Figuring out what to do with overbuilt retail could become part of creating a better suburban economy, no? One suited to present reality better than dreams of endless, mindless growth?
We recently went along on an organized walk to see a mall here in Mississauga, Ontario that has replaced much of its retail space with services. One of its former anchor stores has been insurance company office space for years now. Many U.S. malls are in places where the surrounding economy is not as strong as it is here. That’s a problem. But if the dead malls are up and built on land already hooked up to municipal services then they are candidates for some creative thinking. We’d rather see a dead mall redeveloped than farmland destroyed.
Here’s what could happen to America’s hundreds of dead malls
Where a shopping mall used to be an opportunity arises
The decline of malls in America can mean lost jobs and lower tax revenues for states and municipalities — but not always
image: Travis Estell via Flickr/CC
Three items to help us gather some thoughts around the growth in the number of elderly persons occurring now in North America. How will the built environment affect the cognition and emotional life of seniors?
The isolation of aging in an auto-oriented place
No place to grow old. How Canadian suburbs can become age-friendly
irrp.org (26-page .pdf)
What helps Minnesota seniors age in place?
U researcher has some clues. It’s the little things
like benches and safe crosswalks
Who will buy Baby Boomers’ homes?
Want to stop your brain from getting old?
Live in a walkable neighbourhood
image: Tasha Lutek via Flickr/CC
We like optimism, yes we do. Infrastructure gets us going pretty good as well. To wit: an item that counsels us to look out to the sprawl for innovative approaches to badly needed infrastructure.
Why suburban tensions and inequality will drive infrastructure innovation
image: Garrett via Flickr/CC
Michael Ford’s treatment of modernism is pretty cool: towers in a park through a hip hop lens. Brainy and fresh, a TEDx talk really worth your time.
The Future of ‘Hip-Hop Architecture’. Michael Ford explains how he’s building a movement to reclaim urban design from the failures of the 1970s
image: Plan Voisin, 1925 via Wikimedia/CC
Walk Score is an online software tool that assesses the basic characteristics of any address in Canada or the United States given to it. Your neighbourhood is rated by an algorithm between 0 and 100 for ease of access to a list of general amenities, such common sense things as schools, cinemas, bus stops. Its intentions are generally progressive and supportive of the idea that a walkable community is simply nicer to live in and easier on the environment and therefore more desirable. Walk Score is often used by people looking for a new neighbourhood and it can be quite fairly said to be a barometer of the quality of life in a given place. A strong Walk Score, would reflect the humane values of urbanist Jane Jacobs. A low Walk Score might be reflected in a less salubrious environment.
So, it was a little disorienting to come across a Texas mom’s utilization of Walk Score today. All those people nearby in your dense, cross-connected community? Well, if things got tough they might just kill you and eat your brain, right? If there was a pandemic, a civil war, an infrastructure and economic crash all at the same time you want to be ready, right? You need maximum info on where to be when things get even dumber than they already are.
Jamie, who seems super nice and obviously really loves her kids, blogged about the way she applies Walk Score to her preparations for the coming apocalypse. Walk Score provides her with intel on her kind of community. The index tells Jamie where she doesn’t want to be.
This is almost a mirror opposite use of Walk Score for assessing resilience. Flying deeper into the century, each to their own anxiety, we suppose…
Walk score. One test preppers want their home to FAIL!
image: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr/CC
One of the big ideas around here is that poverty and social difficulty are built right into the very structure of sprawl.
The hidden inequality of America’s street design. New data shows that pedestrians in the U.S. are more likely to die if they’re poor, a person of color, uninsured, or old
image: photograntner via Flickr/CC
After having read the recent non-fiction bestseller Evicted we feared no good news about housing could ever come out of Milwaukee barring a full scale miracle. Then we read a little about a sensible undertaking in that US city that seeks to answer to the problem of the ‘missing middle’. Nice.
For more about the types of housing it might behoove North Americans to look into a little more assertively:
Subdivided. City Building In An Age of Hyper-Diversity
Jay Pitter & John Lorinc, editors
2016. Coach House Books, Toronto
279 pages. $20.95 CAN
This collection of essays was much tougher reading than we expected. After nearly six years blogging about social difficulty in the suburbs we don’t expect to be unnerved by our topic. Subdivided unnerved us.
The good old days of multiculturalism, in which eastern and southern Europeans (and maybe a few other groups), found Toronto adjusting to, and eventually welcoming, them are long gone. In its place, we now see an ever bigger and richer Toronto home to newcomers in a living arrangement of hyper-diversity. This infinitely more complex Toronto is by turns depressing, ugly, unjust and unequal despite recurrent commentary about its peacefulness, high socio-cultural potential and general awesomeness.
Subdivided delivers unto us many a less-than-comfortable truth. There’s too many people here in isolated lives centred on a combination of shit jobs and lacklustre housing. Reading Subdivided made us feel like Toronto’s diversity is the stuff of an Adam Curtis documentary, another nightmarish expression of the global economic machine and its operating system, neoliberalism.
Toughness of presentation is what makes this collection of essays so amazing, …so real. It’s hard to think of any other such wellspring of direct, sustained observation of what it is really like to live here. A chapter on Brampton, for example, brings forth a wave of nausea faster than a jar of expired mayonnaise. ‘Browntown’ is next door to suburban-poverty.com’s backyard, we can attest to the truth of what is said about Brampton. Same for another entry on Mississauga, which is literally our backyard. You’d almost wonder why Canada bothers attracting new residents to its Sprawlvilles. Except perhaps as a cynical ploy to increase domestic markets and the tax base and to fulfill some corporate/ideological role in the global economy.
What to do? Good transit, a strong social safety net, higher wages, police reform, and affordable housing would help us toward a healthy, cross-connected society according to the essays in Subdivided. None of these things will be achieved quickly or cheaply, though.
We better get busy before something really awful comes of the present lame and indifferent regime of city building in greater Toronto. Stress is not good for the indivdual or the community. Stress and reaction brought us Rob Ford, the scale model mock up of Donald Trump. Who knows what the stresses of race and class we are leaving in place will inflict on us? We aren’t Milwaukee yet but how much longer will we sleepwalk into this?
We suggest future editions of Subdivided include a stamped, pre-addressed thank you note readers can mail to the one percent.
Buy Subdivided for your unnerved community affairs shelf.
Accidents involving walkers and bicycle riders struck by motor vehicles are a troubling, costly aspect of sprawl. They appear to be built right into the whole matter of community life structured around automobiles and the infrastructure provided for them. This bodily damage really has to be stopped.
More than 1000 cyclists and pedestrians hit on Toronto streets since June 1. New statistics show vulnerable road users struck at rate of one every two and a half hours
The morbid and mortal toll of sprawl. The ‘elephant in the living room’ of rising and preventable US traffic deaths is government funded roads in drive-only places
image: davidd via Flickr/CC