Friday, May 21st, 2010

Midwest Miscellany

“For me, as a graphic designer, I cannot live outside of a city. I have to be in big cities. I like the energy that comes out of them, I like the noise, even the dirt and grime. I like the fact that they are places where humans have to struggle to live, to compete. I don’t like super-clean or super-sanitised environments, or architecture. You have beautiful architecture and ugly architecture. Cities embody a kind of chaos, which is a thing of beauty.” – Philippe Apeloig via This Big City

Come find out what over 3,000 people already know by following me on Twitter. I send out about 10-15 tweets a day with the coolest links about urbanism and design so you can keep up with what’s going on in the world. You can also follow my Google Reader feed too. On that I usually only share less than three items per day, mostly architecture and design related.

Also, I was recently a guest on the Explore Cincinnati podcast, along with Randy Simes of Urban Cincy. So click over to listen to us talking about a variety of urban issues, not all Cincinnati related.

Top Stories

The Atlantic is doing is special project this month called The Future of the City. There’s a huge amount of great stuff there, ranging from an interview with Andres Duany that’s already stirring up trouble, to an archived piece by Robert Moses from 1962. This is a must to check out.

1. Lee Hsien Loong: Singapore and Human Capital – Mr. Lee is the Prime Minister of Singapore. This is the text of his remarks at the Singapore Human Capital Summit (via Brewed Fresh Daily).

2. John Podhoretz: New York Then and Now. This article in the conservative Jewish magazine Commentary tells an incredible tale of what it was like to grow up on the Upper West Side during its 70’s nadir. If you want to know how far New York has come, read this article.

3. KC Star: Immigrants find old careers don’t transfer to new life in America

4. Richard Longworth: Brookings and the Midwest

5. City Mayors: Top Level City Domains – Apparently the new TLD system will enable city specific top level domains (e.g., “.paris”, “.nyc”, etc). This article explores the potential of that.

Best States for Business

Chief Executive magazine released their 2010 list of the best and worst states for business. Here’s how Midwest states stacked up:

  • #16 – Indiana
  • #17 – Iowa
  • #26 – Missouri
  • #31 – Minnesota
  • #42 – Wisconsin
  • #44 – Ohio
  • #46 – Illinois
  • #49 – Michigan

Naturally Texas was #1 and California was last. Illinois has fallen 29 places in the last five years.

Lawsuit Climate

The Institute for Legal Reform – obviously an advocacy group, so caveat emptor – published their 2010 Lawsuit Climate rankings for states. Here is how Midwest states stacked up:

  • #4 – Indiana
  • #5 – Iowa
  • #11 – Minnesota
  • #22 – Wisconsin
  • #29 – Ohio
  • #30 – Michigan
  • #45 – Illinois

Chicago/Cook County, Illinois was cited as the worst jurisdiction in the country, even worse than infamous Madison County, IL (only fifth worst).

World and National Roundup

Yahoo: Megacities of the World – a glimpse of how we’ll live tomorrow

Dan Steinbock: Shanghai: The Rise of the Global City

Ahmad Rafay Alam: Tea, Anyone? – A discussion of the impact of urban form on the cultural and intellectual life of Lahore.

George Monbiot: The case for UK high speed rail has not been made

Marketing Interactive: Can Singapore Brand Itself As a Nation?

Chicago Tribune: Battery company recharges debate about US manufacturing

Harry Moroz: Stop the War on Our Cities

Joel Kotkin: Immigration is U.S.

Dome Magazine: Brain Gain: Immigration key to future prosperity

WSJ: How Geeks and Their Transit Apps Get Us Around

Ed Glaeser: Taller Buildings, Cheaper Homes

The Economist: In Praise of Boise

WashPo: Commercial property owners may be asked to pay for part of streetcar project.

New London Doubledecker Buses

London has unveiled a new design for its iconic red double deck Routemaster buses. It’s a pretty sleek design on the whole I think:

DIY Bike Signage

I mentioned before guerrilla bus shelters, now GOOD Magazine tells us about guerrilla bike signage. Fed up with a lack of progress in making roads safer for bikes, some folks are taking matters into their own hands.

Bike Advocacy in London

Broken Sidewalk points us at a nice 40 second bike advocacy video from Transport for London. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

If you click over to the original BS post, he contrasts this with a Chrysler minivan ad using the same music.

More Midwest

Indianapolis and Columbus – Similar Surfaces, Opposite Cores (Urban Out) – Greg Meckstroth compares the two cities in a compelling analysis.

