2013 … already behind

Yes… I’m already behind. Once again I will strive to make this place something. until then I just have to catch up. The reason being, work. There is a lot going on, and after the last few slow years. This is a welcome change of pace but one that is taking time to adjust to again. Teaching is going well. Business has picked up. There is excitement in what we are doing, and I am excited with all the projects I am working on, in and collaborating with. 

Here’s to a busy and successful 2013… more to come!

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recent comment

I recently replied to another blog I wanted to document here. I did not spend the time to put all my thoughts down, which clearly would have taken much longer. I do think I got my point across. Here is the link to the blog, and below is my comment. I am wondering If I will get any followup, or if I just used too much space for many people to care to read and respond.

Post – http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2012/8/20/roads-streets-stroads-and-park-roads.html?lastPage=true&postSubmitted=true

Thank you for a great post. I agree with not only the difference in nomenclature, but also the issues and potential of value capture that you discuss here and in the TED Talk. Both strike me as something many of us do everyday though. I appreciate you describing and coining the term park road here, to describe a series of design details that respond to context and form to create places. As with trees, every tree has its place and we as landscape architects are taught and trained to place the right trees in the right places. As Urban Designers we do the same exercise as we design and build roads.

First understanding the context and use of the road, as you have been describing, will it just connect places or is it to connect, engage and draw value through the interactions it can provide. What is the environment rolling hills, flat ground. Are there assets, natural vistas and features we can take advantage of. What are the assets and issues. Then we look into the bag of design details we have. Which ones are appropriate. Roadside swales, ditches, tree lanes, no curb, curb and gutter, standing curb, roll over curbs: types of pavement, dirt, gravel, asphalt, concrete. There are a variety of details we can pick and choose from. Understanding these context, purpose and details we have, we can then begin to draw where that road needs to go. How far should the blocks be placed, what types of access management need to be applied and what do the intersections look like. What do we need for health, safety and welfare issues such as firetruck turning radi and necessity of sidewalks, bike lanes and other public needs.

We can also use basic urban design principles to encourage the driving behaviors we want. Such as terminating vistas, street furniture. Architecture that is brought to the edge of the right -of-way, and simple street design principles of smaller center line radi, standard travel lanes and the introduction of on street parking. All aspects of how design can inform, provide and create the behaviors we wish to see and encourage and help capture the values of our built environment. That are each used and placed when and where they are appropriate.

What I am seeing in practice is that we have gotten lazy. We are “value engineering” out good deign and appropriate urban principles in place for lower costs which in turn creates places that have less value, stagnant growth and little future potential.

Planning is a very conservative act, and when combined with good design can be a powerful and beautiful tool that engages our values and visions for a place, allowing the market to flourish and everyone a chance to have the quality of life they want and desire.

Thank you for the continued discussions and raising awareness about the economics, values and place making that proper design can have.

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Post to Alabama Economic Forum on Linked In

The following is a post I made to the Alabama Economic Forum on Linked in. Unfortunately the forum only has about 44 members so I may need to post in another place. Hopefully it will get shared by some.

Great Places are great economic engines

The places we love, the ones we will go back too. The same ones we tell others about, and the ones we promote. Weather they are places comprised of single uses such as great parks, business centers or residential areas, or great places which provide a diversity of all land uses, these are places we support. Places where community takes place and our values can be seen in our physical environments and can shape and reflect them.

These are places we support and revisit. Places we take care of and places that are economically successful. When we build places such as these, that are based on our values and designed from visions of public consensus, we create place where the market can flourish. 

I am currently reading the articles in the Birmingham section on the Councilwoman’s plan fro reinvigorating a place that is failing. Business are leaving, stores are closing and vacancy is growing. We have stopped visiting. The market is responding.

I do not believe it is our job to dictate the will of the market, to try and plug in new business in places where similar businesses failed. 

The place needs to be redeveloped. The place needs to be designed to allow the market to function. To allow business and opportunities to occur. To create these types of places we must design them from the community, with the community and for the community they are located in, because the place’s very survival, use and reuse is dependent first on its community, then on everyone else who comes.

As we think about development and redevelopment we must understand the larger context, and the larger picture of place. Are these places we will visit, to stop, to shop, to come back to? Are these places built so they can be independent, with a variety of housing types, densities and uses that can be self reliant? Are these places we will support? As we develop and redevelop and think of plugging in new business, lets first spend time to see if we need to redesign the place, so that instead of demanding a business succeed, we create places that encourage, support, nurture and allow business to succeed.

Of course this is just one planners opinion on economic development and place making.

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Yesterday I wrote a long winded post that summarized several feelings I had and linked them together per an office conversation. When I reread the post I saw where I was doing exactly what I was speaking against. I was creating division. So I took the post down. I plan on reusing parts of it hear framed in a more positive context, that will still get my point across without pointing fingers. Division is not the key. Discovering, learning, and growing together is.

