScale and give us your suggestions. Voting is getting competitive, with Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park currently topping the list.

It has been a fascinating experiment so far, attracting some of the expected responses (The High Line, Millennium Park, Bryant Park) and some less so (The Circle in Normal, Illinois). For me, it’s been a revelation to read about the many beloved plazas and parks I’ve yet to visit.

While crowdsourcing has its benefits, it is also useful to talk to people who’s business is to think about cities and architecture. I asked a handful of architecture critics, urban designers and architects to give us their bests.

James S. Russell, architecture critic for Bloomberg News and recently the author of The Agile City: Building Well-being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change, was kind enough to send us his Top 10:

James S. Russell’s Top 10

  • High Line Park, NYC
  • Central Park, NYC
  • Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
  • University of Washington campus, Seattle
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
  • Millennium Park, Chicago
  • Stanley Park, Vancouver BC
  • Moore Sculpture Garden (Nelson Atkins Museum), Kansas City
  • Back Bay Fens, Boston
  • Times Square, NYC

John King is urban design critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he also has a new book out,Cityscapes: San Francisco and its Buildings. Rather than a top 10 list, John sent us this reflection on his favorite places:

For San Francisco, the one I thought of instantly is one that outsiders don’t known: Grand View Park. It’s on the west side of the city, a steep bare hillock surrounded by prim single-family homes, and it delivers exactly what it promises: a grand perspective on the remarkable setting that is essential to San Francisco’s sense of place.In Boston, where I lived seven years, what comes to mind is Boston Public Garden. You enter and you have stepped out of time, a sensation felt often in The Hub. And yet it’s centrally located, very much part of the daily ebb and flow, timeless yet integral to the city of today.

New York? What else but the High Line. Deride it as monied or mannered or a developers’ boon in hip veneer, it is mesmerizing and exhilarating at once — a reminder that the principles of urban design should never be considered set. Because new layers and the unexpected are part of the change that cities are all about.

Finally, in Portland, Tanner Springs Park. Again, people I respect consider the Atelier Dreiseitl design to be mannered. I love how it embodies the uniquely sustainable ethos that shapes this Northwest city more and more, year after after year.

Inga Saffron is the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, and currently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, provided us with this list of her picks:

Inga Saffron’s Top 10

  • Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia
  • Central Park, New York
  • High Line, New York
  • Emerald Necklace, Boston
  • Millennium Park, Chicago
  • Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
  • Bryant Park, New York
  • Stanley Park, Vancouver
  • The Lachine Canal Bike Path, Montreal
  • National Mall, Washington D.C.

For pictures, more lists, and more discussion check out the original article at planetizen.

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A couple weeks ago I posted about merits of replacing a second car (or even a first car) with a bicycle. Bicycles are big right now in the worlds of urban planning and placemaking, for many good reasons. As mentioned before: bikes are affordable, they don’t add to noise and air pollution, they don’t require any fuel beyond the food consumed by their operator, they take up very little space, and they increase the average health and happiness of communities that embrace them. Bicycles are also incredibly functional, especially if one thinks a bit outside the box. To prove this last point, I’ve included a collection of photos of bikes at work (below, click on images for source).

It’s strange and a bit saddening that bikes have become politicized symbols of environmentalists, liberals, communists, hippies, hipsters, or whatever other group. The fact is that an increase in cycling benefits everyone and hurts no one; intelligent, universally beneficial activities are nonpartisan, and should be allowed to remain as such. So many towns and cities in the US could become vastly better places to live simply by recognizing bicycles as a valid and viable means of transportation.

The next time you happen to be stuck in traffic on 41, just imagine if half the cars were replaced by bicycles. Imagine how much nicer the bayfront would be without the endless lines of traffic. How much more accessible Main Street would be if you never had to look for a parking spot. Imagine how much more freedom children and elderly people would have. Imagine how much space would become available for homes, shops, offices, or parks if the vast parking lots at shopping centers were no longer needed.

Loving the bicycle doesn’t mean hating the car. It’s about making smart decisions that improve the lives of individuals and communities alike.

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We at Laurel Park Management aren’t out to save the world. We know that task is a little tall for a rental management company. Like most of you, we’re trying to do our jobs well and support our families. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be conscious of our actions, of their consequences. It doesn’t mean we can’t act responsibly and do our part to lessen our impact on this beautiful part of the world that we are so fortunate to inhabit.