A Brand for High Speed Rail in the Midwest (Urban Milwaukee)

Terry Schwarz on Shrinking Cities (Flint Expatriates)

What Color Ohio’s Economy? (Columbus Dispatch)

In Cleveland, Sports Fans Cheer Until It Hurts (NYT)

Detroit to demolish 10,000 abandoned properties (WSJ) – Includes Mitt Romney’s boyhood home.
Ten tips for downsizing Detroit (Free Press)
Detroit leads the way in urban farming (CS Monitor)
Can Detroit Learn From the Rebirth of Grand Rapids? (CNN/Fortune)

I-70 Shortcut Getting an Obstacle – INDOT is spending $450 million to make it harder to get downtown from the West Side by eliminating the preferred freeway route. I am not aware of another case in US history where a flyover ramp at a freeway-freeway interchange was replaced with a stoplight. It’s a truly stunning step backwards. It also shows that scope reductions, not efficiencies were the likely source of this project coming in under budget. Somebody was asleep at the switch bigtime on this.
Monument Circle and the Legacy of East Liberty (A Place of Sense)

Kansas City
State line status brings cooperation and competition (KC Star)
Sewer upgrade approved (KC Star) – Kansas City next up to spend billions

They Tore the Whole Thing Down (Broken Sidewalk) – An entire 4th St. streetscape razed. Sad.

Post Script

A Broken Sidewalk photo of Operation Sidewalk Defense, a group protesting the closure of sidewalks (but not streets of course) during construction projects.

Topics: Architecture and Design, Economic Development, Transportation
Cities: London

12 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Aaron, thanks so much for coming on Explore Cincinnati. Hearing your thoughts on Cincinnati, and reading the various posts you’ve written here, makes me very optimistic that we’re headed in the right direction as a city. I hope you enjoyed your visit and hope to see you next time you’re in town.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    re: Lee Hsien Loong: it’s easy to talk up about how great your country’s human capital is when you’re the second generation in your family to become Prime Minister. It’s even easier when you get to ban the local equivalent of The Wire on the grounds that its dialogue is in dialect and not in Mandarin. Compared to Lee, Bush Jr. is a model meritocrat.

  3. Evan Summers says:


    I can’t compliment you enough. You are of no interest group which allows you to compliment and criticize the citizen movements on urban planning/development. I really appreciate the unbiased views that your offer. As a municipal urban planner (focused on development) I can’t say that I agree with everything you say but I certainly internalize it.

    Thanks for everything you do,


  4. Thanks, Evan – I appreciate you saying so. It’s readers like you that keep me going.

  5. John Morris says:

    Yes, I’m old enough to remember NY in the mid 1970’s. People ask me why I didn’t know it better and the honest answer is that I had a vast map in my head of places I shouldn’t go. I had enough of an adventure just getting by in Woodside, one of the stable areas.

    Later, for three years, I lived in Reading, PA where people reacted to my accent like I held a 45 to their heads. Finally, they caught on that Woody Allen is also a New Yorker.

  6. Jeff says:

    Broken Sidewalks’ post on Downtown Louisville/4th Street: looks like someone is realizing exactley how much of downtown Louisville (and surroundings) was wiped out since,say, 1960 or so. I did something similar on Dayton a while back. The difference with Louisville is that things were actually built on some of the demolished sites.

    In Dayton’s case the land remained vacant, either as parking lots or greenspace. Maybe akin to what happened to downtown Fort Wayne.

  7. Jeff, yes. I’m not exactly a young guy at 40, but most the demolitions were before my time. You don’t realize what it used to be.

  8. George Mattei says:

    Interesting article comparing Indianapolis & Columbus. I don’t know THAT much about Indy, but I had a friend that used to live there whom I visited a number of times. I got very much the same impression-they look similar on the surface, but are very different underneath.

    I also think he somewhat nailed the differences pretty well, too. Indianapolis has more “sex appeal” type-items-football & basketball, a squeaky clean and active downtown. But Columbus in some ways has more depth, although it doesn’t show as well. Columbus is a great bar town, with tons of options, and pretty good on restaurants too. The city has many great urban and suburban neighborhoods.

    Their attitudes are also somewhat different, although I would add that Columbus has attracted its fair share of rural dwellers as well, which is quite evident in certain areas of town. The difference is that they have also attracted those that dig the urban experience, so it’s more of a mixed crowd here.

    While the post said Columbus has a weak downtown, that is changing. I think 10 years from now the work will be well on its way to being done. I don’t know if Indianapolis has worked on its urban neighborhoods, since I haven’t been there in several years, but I would be interested to find out.

  9. John says:

    Where did you get the $450 Million figure for the Sam Jones Expressway issue? The IBJ article you linked says $88 Million.

  10. $450M is for the entire west side project (originally budgeted at $550 million, and already downscoped from the original at that).

  11. John says:

    Do you have a link to the full project site? I’m just curious to see what they’re planning.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

About the Urbanophile


Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

Full Bio


Please email before connecting with me on LinkedIn if we don't already know each other.



Copyright © 2006-2014 Urbanophile, LLC, All Rights Reserved - Click here for copyright information and disclosures