I will add the edited post soon.

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MRED Graduation


I have officially graduated from Auburn University, Masters of Real Estate Development. I feel wonderful. I will be spending time as this conversation progresses, writing about details of the program I have spent the last two years navigating. Right now I wanted to write myself a note about the accomplishment. First I have to thank all of my friends and family who supported me, especially my wife. I wanted to start with that because I received a lot of congratulations over the weekend, a lot of “I’m so very proud of you” compliments and I realize that while they are given to me about my journey, all graduates are deserving.

I can remember sitting in my professors office at Kentucky, discussing and weighing the issues of attending graduate school upon leaving under grad. I remember our discussions and the advice he gave me when talking about responsibility. Responsibility that I didn’t have then but would as I grew and matured in my career. Those of family, friends and home and how they can change your ideas, perceptions and goals as your travel through life. At the time I made the decision to postpone graduate school. Now that I have accomplished this after 13 years removed from my undergraduate degree, I can say I am glad I did.

I am glad I did because of the graduate program I choose. One that complements and propels my career goals while opening opportunities for myself. I am glad because I honestly don’t believe I would have been happy with a masters degree I would have obtained directly after undergrad, because I honestly didn’t know what my career or desired specialty was going to be. Most importantly I am glad I waited because, the pressures of responsibilities, and assignments was made possible with the support network from family, and made it all the more special and rewarding.

The next chapter begins now. It is one I hope I fill my achieving my aspirations, using the skills and knowledge I have learned while discovering what I have left to learn and how to apply it all. Part of that journey needs to be documented here. Why? Well that is for another post. But I have decided to stake a claim here and to put down these thoughts and conversations in a place that I know is public, that I know can be shared, critiqued and discussed, because that is part of the learning process too.

I am proud of my accomplishment. I am still learning not only how to use my skills, but where they lack and what I need to know as I go forward. I am still learning and working on becoming a better person, a better professional and a better friend. Everything is a work in progress in my career and life. The best documents, ideas, people and places are those that change and grow as needed and are used, those can respond and can adapt. Change and growth is necessary, required and fundamental to who we are.

Whats next? Next is to spend more time here. That is one of the many goals I have. I need to use a space like this to practice and refine my skills of writing, understanding and learning. I hope that it will afford me the opportunity to touch on the lessons I have learned and reinforce that knowledge so I do not lose it.

Until the next post.

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This past year

I have been slowly pecking at this blog, writing and thinking. It has been a year. I was reminded from the Guinness photo in the banner. The photo was shot at 2011’s St. Patty’s day celebration. Well here is another year. I’m finishing graduate school, I have a few months left, one trip to take and one project to finish.

Over the year I have delivered a few more development presentations, continued to work on a large variety of projects from Comprehensive Plans, University Master Plans and playgrounds and parks. We have started to keep a projects blog for the Company website. Kpsplaprojects.blogspot.com It is a slowly developing blog. We have been keeping busy.

I have also been privileged to be invited to sit on the City of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee. I attended my first meeting last Wednesday. It was a great experience. I am excited to continue serving. The first meeting was a series of sign reviews, house plans and even a landscape plan. It was exciting to review, comment and provide direction for ongoing development and revitalization efforts in the city.

Up next, more discussion on my past presentations and continued work for the DRC.

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Los Angeles Reflection Paper

Los Angeles Reflection Paper
November 7, 2011

Reflection on the Los Angeles trip and highlights of the 2011 ULI Conference.

Place Making
The LA trip for me was continually punctuated with the idea of place making. This theme was seen from our hotel, where the conference was held, the sessions I attended and the field trip we took. In each instance we were constantly exposed to themes on place making that evoked conversations, demonstrated the power of place making and how it could be seen and experienced first hand.

The theme of place making for this trip started long before the trip began. Within the class we discussed and argued the original hotel location and the pros and cons of staying in a different location other than the conference. The majority of the class complained about the perceived disconnect from our original hotel location and the conference, worried that we would be spending a majority of our time stuck in hotel vans and commuting in LA traffic, to and from the conference. In response we moved locations to the downtown venue of the Standard hotel. A hotel which as many of us found out was ideally situated in downtown LA and contained one of the areas best night spots. The downtown location provided us a short walk to the convention center and back that brought us through different retail, restaurant and nightlife venues. With the hotel being a destination itself, we always had a place to go.

The walk from the hotel to the conference was a short one, which would bring you to the conference center, sportsplex and entertainment center of Downtown LA. The conference itself, held in a nagging facility, had direct access to one of LA’s newest mixed use developments – LA Live, an urban, mixed use development that was centered on outdoor events. The ULI conference exploited this space using it as a way to connect to downtown LA, hold gatherings and parties.

