Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Urban Forest Project

Check this out. A very cool project and ABQ appears to be one of the first cities to get involved. The idea is to raise awareness about sustainability through beautifully designed (locally) street banners hung in high traffic areas. Sponsorship appears to be decent. Be sure to check it out downtown! Wonder if I can get my hands on one of them when they get converted to bags...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Buy Local, Buy Local, Buy Local

Albuquerque has been quite good about this to some degree but sometimes I think it's more a result of chain stores and their general reluctance to enter the market. Therefore, we're limited, not by our buying power, but by limited options. The latest California Pizza Kitchen craze makes me fear what would happen if an influx of new chains converged on our city...and CPK isn't very good! I'd take Farina, Scarpas, or Il Vicino any day over CPK.

The Austin Independent Alliance completed a study that showed that for every $100 spent at a chain store, an average of $13 went back into the local economy. However, when that same $100 was spent on a local store, $45 dollars went back into the local economy. These aren't insignificant numbers.

Local business owners hire local architects, planners, and even construction workers when they open their businesses. They're often much more likely to be engaged in their local community since they care about the surrounding business. Restaurants are more likely to buy local produce (and if they aren't, you should request it), whereas chain stores truck in food from a distribution center where the food was produced in some foreign country with questionable production regulations. Now we can even compare the carbon footprint/economic impact of what we are consuming. The full impact of buying and eating local is tremendous.

This economy should be a wake up call to everyone as we can no longer take things for granted. Our city and our region needs to work together to support one another and buying local is one of the many ways that we can do so. The next time you go out to buy something, consider whether or not the product could be purchased from a local business.

Speaking of buying local...so I've become a coffee drinker the past few months. Caffe mocha and Americanos are my guilty pleasures. While in Albuquerque, I did a comparison of several coffee shops: Downtown Java Joe's, Flying Star/Satellite, RB Winnings, and Starbucks. Java Joe's wins hands down. As a matter of fact, their coffee could compete with some of the all stars in Seattle, me thinks. RB Winnings was pretty good as well but the place feels like an old bingo palace with cheap folding chairs and cheap old tables. Not that I mind a humble atmosphere but the place was rather frumpy compared to the quality of their coffee. Lastly, don't get me started on Flying Star's and Satellite's ridiculous prices and mediocre quality. (Oh, and Starbucks doesn't even count as true coffee). I heard that there are other shops around town that I missed. Any recommendations? I think it's time Albuquerque's coffee brewing scene had a renaissance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer '09 Wrap-Up

Massive displacement, redevelopment and gentrification in Beijing's hutongs.

Rapid urbanization in Shanghai (along with loss of culture as well as environmental costs, ie. toxic air, water)

Chengdu pandas and Chinese tourism development.

Chengdu's vertical suburbs.

Lasting effects of the Wenchuan earthquake. This is what's left of the old road.

Massive scale redevelopment and challenges involved with tourism development and cultural preservation among ethnic minorities.

Tokyo's urban efficiency.

Stockholm's growth and sustainability.

Copenhagen's famous design as well as its balanced transit planning (ie. bicycle infrastructure)

Malmo's sustainable redevelopment

Overall, I have seen a multitude of ways in which planning can hinder and assuage issues associated with urbanization on many scales. Unfortunately, much of what I saw outside of the United States appears to miss out on the most important population of them all...the lower income citizens. Even in rich, socialist societies, development is aimed toward maximizing profits. Yet, combined, all these projects and plans contain many of the answers needed to achieve successful urban development. The problem is, no one has successfully used them all together in a truly sustainable way. My next posts will discuss some of these developments and their relation to Albuquerque.