Last week’s post was obviously tongue-in-cheek…The Onion is, after all, a satirical publication. But all good satire is rooted in truth, and the truth is that even as busy as our live sometimes get, there is always time to stop, think, and decide whether the action we are about to take is truly the right one.

LPM does what it can to support green living. We use long life CFLs, energy-efficient appliances, low-VOC paints, and low-flow faucets. We offer a recycling program with incentives. We reuse historic buildings rather than knocking them down to build new ones. We support a bikeable, walkable, urban village style of living. None of these things are terribly difficult, and all make a difference. What we’ve found is that green living is really just about consciousness. If we choose to pay a bit more attention and to educate ourselves, even a little, our lives become a bit greener.

So, to remind ourselves and to help those newer to the green movement, here are some easy ways to Go Green (borrowed from Treehugger):

Top Back to Basics Tips

 

 

  • Transport Having got a little reading under your belt, you’re probably itching to get started. One of the biggest impacts we have on the planet is a direct result of the way we move ourselves around. Fortunately, for many of us, this is also easy to do something about. You might consider walking, biking or using mass transit, at least a few days a week. Maybe you can convince your boss to let you work from home? Maybe you can carpool with a friend? If nothing else, you should certainly consider fuel consumption as a major factor in your choice of next vehicle. And when it comes to longer trips, flying is notoriously carbon intensive – so let the train take the strain wherever possible. Find a greener route from A to B with How to Green Your Car, and our Cars and Transportation section.
  • Energy With all the talk of solar panels, fuel cells, building-integrated wind turbines, and flux capacitors, it can be easy to think you need a million bucks to go green at home. Not so. Many of the most effective ways to cut carbon emissions are also the cheapest. Turn lights off when you go out, install energy efficient bulbs and appliances, insulate your home, and keep an eye on consumption. Once you’ve done all that, why not investigate if you can buy green energy from your local utility? Check out our guides on How to Green Your Heating and How to Green Your Electricity for a more detailed plunge.
  • Water This is where the folks in Seattle or the UK start switching off, but stay with us, please! Even if you live in areas of abundant rainfall, water is still a major ecological issue. Clean, drinkable water is precious and needs to be used most efficiently. Every drop of tap water we use also requires energy to filter, purify and transport, and that means fossil fuel emissions. And for those of you in dryer areas, you know only too well that water is becoming an ever-scarcer resource. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to do something about–install water-saving shower heads and aerators, turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, switch to more efficient appliances, or collect rainwater for use in the garden. All this and more can be found in our guide, How to Green Your Water. For those wanting to go a little more hardcore, the Navy Shower, or the “selective flush” are worth a try–if the comments on these posts are anything to go by, you’ll be in good company!
  • Food We’ve all got to eat, and most of us do it every day. It stands to reason that our collective food choices have a huge impact on the planet, and with the global food industry shipping products further and further around the world, and with farming becoming ever more intensive, this impact is only getting bigger. Fortunately, there is a resistance underway. More and more people are getting interested in sustainable food systems. To bring it back to basics, there are four principles that can help guide you to greener meals: eat local, eat seasonal, eat organic, and finally, eat less meat. For a comprehensive guide to a more sustainable diet, check out How to Green Your Meals and the Food and Health category.

Want to read more? Check out the whole article at treehugger.com!

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You mean, besides the Arts & Crafts fest downtown, the triathlon on Siesta Key, or just good old-fashioned beachgoing? 🙂 Well, yes. We thought we’d let you know about two great offerings on tap in and around Sarasota over the next couple days—one for the family, and one the kiddies are better off sitting out.

The first—

Got bikes? Then grab the whole family to join Sarasota County and Carlton Reserve volunteer David Reynolds and his family for an off road wilderness bicycle ride through the beautiful T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve (Carlton Reserve) on Sunday, May 15, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. for approximately 1 to 2 hours. Expect to see lots of wildlife!

More information can be found here.

Then, on Monday, Ringling Museum of Art continues its Monday night movies series with the classic chiller Silence of the Lambs. For those who haven’t seen it, the Oscar-winning flick stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in iconic roles that you won’t soon forget…let’s just say eating Fava beans or sipping a nice Chianti will never be quite the same. Movies are screened at the historic Asolo theater beginning at 7pm and only cost 7 bucks. For more info, click here.

Have a great weekend!

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