The ULI conference sessions continued using the theme of place making weaving this message in and out of sessions to touch on a cadre of issues, projects and successes. Two of the sessions that I participated in this year that were very focused on place making were: The Mechanics of Public Private Partnership and Development, Design and Financing Strategies for Urban Revitalization Using Hospitality and the Arts. Both sessions contained a place making theme in demonstrating their success and challenges. The session descriptions per the program were:

Development, Design and Financing Strategies for Urban Revitalization Using
Hospitality and the Arts
Hear about this successful mixed-use strategy, in which a public/private partnership includes the collaboration of art, architecture, government incentives, and private funding sources to contribute to urban revitalization and create a profitable business venture that is applicable in other cities.
Discussion Leaders:
Deborah Berke, Partner, Deborah Berke & Partners Architects
Craig Greenberg, Vice Chairman, 21c Museum Hotels

The Mechanics of Public Private Partnership
What’s the best way to create places that not only respond to the wants, needs and desires of the community, but are firmly embraced by stakeholders; how do you create public private coalitions of support; how do you create a vision that is clear, compelling, and achievable; how do you finance projects and get them developed? When it comes to establishing effective public-private partnerships, this panel of seasoned public and private sector professionals will answer these questions and offer valuable advice and insight.

Daniel P. Gehman, Principal, TCA
Discussion Leaders:
Laura Archuleta, President, Jamboree Housing Corporation
Michael LoGrande, Director, Department of Planning, City of Los Angeles
The Honorable Jan Perry, Council Member, Ninth District, Los Angeles City
Gregory M. Vilkin, Managing Principal and President, MacFarlane Partners
William A. Witte, President, Related Companies of California

The first session covered the development of a local boutique hotel in Louisville,
Kentucky. The hotel had found success during its redevelopment through creative partnerships. One such partnership was the design and theme of the hotel around a modern art collection. The hotel was not just a place to display art, but was designed to integrate ever changing modern art exhibits into its character, way finding, room design and amenities for its guests. This could be seen in the way the hotel directed guests using art pieces to name and denote floors and locations throughout the hotel. It could also be seen in the gallery and meeting space it provided to engage the local residents of the area and it helped to develop a signature for the hotel to base its branding and marketing. The hotel soon developed its commercial standard from this union of art and design in the form of its moveable red penguins, which were stationed throughout the hotel. As the hotel chain is growing and evolving in other locations they still center both their hotel designs and customer experience with the integration of art and their signature colored penguins. The redevelopment of the hotel and area also used place making to its advantage by controlling leases of other vacant commercial properties in adjacent storefronts. This leasing strategy helped the hotel create a community of interests and uses for local residents and patrons to use. This reinvestment and creation of place have helped to propel the development to the forefront.
The theme of place making was once again discussed during the second session as the panelist discussed public private partnerships. One of the key questions raised during the panel dealt with the future of the proposed Los Angeles football stadium. The panelists spent time discussing the place making themes and ways the new stadium could build on the synergy of uses and experiences of the current uses such as, LA Live and the conference center. The proposed stadium site will help city and the private business capitalize on the diversity of uses and the synergy from the accumulated uses in the area.

The site not only would facilitate the new stadium, but also propels private businesses and enhances public uses. The idea and theme of place making was discussed alongside and in terms of public and private partnerships. The City wants to ensure the new stadium facility compliments the existing facilities. The development must provide for a mix of uses containing office, retail and housing. All of the elements for place making would be components of the development and should be successfully incorporated through good design.

The last instance of place making we all experienced in Los Angeles was through a developer led tour of downtown LA and some specific properties. We were led on a tour by Tom Gilmore. The tour consisted of visiting his properties in the downtown LA area. When we first met, Mr. Gilmore took some time to explain how he had gotten into the development business and the current state of development in the downtown LA market when he began. At that time, as he explained, LA was an abandoned former shell of itself from the 50’s. During the 70’ and 80’s almost all of the commercial and residential market followed with the office uses had left downtown for newly developing areas around LA. This void left in downtown allowed Mr. Gilmore to start reinvesting in the city with very little money down. Mr. Gilmore built his development company around acquiring old historic buildings and retrofitting them for a combination of retail, office and residential uses. To help build his market he invested his own capital into retail spaces to provide amenities for his desired residential customers and to help bring traffic and a market to his properties. This effort also allowed him to control and create the type of places and environments he wanted. The use of the master leases gave him the control to not only fill his retail and ground floor spaces with needed amenities but to fill them with a diversity of uses that reinforced downtown LA’s sense of place. The creation and support of place drove his ability to capture the residential land office markets and allowed him to raise rents in an otherwise depressed development setting. He created the place to be.

The theme of place followed me through LA from where we stayed, to the sessions I heard at the conference and to the walking tour we took of Downtown LA. In every instance place was being defined, used and reinvented for us to watch and inhabit.

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