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The New York City Cantilever: If You Can’t Go Up, Go Out

New York City’s notoriously space-hungry real estate market is converting the cantilever – perhaps made most famous in Frank Lloyd Wright’s floating Fallingwater residence of 1935 – from a mere move of architectural acrobatics to a profit-generating design feature. Driven by a “more is more” mantra, developers and architects are using cantilevers to extend the reach of a building, creating unique vistas and extended floor space in a market in which both are priced at sky-high premiums.

NYC's Midtown East: Rezoning and Streetscaping

New York City's Midtown East will be facing a rezoning in the near future, bringing a dozen office towers into the already crowded neighborhood.  To help the Bloomberg Administration address the issues that may arise with this move, the city has hired sustainable real estate development firm, Jonathan Rose Co.; Dutch Urban Planning firm, Gehl Architects; and the global civil engineering firm, Skanska.  The different firms will be working to develop the streetscape to be known as the East Midtown Public Realm Vision Plan which is scheduled for release later this year.

The Danger of the Zoning-Free Approach

Despite the romantic notion about cities that develop organically have a rich diversity of form and function, we cannot overlook the deadly side effects of negligent city planning. As Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star points out, last month's tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is a grim reminder that planning has a time and place and its ultimate utility resides in the initiative to protect residents and make for healthier communities. The tangle of bureaucracy associated with planning, zoning and land use regulations can give any architect or developer a massive headache. In some cases, the laws are so restricting that diverging from bulk regulations becomes very limiting. 

Where Does Zoning Fit Into Our Future City Planning?

Let’s dump the word “zoning,” as in zoning ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but zoning increasingly has become a conceptually inappropriate term, an obsolete characterization of how we plan and shape growth.  Roger K. Lewis 

Zoning, just over a century old concept, is already becoming an outdated system by which the government regulates development and growth.  Exceptions and loopholes within current zoning legislation prove that city planning is pushing a zoning transformation to reflect the goals and needs of city building today and in the future.  To determine how zoning and land use need to change we must first assess the intentions of future city building.  Planners and architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of sustainability and liveability.  The AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. NYC has come up with Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design and its Zone Green initiative in regards to updating its zoning resolution.  Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens.  It is safe to assume that many other cities will follow this precedent.  

What Cities Can Do with Vacant Lots

Glenwood Green Acres; © Tony Fischer Photography
Glenwood Green Acres; © Tony Fischer Photography

The bursting of the housing bubble wreaked havoc on cities across the United States causing widespread blight in once-thriving community economies.  Foreclosed, abandoned and condemned homes continue to pockmark neighborhoods and communities, adding to the vacant lots of populous but affected cities like Philadelphia.  The Mayor's Office of Philadelphia approximates that there are nearly 40,000 vacant lots throughout the city of brotherly love, about 74% of which are privately owned, making them virtually inaccessible to rehabilitation.  But the city has a strong drive to amend these conditions.  With organizations like DesignPhiladelphia's "Not a Vacant Lot" and the city's Redevelopment Authority, some of this land is being put to good use. 

The Pros & Cons of Revoking the DC Height Act

© Flickr User Rob Shenk
© Flickr User Rob Shenk

Earlier this week, Architect Robert K. Levy optimistically declared that the study which will evaluate the federal law limiting Washington building heights is a “win-win” situation for everyone involved. Writing for The Washington Post, Levy states: “By conducting a detailed, comprehensive city-wide study, the D.C. Office of Planning and the NCPC will produce analyses and recommendations leading to a fine-grain, strategic plan for building heights across the District.  Ultimately this study is a win-win proposition for all stakeholders.” But can the situation really be so rosy? While Congress spends 10 months studying and debating the possibility of making alterations to the capital’s zoning policies, urbanists, planners and citizens have already begun weighing in on the matter – and opinions are decidedly divided. Many question the true motivations behind the possible changes, and whether those changes will truly improve the livability and sustainability of the city  - or just alter it beyond recognition. We’ve gathered both sides of the argument so you can make your own informed decision – after the break…

Hudson Yards' Long Awaited Makeover

Photo: Rendering by Visualhouse
Photo: Rendering by Visualhouse

The west side of midtown Manhattan is probably one of the more unexplored areas of New York City by residents and tourists alike. Aside from the Jacob Javits Center, and the different programs off of the Hudson River Parkway that runs parallel to the waterfront, there is very little reason to walk through this industry – and infrastructure – dominated expanse of land full of manufacturers, body shops, parking facilities and vacant lots. The NYC government and various agencies, aware of the lost potential of this area, began hatching plans in 2001 to develop this 48-block, 26-acre section, bound by 43rd Street to the North, 8th Ave to the East, 30th Street to the South and the West Side Highway to the West.

Community Board Approves SPURA Redevelopment Plan, What's Next?

Courtesy of NYC EDC
Courtesy of NYC EDC

SPURA is one of the many adopted acronyms used to describe New York City’s division of neighborhoods. But unlike SOHO, NOHO, or Tribeca, SPURA is actually the name of a development site in Lower Manhattan, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, to be exact. The history of the site is a story of politics, economics and social pressures. After fifty years of debates between community leaders, activists and designers, the City Planning Commission has given a proposed development plan the green light. That means that following a land-use review process called ULURP, a city council vote and the Mayor Bloomberg’s final approval, the site may finally transition from a street level parking lot into a mixed-use development full of retail stores, offices, community facilities, a new Essex Street market, a hotel, a park and 900 apartments that will occupy 1.65-million-square-feet. Join us after the break to read more on the development and to see other alternative creative proposals that this site has inspired over the years.